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    Veteran coach Owen Hughan takes on Horsham export Mitch Creek.

Legendary basketball coach Owen Hughan to step back


An influential basketball mentor who put Horsham and the Wimmera on the national basketball map has retired from coaching.

Owen Hughan, OAM, 79, of Horsham said his susceptibility to COVID-19 had forced his hand to ‘unwillingly’ step back from a sport that had been such a large part of his life.

“It’s not that I wanted to stop, but I’m at an age where I’m actually quite vulnerable to the virus –  so it’s really been forced on me,” he said.

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Mr Hughan is responsible for navigating the profile of Horsham basketball from the confines of social community competition in regional Victoria to the world stage.

His profound influence on Horsham basketball pathways, including hands-on development of rising talent, has been a major factor leading to Wimmera players pursuing international or national careers in the sport.

Mr Hughan collected and built on experience garnered from the formative years of national basketball and continues to call some of the biggest names in Australian basketball friends and peers. 

At one stage it was a normality to see Australian, state or National Basketball League club coaches in the stands in Horsham watching Mr Hughan’s Hornets teams.

Mr Hughan’s expertise and direction was critical in hauling representative basketball teams in the region from relative obscurity to elite competition – a move that captured the region’s sporting imagination.

Keen interest

Right up to just before COVID-19 lockdowns, Mr Hughan was still working with aspiring youngsters. 

He has also remained open to helping seasoned professionals fine-tune their games with one-on-one sessions.

“I never thought I would retire this way. I was coaching right up until it all happened,” he said.

“I started basketball in 1953 and to suddenly turn the switch off, I’m thinking ‘cripes’. 

“It is hard to get my head around that it’s coming to an end. And it’s not that I want to stop. I’d love to continue on.

“I will maintain keen interest and if they had a magic vaccine I’d only be too willing to help juniors out because it’s not right to completely walk away if you can still pass on valuable information and, considering a need for volunteers.”

Mr Hughan, who in his last sessions worked with Horsham export and Sydney Kings star Shaun Bruce, said he had seen the game transition through its various incarnations.

“What I’m finding is that when these talented players come back, they might have picked up a few minor bad habits that we might be able to help iron out and give them an extra edge. It’s really quite interesting,” he said.

“I know much of the direction is about improving your team. But I think one of the best ways to improve your team is by developing individuals – even at the highest level. 

“If you can get an extra step out in front that might be the difference.

“When I first started, coaches were running ‘patterns’. Then they moved to ‘shuffles’, ran ‘flexible offence’ and ‘flows’. Now we’re back to ‘motion offence’, teaching players how to make ‘reads’ and play ‘sets’ – in other words, doing the same things we were doing in the late ’50s.”

Mr Hughan said he would be keen to help in situations where possible.

“In many ways I think it’s better to drop out and let others do their thing and not having someone in the background too much,” he said.

“I think the volunteers will come back stronger, perhaps with a bit more time on their hands, and things will be more regionalised when sport comes back.”

The entire July 15, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!