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Farewell Joey Wright

ADELAIDE 36ers fans at Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Saturday for the NBL match with Cairns Taipans will see Sixers coach Joey Wright at the helm for the last time in a home match.

Wright's final game as Adelaide's coaching mentor will be on the road in the last round of the regular season at Perth, even though he has a further two years to run on his existing contract at the 36ers.

I believe after seven years at the helm, Wright and the club - which has been under new ownership for the past two seasons - have mutually agreed to sever ties with the final siren in Perth.

Wright would neither confirm nor deny the speculation when contacted, and with me having been in the 36ers' doghouse for the past two seasons after shining a light on the Mitch Creek saga which didn't have a smiley face on it, leaving a message is a waste of a phone call.

But Wright's extensive support team has been less tight-lipped, the Sixers' mentor believed to be worn down and ready to take a break from basketball.

Wright, 51, is a basketball coaching "lifer" who would not be gone from the sport long. But finding a better man to run the 36ers will be quite the challenge.

Obvious quality coaches not in the league currently, such as Rob Beveridge and Shawn Dennis, would be unlikely to be interested, with candidates such as Wright's lead assistant Kevin Brooks or outside shots such as Frank Arsego more gettable.

COACHING ROUNDABOUT: Phoenix's Simon Mitchell and Joey Wright share a sideline joke.

Wright will finish this phase of his NBL career - he previously coached at Brisbane Bullets and Gold Coast Blaze - with 500 games coached.

He currently is on 498, with a 284-214 win-loss record and matches against Cairns and Perth to come.

Originally recruited to the NBL by Geelong Supercats where he played as an import in 1995 and 1996, Wright is a championship winner at Brisbane (2007) in a season where his Bullets produced a 21-game winning streak.

A three-time NBL Coach of the Year (2004, 2007, 2017) this season will mark the second in a row Adelaide will miss the playoffs.

The 36ers CAN still make it! According to always-reliable @NBLfacts, all that has to happen is: Brisbane loses its last three games by a total of 55 points; the Breakers beat Brisbane but lose to South East Melbourne by 51; United does not win more than two games and is outscored by 45 points overall; Adelaide wins its last two games (Cairns, Perth) by a total of 65 points. Piece of cake.

In his first season at the helm of the 36ers in 2013-14, Wright remarkably took the club from its last-placed finish of 2012-13 into the Grand Final Series against Perth Wildcats, losing the best-of-three championship 2-1.

He steered the club back to the best-of-five Grand Final Series against Melbourne United in 2017-18, losing 3-2 as all games went with home court advantage.

While his run-ins with officials and the NBL hierarchy is the stuff now of legends, the league is likely to be thrilled he will be departing considering it even considered portraying him (right) in a certain light just a few years ago.

They changed their mind at the last minute.

Wright's reputation as a developer of players has been the greatest draw of his personal brand.

He instigated and pioneered what the NBL then adopted as its "Next Stars" program with his recruitment of NBA-bound teenager Terrance Ferguson, who since has thrived with Oklahoma City Thunder.

During Wright's time at Adelaide, Daniel Johnson was named in the NBL First Team in 2014, 2017 and 2018 and in its Second Team in 2016 and 2019, eventually making it to the Boomers team.

Brock Motum was NBL First Team in 2015 and Jerome Randle in 2016 and 2017.

Jamar Wilson (2015), Nathan Sobey (2017, 2019) and Mitch Creek (2018) all won NBL Second Team selection during his tenure.

Sobey in 2017 also won the league's Most Improved Player award, Anthony Drmic was named Rookie of the Year that same season and Randle in 2017 became only the club's second league MVP.

Ramone Moore in 2018 was the NBL's Best Sixth Man and in 2019, Harry Froling collected Rookie of the Year honours.

Under Wright's watch, players such as Sobey and Matt Hodgson were saved from potential oblivion, both going on to represent Australia, Hodgson as a regular starter.

Creek in 2018 was voted by the fans as the league's "People's Choice" Most Valuable Player and also became a starter for the Boomers while playing and learning under Wright.

It is a record of which Wright can duly be proud and one which will ensure he is not lost from coaching basketball at an elite level for very long.

Since its shift this season to Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide is averaging an attendance of 7,449. Wright's farewell home match against Cairns certainly is worthy of a sell-out on Saturday for all he has done for the program in South Australia, not to mention its international reputation.

Feb 6

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