The Perth Wildcats have appointed John Rillie as their new head coach after Scott Morrison departed amid a tumultuous time for the NBL’s most successful club.
- John Rillie won an NBL title in 1998, and the league scoring award in 2003
- Rillie, 50, was most recently an assistant at UC Santa Barbara
- The Wildcats are coming off their worst season in 35 years
Canadian-born Morrison resigned last month, leaving the club after just one season in charge, during which Perth missed the National Basketball League playoffs for the first time in 35 years.
Queensland-born Rillie has been coaching in the US college basketball system since 2011 after finishing a successful 16-season NBL career.
He was 23 when he made his league debut in 1995 with the Brisbane Bullets, where he won the NBL’s Rookie of the Year award.
Rillie went on to play with the Adelaide 36ers, the West Sydney Razorbacks, the Townsville Crocodiles and the New Zealand Breakers, and also played for the Australian Boomers national team, including at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He won an NBL title with the 36ers in 1998 and led the league in scoring average in 2003.
Since leaving the NBL, Rillie has been working in the US college system, serving as an assistant coach at Boise State from 2011 until 2017, and since then as an assistant and associate head coach at UC Santa Barbara.
Major changes at Wildcats under SEN
The appointment of the ex-Boomers guard means the Wildcats will have had three head coaches in just 12 months, with Morrison’s tenure preceded by the departure of Trevor Gleeson to pursue a career in the NBA.
In the last two months, the Wildcats have lost their commercial general manager, their financial controller and their head coach, and have sacked their CEO.
Long-time chief executive Troy Georgiu was dismissed under what new owner Sports Entertainment Network (SEN) called a desire for “further integrating and aligning the organisation” within the business.
SEN purchased the club from the late Jack Bendat for an undisclosed sum in July last year.
Rillie wants attractive offence, aggressive defence
Rillie said Perth’s history as an NBL giant was “like a magnet” for him when deciding on whether to accept the opportunity.
“I’m really excited, and I know we’re going to get great fan support from day one,” he said.
“I want to play an attractive, opportunistic style offensively, but to play that way we’re going to have to be an aggressive defensive team.
“The mindset I had as a player, I’ll be looking to adopt that as a coach on the offensive end, but I’ll be striving to make us one of the top one or two defensive teams statistically in the NBL.”
In terms of the recent instability at the club, Rillie said he planned to learn from the past while keeping his eyes cast firmly towards the future.
“I’m personally not going to worry about what previously has happened, I can only take ownership of what goes on from today onwards,” he said speaking from Las Vegas where he joined other Wildcats executives at the NBA Summer League.
“Obviously, you have to be mindful so you can correct some of the disappointments, but moving forward I’m excited to hit the ground running and get going.”
Rillie said getting the Wildcats back into the play-offs this coming season was definitely the goal.
“I’m never going to shy away from that,” he said.
“Obviously … I need to be around the group, the group needs to be around me but as far as my expectation, like, we’re trying to win it all, all the time.”
Rillie said he would make the move to Perth sometime this month, with his family due to join him at a later date.
Perth has won five of the last nine NBL championships and a record 10 titles overall, with the most recent coming in the 2020 season