Hungry Jack's NBL
Scott Roth’s vision for Tassie’s first season
By Liam Santamaria
Tasmania JackJumpers head coach Scott Roth believes his team has what it takes to defy the odds and win the NBL title in their first season.
Speaking on The Huddle podcast, Roth outlined his vision for the new Tasmania franchise, asking ‘why not us?’ when discussing his team’s immediate championship aspirations.
The JackJumpers are currently the only NBL team to have their entire roster in the country, out of quarantine and on the practice floor as they prepare for an historic inaugural campaign.
Roth, who won a title with Perth as an assistant coach in 2020, is hoping that his squad’s early time together will develop the chemistry needed to genuinely compete in year one.
“I want to win a championship,” Roth said.
“I say that almost every single day that I come here, when I speak to the guys and I want to win one this year.”
It would be a remarkable achievement as no expansion team in NBL history has ever climbed that mountain in their very first season.
In fact, the only time a first-year club hoisted the championship trophy – apart from St. Kilda in the league’s inaugural season – was in 1992 when the South East Melbourne Magic took out the league. The Magic, however, were not an expansion team. They were formed via a merger between the Eastside Spectres and the Southern Melbourne Saints, with the Spectres having competed in the Grand Final Series the year prior.
The league’s most recent expansion team, the South East Melbourne Phoenix, made the finals last season in what was only their second season however none of the NBL’s current teams made a postseason appearance in their first year of existence.
Roth doesn’t care. He’s forthright in his view that the JackJumpers should be – and will be – shooting for the stars.
“If you're in professional sports, to me, there's only one thing at the end of the day and that’s trying to win a championship,” he added.
“Yes, we want to build a foundation and progress. But, why not us? We have the facilities. We have a $65 million renovation of a new arena… we have a great coaching staff… we have great physios and strength and conditioning coaches. I hope that [the players] feel like they have everything they need to compete.”
A big part of building a successful team in Tassie will be the performance of the team’s major signings. They include imports Josh Magette, Josh Adams and MiKyle McIntosh, Russian Next Star Nikita Mikhailovskii and talented locals Will Magnay and Jack McVeigh.
Magnay, in particular, will be key. The JackJumpers are hoping the talented big man, who is still recovering from off-season foot surgery, can return to the explosive form he showed two seasons ago when he was named the NBL’s Most Improved Player and came second in voting for Best Defensive Player.
“Magnay is probably six to eight weeks away from actually playing, he just started last week running,” Roth explained.
“He's lost some weight. He's getting much stronger but he's back down to where I wanted him to be which was active; running, dunking and putting pressure on the rim like he was in Brisbane.
“That's how he made his name. That's how I first saw him when I started to sell him to my friends in the NBA a year and a half ago and that's what I want him to do here.”
Adams and Mikhailovskii are others who have made strong first impressions on Roth over the past couple of weeks.
“Josh Adams has been fantastic,” Roth said.
“He's going to be something to watch this year. I think he's going to be one of the most exciting players in the league.
“And then Nikita just came in and he's done a few things already that make you shake your head like ‘wow, this kid is only 20 years old and it's pretty darn good’.”
All of that bodes the question of how Roth and the JackJumpers will be judging success across their inaugural season. After all, only one team can win the championship and the odds are well and truly stacked against an expansion team pulling that off.
According to Roth, the personal development of his players – on and off the floor – will be a key performance indicator for the club in year one.
“Success will be when I look at Josh Adams in his eyes and I know he's falling back in love with playing basketball again,” Roth outlined.
“Success will be when Magnay gets a double-double, and we win a game after he spent the last four months rehabbing and there's a smile on his face.
“It's when ‘Fab’ (Fabijan Krslovic) walks onto the floor with swagger and confidence that he's a good player and that he doesn't have to look over his shoulder.
“It will be success, for me, when Sam McDaniel can come on the floor and expand his game with us and be more than just a defender; improve his game and maybe become a Boomer.
“When I see Jarrad Weeks, a brand new father, be a great dad and have his wife here loving what he's doing. Some people have disregarded him so to come back and have a strong year this year and say ‘okay, I told you I could do this’.”
It’s a player-centric mentality that is sure to be well received by the JackJumpers roster. Especially when coupled with Roth’s ultra-competitive mindset.
“I want to win but I'm not completely crazy, (I know) that's very hard to do,” Roth said.
“But for me, personally, it's all about the players. I want to see them love what they're doing. enjoy playing here, love this state and love to compete. I’m here for that.”