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2023 Hall of Fame Inductee – Fred Specht

 The late Fred Specht may well be regarded by some as the man who put the West Adelaide Basketball Club on the map. But he was much more than that. Beginning as the Kingston Tennis club it later morphed into the West Adelaide Basketball Club. 

Initially, with his nephew Dixon (Dick) Bruning, he formed the Kingston Men’s Basketball Club (KMBC) in 1940’s on the Specht’s family-owned Kingston Tennis Club property on Kingston Ave, Richmond. The tennis club was well established with a club house and five outdoor courts but in winter the courts were often too wet to play. It was during one of these periods that Fred Specht, together with his nephew Dixon Bruning, decided they should investigate the game of Men’s Basketball and they visited the Duncan Building to watch the game being played. The tennis players needed something to do to fill in the time and one court was made available for the new KMBC team to practice. 

In 1946 the first Kingston Men’s Basketball team was formed to play in the

SAMBA which had recently resumed playing after WW2. The first coach and president of the Kingston Men’s Basketball Club was Fred Specht. He had outstanding success guiding the men’s team to a staggering 4 championships in 5 years. In 1948 and 1949 they won the ‘A’ grade title at the OBI (Our Boys Institute) competition and more premierships in 1951, 52 at the Thebarton Town Hall. Not only was he coaching and undertaking official duties he was also using his own money to buy basketballs and to purchase and build the first wooden backboards for the club.

In 1950 the South Australian Metropolitan Basketball Association (SAMBA) and the OBI had disputes about costs which resulted in the SAMBA breaking away from the OBI to form a new Association which was named District & Metropolitan Amateur Basketball Association. To start the new association, it was decided primarily by Frank Angove, Ted Hunt, and Fred Specht to have an eight (8) team competition and each club involved in the break-away was to assume a League Football Club name. It was considered that football followers would provide increased support for the game hence the name change.

Consequently, after much heated discussion, the Kingston Basketball Club was renamed the West Adelaide Basketball Club. This name was chosen because the Kingston Tennis Club was part of the West Adelaide Football Club area and the Specht family’s allegiance to the team, being red hot supporters. Specht consequently coached WABC to 2 more premierships in DMAB competition now located at the Thebarton Town Hall.

In 1953 the ‘A’ Grade competition moved from the Thebarton Town Hall to the new Forestville Stadium. This was a milestone in Australia as it was the first stadium purpose built for basketball. Angove, Hunt, Merv Harris and Specht, four stalwarts of SA basketball had dreamed of this moment and the time when all clubs would have their own stadium. To pursue this dream, (much against his wife’s wishes) Specht and players of the time became original debenture share investors to raise the 3000 pounds needed to build the stadium. Late in that year he moved from West Adelaide to South Adelaide to further continue his coaching career as their ‘A’ grade coach. From there more coaching opportunities arose with West Torrens ‘A’ grade teams and so he moved on. 

Specht is best remembered as an administrator and an official and that is no surprise given his achievements. He became the first vice-president of the DAMBA, a position he held for an amazing 25 years (1950-75), when he retired due to ill health. As a result of an increase in junior basketballers playing the game at the new Forestville Stadium, he established a junior committee to oversee its development. He became the first president of the Junior Committee and held this position from 1953-1975. He set up the junior competitions from their infancy and was considered ‘the father of junior basketball’ in those years. 

Even though he coached a variety of teams, he managed even more. He managed or coached a host of U/16 and U/18 State teams during his presidency of Junior basketball in South Australia. From senior state teams at Australian Championships to touring to New Zealand with State and combined District teams in the 1960’s, nothing was too much for him.

A fact not well known is Specht also had a hand in establishing the site of the Apollo Stadium. In the late 1960’s the DAMBA were looking for land to build a new headquarters. Fred, on his daily walks around his Richmond neighbourhood, discovered an unused block of land on Kingston Avenue. On making enquiries Specht discovered the CMV motor vehicle company had intended selling it as it no longer served their purposes. He contacted his old friend Frank Angove about the site, discussions and negotiations took place between Angove and the managing director of the car company and the site was bought. The rest is history. Fred Specht loved the site as it was only 5 minutes from his house!

Fred Specht was a pioneer of basketball in South Australia. From his beginnings in the formation of one of the State’s most powerful clubs, West Adelaide, to his hard work and diligence in the building the Forestville Stadium to his countless years in managing a variety of aspects of manging junior and senior teams he will be remembered as one of the visionaries of our sport.