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Gleeson makes history as coach of the Wildcats

Throughout the storied history in the NBL of the Perth Wildcats one thing had never been accomplished until Sunday – nobody until Trevor Gleeson had coached them to two Championships. The Wildcats have won seven NBL Championships now following Sunday's Swisse NBL Grand Final Series Game 3 victory over the New Zealand Breakers at Perth Arena, but the previous six had all been won by different coaches. The first was Cal Bruton in 1990, then Murray Arnold in 1991, Adrian Hurley in 1995, Alan Black in 2000, Rob Beveridge in 2010 and then Gleeson in his first season at the helm in 2014. Remarkably, none of those men were able to accomplish what Gleeson has done by winning a second Championship following Sunday's emphatic 75-52 Game 3 victory over the Breakers. It caps a tremendous three seasons for Gleeson with the 'Cats after he had a previous run of five years at the Townsville Crocodiles. There he was the NBL Coach of the Year in 2011 and took the Crocs to the Finals in all five seasons before a stint at the Melbourne Tigers ahead of landing in Perth ahead of the 2013/14 campaign. The Wildcats had just lost to the Breakers for a second straight Grand Final Series but with Gleeson at the helm and the arrival of James Ennis and Jermaine Beal, they won a sixth NBL title. They came up short to the Cairns Taipans in the Semi Final Series last season but are now on top of the NBL as the 2016 Champions and extending their record number of titles to seven in what was a 30th straight Finals appearance.
While Gleeson one day will sit back and reflect on the history he has made by becoming a dual Championship coach in Perth, he was more proud of the way the group fought through plenty of adversity to come away triumphant. "That's irrelevant, that's for when you retire and sit back having a few beers and are reflecting. Now I've got two rings for two kids, they can have one each," Gleeson said. "I might be in a bit of trouble if I get another one. But you just coach to coach a group like this. It was fantastic. Every time adversity hit we stepped up and we made a commitment a long time ago, and the guys supported each other which is what I'm so proud of." Gleeson has no doubt that the additions of Nate Jawai, Casey Prather and Jarrod Kenny were all significant in the Wildcats ending up winning the Championship. But it wasn’t by luck. They put a lot of thought into what they needed different to last year. With Jawai's presence inside, Prather's athleticism, tough defence and ability to finish at the rim and Kenny being able support captain Damian Martin admirably, they provided improvement in crucial areas. "We had three great additions. We felt we were pretty shorthanded last year. We got Casey in to complement Damo's back court pressure and someone who can finish above the rim. That was a big focus of our planning," he said. "We worked the guys out with individuals in May so it was a long plan coming together. To come here and deliver this performance was by our best defensive effort as a team. "The chemistry in this group is the best I've seen in my 20 years of coaching and that really shone out when we were getting beaten, and when we were winning." Things didn’t come easily for Perth throughout the season and it hit a hurdle before it even began when Hugh Greenwood decided to leave before playing a game to become a rookie-listed AFL player at the Adelaide Crows. Kenny stepped into that void as a point guard and was terrific in his rookie NBL season but it was the effort of all Gleeson's players and staff to be ready come Game 3 of the Grand Final Series that was most pivotal in the eventual Championship. "We felt that we weren’t fit enough last year and especially coming into the back end of the season we felt we had to have a great base," Martin said. "We thought we probably had an advantage with that by having home court and being able to play 12 players for the third game, and looking out on to the court we were going as hard as we would if we had a week off. "It was first class and with our whole coaching staff, this was the most enjoyable group I've been around. To sit back and enjoy the year now is great. All the coaches and managers have done a fantastic job."
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