Wildcats could sign long-time Boomer

Nick Rynne
Wildcats could sign long-time Boomer

The Perth Wildcats are understood to be sounding out former Boomers captain Matt Nielsen about joining the club as an assistant coach next season in a potential coup for the NBL powerhouse.

Nielsen, 37, worked with the Cats in an advisory role during their championship-winning 2013-14 season, helping mentor big men Matt Knight and Tom Jervis.

He has spent the past year in the US after joining the coaching staff of the San Antonio Spurs, the reigning NBA champions, working with the club’s front-court roster.

The West Australian understands Nielsen is contracted to the Spurs until the end of the NBA’s summer league, which takes place in July, but could be tempted to return to Perth given his extensive family connections to the city through wife Terri.

The Wildcats have a vacant position on their coaching staff after parting ways with senior assistant Paul Woolpert at the end of last season.

Should Nielsen join the club, he could be groomed as a future senior coach. The Wildcats declined to comment.

Nielsen forged a reputation as one of Australia’s most respected big men over 18 years as a professional.

He began his career at the Sydney Kings in 1996, winning the rookie of the year, MVP and grand final MVP awards and claiming two championships in nine NBL seasons.

The last nine years of his career were spent in Europe.

Nielsen, a long-time Boomers representative, captained Australia at the 2012 London Olympics and was named the 2003 Gaze medallist as the country’s international player of the year.

Nielsen’s return would be a welcome addition to the NBL, which has been buoyed by several big off-season signings.

Doomsayers began penning the league’s obituary after Wollongong and Townsville went into voluntary administration last month.

But amid the uncertainty, some significant signings have been made.

Earlier this month Melbourne United secured Dean Demopoulos, a former NBA assistant with Seattle, Portland and the Los Angeles Clippers, as their head coach for the next two seasons.

Former International Basketball Federation president Bob Elphinston has also returned to the NBL, a league he helped found, in an advisory and special projects role.

Decisions on the futures of Wollongong and Townsville are likely to be made before the end of the month.

The NBL is confident of an eight-team league again next season, with the return of the Brisbane Bullets a possibility.


The year Matt Nielsen won the Gaze Medal