Andrew Barry Casson Gaze, AM is an Australian former professional basketball player and former head coach of the Sydney Kings of the National Basketball League. He has been described as one of the greatest players Australia has produced. Gaze played every season for the Melbourne Tigers, between 1985 and 2005 and won the league's MVP award on seven occasions, he guided the Tigers to two NBL championships, in 1993 and 1997, was named an All-NBL first team member every year between 1986 and 2000, a feat matched by no other player in NBL history. Gaze led the senior Australian national team, the Boomers, to five Summer Olympic Games – including as the flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he was the Australian Team Captain, he was inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2005, after becoming a member of the Order of Australia in 2002. In 2013, he joined his father, Lindsay, in the FIBA Hall of Fame, to become just the third Australian inductee.
Two Australian basketball awards have been named in Gaze's honour: the NBL MVP award is named the Andrew Gaze Trophy, the Australian International Player of the Year award is named the Gaze Medal. Gaze was born in Melbourne, the son of Lindsay and Margaret Gaze, has an older sister, Janet. Gaze is the nephew of former Australian Opals coach Tony Gaze and the cousin of Mark Gaze, who played 182 games in the NBL from 1983–1991 and represented Australia at the 1982 FIBA World Championship, he is the second cousin of Canberra Capitals guard Kate Gaze, the daughter of Mark Gaze and former WNBL player Michelle O'Connor. Gaze grew up at Albert Park Basketball Stadium, the home of the Victorian Basketball Association, with his father the general manager of the VBA at the time. After graduating from Albert Park College, Gaze pursued a professional basketball career and attended Victoria University in Melbourne. In 1984, Gaze joined the Melbourne Tigers of the National Basketball League as an 18-year-old.
His first season with the Tigers saw him win the NBL Rookie of the Year Award after averaging an impressive 29.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 steals in 24 games. By 1986, he made his first All-NBL First Team selection, he would go on to earn first-team honours in 15 straight seasons. In the 1987 NBL season, Gaze set a still standing NBL record for average points per game in a season when he averaged 44.1 points, breaking the previous record of 39.5 ppg set by Al Green of the West Adelaide Bearcats in 1984. This was despite the Tigers finishing on the bottom of the 1987 NBL ladder with a 3–23 record; such was Gaze's dominance for the Tigers that while he averaged 44.1 ppg, the Tigers themselves only managed 101.3 ppg for the season. During 1987, Gaze had another five times he scored over 50 points, his dominance on the scoreboard wasn't just limited to scoring against other poorly performed teams. He twice scored. Following the 1988 NBL season, spotted by talent scouts while playing for Australia at the 1988 Olympics, moved to the United States after being recruited to play college basketball for Seton Hall University.
During the 1988–89 season, Gaze played in 38 games for the Seton Hall Pirates, averaging 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. After completing his season at Seton Hall with an 80–79 overtime loss to the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA Championship Game, played in front of 39,187 fans at the Kingdome in Seattle, Gaze returned to Australia and re-joined the Tigers for the 1989 NBL season. Not known for being an outstanding athlete, Gaze's heavy scoring in the NBL was due to exceptional shooting, including from three-point range. A crowd favourite to the Tigers faithful, Gaze was a front runner in the league's resurgence during the 1990s, as he and American import Lanard Copeland combined to form a formidable backcourt and guided the Tigers to two championships in 1993 and 1997. Playing under his father with the Tigers, Gaze assured. In addition to playing in the NBL, Gaze spent multiple seasons overseas during the 1990s. In 1991, Gaze became the first Australian to play professionally in Europe, with the Italian League club side, Udine.
In a six-month stint in Italy, he averaged over 30 points per game. In March 1994, Gaze signed with the NBA's Washington Bullets. In seven games for the Bullets during the 1993–94 NBA season, he averaged 3.1 points per game. In early 1995, he moved to Greece and played half a season for the Greek Basket League club Apollon Patras, he had another short stint in the NBA during the lockout-shortened 1998–99 season, this time with the San Antonio Spurs. He received little court time for a stacked Spurs team that included guards Mario Elie, Avery Johnson, Antonio Daniels and Steve Kerr, he appeared in just 19 games for the Spurs during the regular season and was inactive for the entire playoff run which saw the Spurs win their first NBA championship. In his years, Gaze still managed to score at a high clip for the Tigers, averaging over 19 points per game in each of his last four NBL seasons. Following the 2004–05 NBL season, Gaze announced his retirement from the NBL. In 20 seasons with the Tigers, he played a total of 612 games and recorded 18,908 points at an average of 30.9 points per game.
On the international stage
Melbourne United is an Australian professional basketball team based in Melbourne, Victoria. United play their home game at Melbourne Arena; the team made their debut in the NBL in 1984 as the Melbourne Tigers, as an extension of the Melbourne Basketball Association. The franchise entered into private ownership in 2002, ending the team's relation with the MBA; the Tigers were led by coach Lindsay Gaze and his son Andrew from 1984 until 2005, with the pair guiding the Tigers to two championships in the 1990s. The pair were supported by fellow club legends such as Dave Simmons, Lanard Copeland and Mark Bradtke. Four consecutive NBL Grand Finals followed between 2006 and 2009, with championships coming in 2006 and 2008 behind the likes of Chris Anstey and Darryl McDonald. After 31 seasons of using the Melbourne Tigers name, the franchise was renamed Melbourne United in May 2014, a change, not well received by Tigers fans, former Tigers players, or the wider NBL community. Four years the franchise won their first NBL Championship since adopting the Melbourne United name.
Their five championships is second only to the Perth Wildcats for most titles in NBL history. Melbourne United's history stems back to 1931 with the beginning of basketball in Victoria; the Melbourne Tigers brand came into use in 1975, after the Tigers won the South Eastern Basketball League title in 1983, a new Melbourne Tigers entity was entered into the National Basketball League in 1984, as an extension of the Melbourne Basketball Association. The Tigers struggled given a lack of financial resources. During the early struggles of the 1980s, the Tigers were led by coach Lindsay Gaze and his son Andrew. Andrew Gaze was a prolific scorer, as he set a still-standing NBL record with 44.1 points per game for the 1987 season. During the year, he had a 60-point game against the Newcastle Falcons. Despite his dominance, the Tigers finished with a 3–23 record; the addition of imports David Colbert and Dave Simmons in 1989 saw the Tigers make their first-ever finals appearance. The addition of Lanard Copeland in 1992 led to the Tigers reaching their maiden NBL Grand Final series, where they were defeated 2–1 by the South East Melbourne Magic.
Gaze and Copeland formed arguably the best back-court partnership in NBL history, with Copeland playing second fiddle to Gaze and always stepping up as the "go to" man when Gaze was absent. Joining Gaze and Simmons in 1993 was Mark Bradtke, as the foursome led the Tigers back to the NBL Grand Final, where they faced the Perth Wildcats. Having split the first two games, Game 3 in Perth went down to the wire. A tense and tight affair led to a frantic final minute – with the Wildcats trailing by three and Andrew Vlahov holding possession, his three-point attempt from the top of the arc looked oh-so-good, before completing a near-full circle of the rim and hitting the backboard before rattling out, it was a fitting maiden championship win for Andrew and Lindsay Gaze, with the father-son duo embracing in a memorable teary breakdown following the game. The Tigers returned to the NBL Grand Final in 1996, where they were once again beaten 2–1 by the South East Melbourne Magic. Following the 1996 season, the Tigers parted ways with Dave Simmons.
The 1997 season began with import Jarvis Lang being replaced by Marcus Timmons. Behind Gaze, Copeland and Timmons, the Tigers reached their fourth NBL Grand Final series, as they finished the 1997 season on a 17–1 run that included a record 16-game winning streak, they once again faced the Magic, this time claiming a 2–1 victory to win their second NBL Championship. The Tigers were unable to recapture their championship form throughout the rest of the 1990s and the early 2000s. In 2002, the franchise entered into private ownership after the organisation had racked up a $2 million debt. Poor management has led losses to mount in the so-called professional phase of the Melbourne Basketball Association's ownership of the franchise. A new ownership consortium under Melbourne businessman Seamus McPeake and the Gazes saw financial stability restored to the organisation for the 2002–03 season; the Gaze era ended in 2005 with the retirement of coach Lindsay and the sport's greatest Australian player, Andrew.
In addition, the Tigers parted ways with both Mark Lanard Copeland. Darryl McDonald and imports Rashad Tucker and Dave Thomas were joined by Chris Anstey for the 2005–06 season. Fellow stalwarts in the team included Stephen Hoare and Tommy Greer. Behind coach Al Westover, the Tigers reached the 2006 NBL Grand Final series, where they swept the Sydney Kings 3–0; the 2006–07 season saw the Tigers return to the NBL Grand Final, where they were defeated 3–1 by the Brisbane Bullets. The 2007 off-season saw the Tigers acquire David Barlow and Nathan Crosswell, joining a core of Anstey, McDonald, Corletto and Greer. Import Sean Lampley joined the Tigers mid-season and helped them reach their third straight NBL Grand Final, where they once again faced the Sydney Kings; the series was tied at 2–2 heading into the deciding Game 5. Game 5 saw the Tigers complete the job they were so close to doing in Game 4 at home by winning 85–73 at the Kingdome to celebrate Darryl McDonald's last game in style. Both Anstey and Thomas finished with 12 rebounds.
In 2008, the Tigers acquired the services of Sam Mackinnon and Ebi Ere, while long-time swingman Dave Thomas departed for Cairns. However, following an injury to Mackinnon and the mid-season departure of Rod Grizzard and Luke Kendall were acquired in January 2009; the 2008–09 season saw the Tigers return to the NBL Grand Final for a fourth straight year, but they were defeated 3–2 by the South Dragons. In
National Basketball League (Australia)
The National Basketball League is the pre-eminent professional men's basketball league in Australia and New Zealand. The league was founded in 1979 and is contested by nine teams. In August 1979, the inaugural season of the NBL commenced, playing in the winter season which it did so until the completion of the 1998 season, the league's twentieth season; the 1998–99 season, which began only months was the first to be played during the summer season. The shift, used by the league, was an attempt to avoid competing directly against Australia's various winter season football codes; the NBL experienced its "golden age" in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but its popularity, media attention and corporate support deteriorated and plateaued in the decade afterward. A second Melbourne club, the South Dragons, entered the league in the 2006–07 season, but was short lived, soon folding 3 years after the 2008–09 season in which they were premiers. In the 2006–07 season, the NBL became the first Australasian sporting league to field a team from Asia with the Singapore Slingers playing.
The Gold Coast Blaze joined the competition in the 2007–08 season. In 2007, Australian NBA player Andrew Bogut suggested the NBL try to adopt a model similar to the Australian Football League whereby there are the same 10 or 15 teams over a 10-year period. A turbulent period during 2008 and 2009 saw the league lose teams from Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore; the 2009–10 season earmarked as the season in which the NBL would begin its revamping, much like the old National Soccer League which became the eight team A-League. The NBL returned to free-to-air television in Australia for the first time in three years with One broadcasting 2–3 games a week; the 2010–11 season saw the return of the Sydney Kings after the club was purchased for A$20,000 on 31 July 2008. In 2013, the NBL had a de-merger from Basketball Australia. Crowds improved for the 2013–14 NBL season, recording the highest cumulative crowd attendance figures for the past five years. After numerous teams folding and a plummeting public profile property developer Larry Kestelman purchased a 51% portion of the league.
Since game attendance, TV viewership, website visitors and app downloads have been on the increase. In April 2016 the Townsville Crocodiles folded as they had become too financially unsustainable to continue; however the Cairns Taipans may play some games out of the Townsville Entertainment Centre in the future. Larry Kestelman has stated on the Aussie Hoopla podcast that no NBL club will fold again as long as he is in control of the league. Allowing for clubs to recruit the best Australian players not in the NBA became easier with the marquee rule which saw the return from Europe and the US of players such as Brad Newley, David Andersen and Andrew Bogut. In addition the Asian/Oceania born player rule, introduced for the 2016–17 season, allows for clubs to recruit players born in countries such as India and Japan who would not count as imports under NBL rules; the growth of Basketball in Asia over recent years and the overall strength and standard of Australian Basketball should ensure the sustainability of the league for many years provided Asian players continue to strive to compete in the NBL and Asian basketball fans are able to follow the league.
Current trends should see the NBL as the third highest attended basketball league in the world, after the NBA and EuroLeague. From 2016 to 2018, saw a renewed interest in the sport, with it being described as being the national basketball league's greatest period. 2016/17 set a new attendance record for the league, with the figure being matched the following year, as well as the grand final series for the 2017/18 season, being the highest attended. Since the 2009–10 NBL season, each team has played 28 games during the regular season, 14 home and 14 away; the regular season ends in late March. The top four teams at the end of the regular season advances to the Finals; the team finishing in the first and second position at the completion of the regular season receives home advantages in their best-of-three first round matchup against the team finishing in fourth and third position. The winner of each of the three matches advances to the Grand Final; the winner of Series 1 plays the winner of Series 2 in the best-of-five Grand Final series, with home advantage being awarded to the highest remaining seed.
The winner of this series is crowned as NBL champion. The National Basketball League was founded in 1979 with nine teams. Due to club expansions and relocations, many of the teams either changed or ceased to exist. There are eight teams; the teams are located in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Wollongong. The Illawarra Hawks are the oldest club in the competition, having participated in every season since 1979; the salary cap for each team is $AU1.1 million as a'soft cap' with marquee players able to be paid amounts that will exceed that amount for the team. Whilst NBL salaries are not disclosed by clubs, it is understood some players will earn in excess of $AU500,000.00 per season including endorsement deals. There has been significant support for the NBL to expand into Asia by many NBL players as well as from ex-Australian Boomers head coach Brian Goorjian, be it differently to how it was done with the now-defunct Singapore Slingers which had 14-hour round-trip flights to the Australian East Coast.
Locating a team in the city of Darwin would make an Asian-based road-trip less drawn-out, although Darwin does not have the support for a national domestic