West Adelaide 1982 Mens Team
When West Adelaide Bearcats men’s team hit the hardwood in 1982, it was the culmination of five years of work that produced South Australia’s historic first national club champion.
The National Basketball League (NBL) tipped off in 1979 and the Bearcats were among its inaugural clubs, having won the SA championship in 1978. They would again go on to win in 1979, 1980, 1981 and finally, 1982 – the longest championship winning reign in South Australian basketball history.
Much of this had to do with their American-born playing-coach and inaugural NBL Most Valuable Player, Ken Richardson who arrived in Adelaide in 1974.
In 1975 he created history as the first American to claim the Woollacott Medal as the state’s fairest and most brilliant player. In his era, Richardson was the best player in Australian basketball and his decision to move from a starter’s role to West Adelaide’s sixth man was hugely influential in the Bearcats’ total domination of 1982.
A season-ending injury cost Richardson the 1981 season as a player but continued as coach, West still finished third in the NBL. In his comeback season as a player-coach in 1982, Richardson averaged 14.5ppg at 58.8% (143/243 – #2 in NBL), 6.2rpg, 1.4 apg off the bench, always able to assess what his team might be needing. For example, in the NBL playoffs he led the team in scoring with 25 points in its semi final win, then in rebounding with 11 in the Grand Final.
After losing the 1980 NBL Grand Final to St Kilda Saints and their unstoppable mercurial American guard Rocky Smith, Richardson set out to find a “Rocky of our own”. This led to the recruitment of Al Green.
Out of Louisiana State University, Green was unlike anyone Australian basketball had seen before, a scoring guard with lightning-fast reflexes, moves, skills and jumping ability. “Dr Dunkenstein” had fans filing into Apollo Stadium just to see his sizzling abilities, not to mention his penchant for trash-talk which harkened back to his New York roots. When the naturalised Richardson added Leroy Loggins to the Bearcats’ roster, it had arguably the two most accomplished imports in the NBL.
Green won the Woollacott Medal in 1982 as West Adelaide stormed to its record fifth straight SA championship, smashing Forestville Eagles 97-84 in the Grand Final.
This was West’s 17th Grand Final appearance since 1957, Green also leading the season scoring and securing a rare double by also owning the state league’s best field goal percentage.
At the other end of the floor, Loggins was busy winning the league’s Best Defensive Player award, the dynamic US duo also holding down two spots on the All Star Five (First Team).
West progressively built the irresistible force which culminated in its 1982 superiority. Two of its starters – Peter Ali and Ray Wood – both were products of the club’s junior program.
Ali in 1980 represented Australia at the Olympic Games in Moscow and was a revered defensive player. Wood won the NBL’s Best Defensive Player award twice (1980, 1981) and holds a personal milestone as the only Defensive Player award winner in the league’s history to also have produced a 40-point game. He could play both ends of the floor and was the team’s playmaking general.
Raw-boned NSW-born centre Brad Dalton completed Richardson’s starting quintet, the playing-coach’s eye for talent reinforced with Dalton winning Olympic Games selections for Australia in 1984 and 1988.
Joining Richardson on the bench were State forward and National junior rep Joe Theil and a trio of West Adelaide juniors Trevor Maddiford, Greg Mules and Peter Dawe, the latter representing Australia at Under-20 level.
This unprecedented powerhouse team was the first to include three league MVPs in Richardson, Green and Loggins. The Sydney Kings would field three league MVPs in Andrew Bogut, Kevin Lisch and Jerome Randle in 2019 but did not go on to win a championship.
Green averaged 27.3 points per game at an NBL-leading 59.1 per cent accuracy. The second most accurate player in the NBL was Richardson at 58.8 per cent. Third was Loggins, whose 25.2 ppg were delivered at 56.9 per cent – another yet-to-be repeated feat.
The Bearcats trio also all won Woollacott Medals in SA.
In its dominant NBL season, where run-and-gun backed by amazing defensive commitment but highlighted by touchdown passes out of defence for lay-ups were a regular component. West Adelaide produced a 21-5 win-loss record, an 81% success rate, and averaged 97.1ppg, conceding 83.7ppg, a winning differential of 13.4ppg. Two of its five losses were by one point and a third by two.
Loggins, with a 32-point tour de force, was named MVP of the Grand Final victory over Geelong.
Richardson was assisted by bench coach Mike DeGaris and team manager Keith Woods, completing one of the greatest teams in NBL and SA history – worthy inductees into the Basketball SA Hall of Fame in the “Teams” category.
The 1982 West Adelaide Bearcats consisted of:
Playing Coach, Ken Richardson (dec)
Assistant Coach, Mike Degaris (dec)
Manager/Trainer, Keith Woods