GUY Molloy has always searched for his next great challenge.
That desire to push his coaching has seen him zig-zag across the country and switch from coaching men to making his way court-side in the women’s game.
Molloy is a two-time WNBL Coach of the Year in 1995 and 2014, and Melbourne Boomers head coach since 2013.
He believes the women’s game is exceptional in its own right and that switch is another great leap forward on his coaching resume.
Golden State NBA champion Draymond Green turned heads earlier this season when he suggested that women were better players from a technical standpoint…. and Molloy couldn’t agree with him more.
“The simple and bleeding-obvious thing is women are not men,” Molloy said. “So I think the girls have to adapt – they play a tactically smarter game and the best skills on display are often fundamentals like shooting, footwork and pivoting.”
With his switch from men’s to women’s teams, Molloy’s insight into basketball across the board is vast and definitely unique in Australian coaching circles.
He served as Australian women’s assistant coach for four years before taking the Perth Lynx to four straight finals appearances.
Almost 20 years later, Molloy moved across to the coaching proving ground of Melbourne and his arrival at the Boomers was spontaneous.
Having coached a variety of men’s teams for almost two decades, he was in need of change and the Boomers provided him with a fresh start.
“I wanted to be known as a coach, not just a women’s coach or a men’s coach,” Molloy said. “I wasn’t sure how much of my approach with the men would translate to the women.
“I had a degree of ignorance about many players, there was an adjustment period.”
As it would turn out Molloy’s fears were misplaced as the young Boomers’ nucleus warmed to him quickly.
“Naturally, we had to keep things simple initially in regards to offensive sets and defensive schemes,” Molloy said.
“I’ve always strived to be a player’s coach, but early on it was a matter of finding the right balance… I’m not a huge fan of Xs and Os.
“I try to prepare my players to adapt in game and find solutions for themselves – when it is obvious they need help, I step in and guide.
“But honestly it’s been an easier transition than I anticipated.”
Molloy puts it down to that age-old concept – building a strong relationship between the coach and the roster. Whatever the age, whatever the gender of your team, if a coach is connected with the group then the results will follow.
“You have to build great relationships to know your players and have an environment of trust and accountability,” Molloy said. “Once you accomplish that players become very coachable.
“You can have the best X’s and O’s in the league but if you can’t connect with your players, you are dead.”
But don’t expect the seasoned veteran to side with one gender over the other… he’s simply too smart for that.
“You can’t say one or the other is easier to coach,” Molloy said. “Competition, winning and losing, is what creates all the pressures and makes things easier or harder. NBL and WNBL players are equally competitive and driven.”
Since taking his talents to the Melbourne Boomers, Molloy received his second WNBL Coach of the Year accolade and signed a contract extension to see him through to 2018.
His next aim isn’t easy, but Molloy wants to catapult the Boomers into the finals and raise awareness about women’s basketball across the state and well beyond.
“So little is still known about the women’s game,” Molloy said. “Everybody wants to be recognised for their good work.
“But my philosophy is if you build it they will come – If WNBL clubs connect with the grass roots and local associations whilst showcasing a good product on the floor to build memberships and a fan base, we will build greater media recognition in time.”
“We had 2500 people to a Boomers versus Dandenong game last season.
“More is possible, we just have to continue to build on it.”
Humble and well-spoken, Molloy believes his greatest achievement is his longevity in elite coaching circles, finding a way to hang on for over two decades in an unstable profession whilst his passion for the whiteboard has continued to grow.
In a moment of half-seriousness, he reflects on his tenure with the Cairns Taipans.
“Winning with a resource-poor, expansion club in Cairns was difficult and I was very young, but I was really proud of taking the fledgling Taipans to the NBL finals for the first-time ever in 2004.
“They fired me a year later!”
Having coached the Under 17 men’s team to the 2012 FIBA World Championships silver medal and serving as an assistant at Olympic level, there is a growing belief that Molloy could be handed the keys to the Opals in the future.
“If I deserve the honour at some point in the future I would naturally love to coach the Olympic team, but I don’t approach things outside-in,” Molloy said. “I really try to focus on becoming a better coach every session and that’s hard enough. Perhaps all those little improvements will put me in a place one day where the national team wants me. But I don’t set goals or stress about it. You should deserve that type of success.”
When you take a step back and survey what Molloy has done for the game of basketball, it’s an exceptional resume.
He deserves it.
Feature picture courtesy of Michelle Couling Photography.