Head Coach – Andrew Gaze
Two NBL Championships
All Time NBL Scoring Leader
All Time NBL Assists Leader
NBL Most Valuable Player 7 times (1991, 1992, 1994- 1998)
NBL Rookie of the Year 1984
All-NBL First Team 15 consecutive times (1986-2000)
Led NBL in scoring average for 16 consecutive seasons (1986-2001)
Voted NBL’s Greatest Player, 25th Anniversary Team
NBL All-Star Game MVP twice (1989, 1992)
Udine, Italy (1991)
Washington Bullets, NBA (1994)
Apollan Patron, Greece (1995)
San Antonio Spurs, NBA (1999-2000)
NBA Champion (1999-2000)
Seton Hall University (1988-1989)
NCAA Runner-up (1989)
NCAA West Regional Tournament MVP (1989)
Basketball Australia Hall of Famer (2004)
Sport Australia Hall of Famer (2005)
FIBA Hall of Famer (2013)
Five Time Olympian (1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)
All Time Olympic Games Scoring Leader
Captain, Australian Olympic Team, Sydney 2000
International Player of the Year 5 times (1990, 1994-1996, 1998)
Melbourne Tigers, SEABL (2016)
Order of Australia (2002)
It’s quite the resume, isn’t it, for the twelfth head coach in the history of the Sydney Kings.
Not bad for a guy who indirectly faced severe criticism from some quarters when he was named to his first Olympic team, coached by his father Lindsay, as a precocious 18 year old in 1984. The cries of nepotism rang long and loud, but Andrew silenced the knockers with an outstanding debut in Los Angeles – the event that announced his arrival as a genuine world-class talent.
Of course, NBL watchers already had a dose of the ‘Gaze Factor’, as the 6’7” guard with the oversized head who couldn’t jump to save his life averaged a staggering 29.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per contest in his rookie NBL season in 1984 for his beloved Melbourne Tigers.
It was an astonishing performance that was just the beginning of a scoring rampage the likes of which we’ll probably never see again.
In the next 15 NBL seasons, Gaze never averaged below 30 points per game, and was incredibly efficient, shooting the ball at better than 50% from the floor every season from 1984 to 2000, a remarkable stat in itself. And his game wasn’t just about scoring, because he was a regular in the top ten in assists every season.
But it was his rare ability to accumulate points that set him apart from everyone else.
In 1987, Andrew averaged an almost incomprehensible 44.1 points per game – setting the all-time NBL single season scoring record – and he broke the 50-point barrier on six occasions. Teams tried to restrict him in a variety of ways, but none of it mattered – he was completely unstoppable.
And in that same year he made more noise on an international level.
One of the big highlights in Australian sport in 1987 was the visit of the superpower Soviet Union to these shores to face the Boomers, in what would turn out to be an exceptional preparation for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The Soviets, coached by the legendary Alexsander Gomelsky, brought out all their stars, save for the injured Arvydas Sabonis, and overpowered the Australians 5-0 in a test series that sold out the Sydney Entertainment Centre for the first time and created unprecedented interest across the nation.
But what most people remember from those games was a Sunday afternoon in Melbourne when Andrew Gaze almost single-handedly carried Australia to an upset win at the old Glasshouse.
He scored 44 points on 11 of 13 shooting from three-point range, including a monster trey as time expired to send the game into overtime, and had he not fouled out the result may have been different. He was simply magnificent that day, and then became, unquestionably, the face of the sport in this country.
After a successful 1988 Olympics, where Australia achieved their best result to date, fourth place, Andrew was courted by family friend and Seton Hall University coach PJ Carlesimo to play a season for the Pirates in 1988-1989, given he had some college eligibility remaining.
He accepted, and led the small college in New Jersey all the way to the final game of the NCAA tournament, where they lost by a single point in overtime to Michigan. Along the way, the team upended powerhouses Indiana and Duke in true Cinderella fashion, and Andrew earned West Regional Tournament MVP honours to boot.
In fact, that Duke game – the national semi-final at the Final Four held in Seattle, where he scored 20 points and was unstoppable in the second half with a barrage of three point baskets – was his coming out party in the United States. Long-time CBS Sports announcer Brent Musberger remarked, as Gaze nailed yet another triple, “Well, they don’t have Larry Bird down under, but Gaze will do down there won’t he?”
Surprisingly, Andrew wasn’t drafted to the NBA following that incredible college season, but went to the Seattle Supersonics veterans’ camp, where he was the last player cut. He was philosophical about missing out, and returned to Australia, where his beloved Tigers were starting to make some noise, reaching the playoffs in 1989 for the first time in franchise history.
Unfortunately, Andrew suffered a rare deep vein thrombosis in his upper right arm the next season, an illness that was life threatening, and he was sidelined for four months, missing the 1990 playoffs in the process.
Thankfully, he managed to recover, and went to Italy in what was then the NBL’s offseason in 1991, becoming the first Australian ever to play professionally in Europe. He averaged an impressive 30 points a game for Udine his first outing, endearing himself to a whole new legion of fans.
Back home, Andrew would lead the Tigers to their first Grand Final in 1992, then the very next season captained Melbourne to their historic first championship win over the Perth Wildcats. Who will ever forget the image of that highly emotional father and son embrace, as both Lindsay and Andrew finally realised the culmination of a dream – to take the Melbourne Tigers to an NBL title.
Another championship in 1997 followed, and it seemed the Andrew Gaze legacy was complete.
But still there was more.
After a brief stint with the NBA’s Washington Bullets in 1994, he was signed by the San Antonio Spurs for the 1999-2000 season, and although he saw little game time still earned himself an NBA Championship ring, becoming at the time only the second Australian to do so after Luc Longley’s three titles with the Chicago Bulls.
And then the event that capped off his phenomenal career – his selection, as a five-time Olympian, to captain the Australian Olympic Team and carry the flag at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Games.
It was a fitting tribute to one of the greatest sportsmen this country has ever produced, and he carried that flag with tremendous pride as he led 600 Australian athletes inside the Olympic Stadium in front of 110,000 people.
When he finally retired in 2005, he had set NBL records that will likely never be approached, particularly his phenomenal scoring record of 18,098 points – over 5,000 points more than the legendary Leroy Loggins.
It was a playing career for the ages, and to call Andrew Gaze an icon of the sport doesn’t even do him justice. He garnered great respect both here and abroad for his efforts on the floor and his enshrinement in the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2013 was well-deserved.
Since retiring, he has had an outstanding career in the media with Network Ten, Fox Sports and SEN Radio, has coached at a number of levels – including with the Melbourne Tigers in the SEABL competition – and led several NBL tours to China over the past few years.
However, the most important thing that’s always stood out about Andrew Gaze is the way he’s conducted himself as an individual. He’s always been incredibly humble and unfailingly decent, never refused a request for an autograph and is fantastic with kids. He’s a great role model and a class act all the way.
For all basketball fans across the nation, it’s was a privilege to watch him play. He is a true champion of Australian sport. And now he brings his incredible competitive attitude and basketball intelligence to the sidelines as the head coach of the iconic Sydney Kings.
Assistant Coach – Lanard Copeland
Lanard Copeland is one of the greatest American players ever to come to the National Basketball League.
The graduate of Georgia State University arrived in Australia in 1992 and immediately took the league by storm, forging the greatest backcourt partnership in NBL history with the one and only Andrew Gaze and helping the Tigers to their first Grand Final appearance when they fell to the Brian Goorjian-led South East Melbourne Magic in a classic battle.
‘Copes’ would go one better the next season when he and Andrew overcame the Perth Wildcats to win the first NBL championship in Tigers’ history.
He would go on to win another title in 1997, also for the Tigers, and played a total of 449 games for Melbourne before closing his remarkable NBL career with brief stops in Brisbane and Adelaide.
He also has an NBA pedigree, playing for both the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers prior to his arrival on these shores, but it is with the NBL that he gained the most fame with his Grand Final Series Most Valuable Player award in 1997 and his two All-NBL First-Team nods in 1999 and 2002.
Since his retirement, he has emerged as a quality coach, having served as the assistant to Phil ‘The General’ Smyth at the ACB Academy before being named head coach of the Hume City Broncos in the Big V competition. In addition, he was the head coach of the Victorian State High School champions, Haileybury College, leading his charges to the 2014 title.
Copeland was an all-time great as a player and the Sydney Kings are proud that he is now a part of one of Australia’s most iconic sporting teams. His ability to develop players, his basketball knowledge and his upbeat, positive attitude will all be key ingredients in what will be a strong Sydney Kings culture.