Written for nbl.com.au by Liam Santamaria
On what would have been his 100th birthday, we remember Australian Basketball Hall of Famer Ken Watson.
A pioneer of Australian basketball, Ken Watson had a profound influence on the development of hoops in this country.
As a player, coach and administrator, Watson spent his lifetime promoting the game.
He was a national player, a national team coach and, in his later years, coached many of Australia’s best young ballers.
He was the secretary of Basketball Victoria for over 40 years and spent time as the business secretary of Basketball Australia during the 1950s – a post that saw him initiate a number of key new competitions.
“Sometimes I’m referred to as the father of (Australian) basketball,” Naismith Hall of Famer Lindsay Gaze said at the time of Watson’s passing in 2008.
“Ken is really the principal person responsible for the development of the game in Australia.”
Watson was the coach of Australia’s first Olympic basketball team at the 1956 Games in Melbourne and led the Boomers again in 1968.
He also founded the Melbourne Tigers, originally known as Melbourne Church, and spent decades coaching the club’s senior and then junior teams.
Watson was also influential in helping to grow the women’s game in Australia. Upon a request from FIBA, Ken worked alongside his wife, Betty (herself a Hall of Famer), to develop specific tournaments aimed at bringing women into the game.
He taught the great Lindsay Gaze the game and gave five-time Olympian and seven-time NBL MVP Andrew Gaze his first taste of senior hoops.
“Ken was the one who really introduced me to senior basketball,” Andrew told NBL Media this week.
“Driving around with him to go to games, playing for him and understanding his contribution to the sport overall, he had a profound impact on me and my family because of what he was able to build.”
Watson had that impact on countless others too. Even today, his branches reach right across the NBL.
Cairns Taipans GM Mark Beecroft and South East Melbourne Phoenix head coach Simon Mitchell are two who were both coached by Watson during their junior playing days.
So was this scribe.
Which is why, on this commemorative day, I invite you to join me in paying homage to Ken Watson for all that he gave to the game.