TREVOR Gleeson feels at home on the basketball court sidelines, be it as Perth Wildcats coach or Australian Boomers assistant.
His rise from fledgling mentor to NBL championship-winning coach started with a perfect season as Warrnambool Mermaids leader 25 years ago.
He guided his home town team to a Country Victorian Invitation Basketball League — the precursor to the Big V — women’s crown in 1990.
That triumph kick-started a coaching career which has netted him an NBL title with Perth Wildcats and coach of the year honours during a stint with Townsville Crocs.
Those accolades preceded his appointment as Boomers assistant coach for the 2014 FIBA World Cup last year.
Gleeson was presented with South West Sport’s chairperson award during a ceremony at Warrnambool’s Lighthouse Theatre last night.
The Western Australian-based Gleeson, who has also coached in America and Korea, made a whirlwind trip home to accept the honour, which is bestowed upon athletes who grow up in the south-west but move elsewhere to pursue their careers and dreams. “It’s a great honour to be recognised, especially from your home town,” he said.
“I haven’t lived in Warrnambool for a long time but there are still certainly strong links with family and friends and when we play in Melbourne a lot of basketballers and footballers come down.”
Gleeson, who will return to Perth today, had a jam-packed schedule while in Warrnambool.
He spoke to South Warrnambool footballers on Tuesday night and visited Warrnambool College yesterday before attending last night’s awards ceremony, where he was guest speaker.
Gleeson, who also coached the Warrnambool Seahawks for two years following his time in charge of the Mermaids, is used to juggling a busy diary.
Club commitments with Perth have already started for the 2015-16 NBL season as the Wildcats strive to atone for their clean-sweep semi-final loss to Cairns Taipans.
Gleeson will oversee a series of one-on-one sessions but will miss a chunk of the Wildcats’ official pre-season, which starts at the end of July, with national team duties.
Australian Boomers’ preparations for their FIBA Oceania Championships double-header with New Zealand — a Rio Olympics qualifier — include a training camp in Croatia and practice matches against Lithuania and Slovenia.
The Boomers will then train in Melbourne for their first game against the Tall Blacks at Rod Laver Arena on August 15.
“Hopefully (Andrew) Bogut, Patty Mills and (Matthew) Dellevadova will be back playing for us,” Gleeson said.
“There are 11,000 tickets sold so hopefully we get a packed house and be very parochial against the Kiwis.
“It’s been a long time since basketball was played in there. I was there once as (Brisbane) Bullets assistant coach in 1990.”
Gleeson is hopeful the NBL, which endured a testing off-season, will produce a quality competition in 2015-16.
Townsville Crocs, who were placed into voluntary administration in the off-season, are a confirmed starter but the future of the Wollongong Hawks is unknown.
“Both teams have gone through it a couple of times and hopefully they get the management right,” Gleeson said.
“They’re two regional teams with great history in the league and have produced many great players.”
Gleeson is confident Perth, which won the championship in his first season at the helm, can emerge as a title threat again in his third year in charge.
“We’ve identified areas we’ve got to get better at,” he said.
“Injuries hurt us at the back end of the season and it really depleted our depth. It was a disappointing finish.”
Perth has three spots available on its roster following the off-season departures of American import DeAndre Daniels, Earnest Ross and Drake U’u.
Gleeson said the Wildcats needed to bolster their list as they attempt to make a world record- breaking 30th straight post-season.
“We want to get younger, more athletic and get a better shooter from the perimeter,” he said.
“I will head to America next month and scout an import position and we have two Australian spots to fill.”
Promising Australian basketballer Hugh Greenwood, who is training with NBA franchise Utah Jazz, is on Perth’s radar.
“We’re talking to him,” Gleeson said. “He has big upside and we think he’s a future Boomer.”