South East Melbourne Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell opens up on his love for basketball, family and heavy metal music

todayMarch 12, 2022 3

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There’s an intense ardour behind the whole lot Simon Mitchell chooses to dedicate his time.

Whether or not it’s his stunning household, basketball, or the hard-edged music that has helped form the person he’s in the present day, the South East Melbourne coach immerses himself.

The heavy steel mentor wears his coronary heart on his sleeve throughout Phoenix video games. He sometimes sports activities a steely look on his face as he paces the sidelines, however that rapidly provides approach to emotion as he rides the bumps along with his gamers, by no means scared to confront them in the event that they blow an task — or a ref who will get on his incorrect aspect.

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However deliver up his household — spouse and former WNBL star Kerryn and kids Frankie, 10, Spencer, 12, and Mackenzie, 17 — or music, and his hardened veneer rapidly comes down.

The 49-year-old is an encyclopaedia of steel music and its offshoot genres, musing about the whole lot from his first gig — Dire Straits in 1986 on the previous Melbourne Leisure Centre “which is now Collingwood Soccer Membership’s pool” — to his hatred of nu steel, to his first stage dive — at a Nirvana live performance.

Digital camera IconLegendary onerous rockers Kiss impressed Simon Mitchell’s musical journey. Credit score: Provided

Horror films and Kiss

Mitchell, like most different youngsters of his era, would head to the native video store every week along with his household and get the ten for $7 rental deal. “I’d sneak a few horror films in there”.

That curiosity in shock cinema led to the invention of iconic rock band Kiss.

“They mixed the whole lot for me: They seemed cool while you’re a child,” he laughed.

“They had been performers. That they had the large mild present. That they had the hearth all over the place. Serpents on stage. And their music was superior.”

That set him on a path of exploration and discovery which has grown right into a lifelong love of music with edge.

Since that Dire Straits live performance, the place he was entranced by the skills of the legendary Mark Knopfler, he estimates he’s been to “a whole lot” of gigs.

He’d be capable to let you know the precise quantity if he needed to, as a result of he’s stored the ticket stub from each present.

UNDATED: Yngwie Malmsteen.  SUPPLIED PIC
Digital camera IconSwedish guitar maestro Yngwie Malmsteen. Credit score: Information Restricted

Simon Mitchell’s favorite gigs

Hoops or music?

When a younger Mitchell wasn’t enjoying ball within the yard or on court docket, the guitar-mad teen was within the storage at his Watsonia dwelling along with his mates, jamming.

A faint dream of a music profession rapidly light when he was blown away by legendary riff grasp Yngwie Malmsteen on the Palace in St Kilda.

“I had my ribs crushed at that present,” he laughs.

“The (Steve) Vais and (Joe) Satrianis on the again of Malmsteen and the Paul Gilberts of the world, they had been simply at a stage that you simply had been like, ‘I might by no means get there, that’s past me. I can’t play like that, I’ll keep on with basketball’.”

Basketball may need performed out, too, had his physique not failed him throughout a school stint within the US.

Brett Brown may be finest recognized to hoops followers as Ben Simmons’ first coach when he arrived at Philadelphia 76ers. However the Maine native, who coached the Australian Boomers in addition to groups within the NBL, additionally guided Mitchell’s junior profession with Melbourne Tigers after which Bulleen, earlier than serving to him safe a school shot in his dwelling state.

“It was very totally different again then, it wasn’t such as you had been shifting VHS tapes throughout the globe or scouts had been popping out to see you play like they do now,” Mitchell stated.

“It was all achieved on phrase of mouth.

“Brett Brown spoke to the coaches and stated, ‘Look, I’ve bought this child, he’d like to go to varsity, he’ll kill it, give him a shot’.

“And so they took an opportunity on a scholarship for a global child, unsighted.”

He arrived in 1992 and led the College of Maine at Presque Isle to a pair of top-20 nationwide rankings for the primary time in its historical past.

However a nasty again, two surgically repaired ankles and compartment syndrome would result in him giving up the sport — at 23 — and going into teaching.

“I struggled for some time, I in all probability bought on the sauce somewhat an excessive amount of afterward,” he stated.

“However on the finish of the day, I bought into teaching as a result of I noticed that as a pathway to remain within the sport and nonetheless climb ranges.

“I didn’t have a shot on the high whereas enjoying, so I used to be achieved.

“It’s ambition, which is what drove me, and it nonetheless does.”

Bear in mind the GFC?

Mitchell’s path to South East Melbourne is one in all each dedication and uncertainty.

On his return from the US, he went dwelling to educate Diamond Valley.

In 2007, then-Tigers assistant Dean Vickerman took a job with Singapore Slingers — again when the NBL bought funky — and Mitchell stepped into his position.

The Tigers would make the NBL finals in his first season after which win all of it the following, led by Aussie hoops legend Chris Anstey.

However the world monetary disaster hit, scuttling Mitchell’s finance enterprise and making it unviable to proceed teaching.

Simply married and with a younger youngster at dwelling and one other on the best way, he made the onerous determination to surrender the Tigers’ job.

12/03/2008. NBL Grand Final game 4. Melbourne Tigers v Sydney Kings. Chris Anstey slam dunks for the Tigers
Digital camera IconMitchell was an assistant coach on the Tiger workforce that received the 2008 NBL title, led by the nice Chris Anstey. Credit score: Information Corp Australia

“I took a job full time with ING Financial institution. 4 weeks and at some point into my profession with ING, they shut down their enterprise,” he stated.

“So I bought a payout — by at some point — and that sustained us for the remainder of the yr.

“However there have been no jobs in finance for a minimum of 18 months.”

So basketball it was.

He snapped up an admin job at Sandringham basketball — with future Melbourne United chief government Vince Crivelli — earlier than shifting to Knox as head of basketball after which to Frankston, the place his kids had been enjoying.

This expertise in grassroots hoops proved to be a key attraction for South East Melbourne, years later.

Phoenix needed to plant roots within the native basketball group — Mitchell already had them.

The United years

Earlier than South East Melbourne was even a thought, Mitchell went via all of the ups and downs at one other ‘new’ franchise — Melbourne United.

His first day on the job on the rebranded workforce, the membership controversially parted methods along with his good friend Anstey — one recreation into the brand new season.

“I bought a name from Chris to return down and assist out,” he recollects.

“I went to their first recreation and so they misplaced by 30 to Cairns.

“I spoke to Vince after the sport and stated, ‘I’m in’, to assist Chris. I used to be heartbroken for him.”

The subsequent morning, unbeknown to Mitchell, Anstey had been given his marching orders.

“I stroll in and there’s D-Mac (Darryl McDonald). We’re mates. He performed on these Tigers groups once I was assistant.

“We’re chatting and, after about six or seven minutes, I assumed to myself, ‘He’s speaking like he’s the coach’.

“I had no thought he’d been appointed the coach.

“I felt like I used to be the meat within the sandwich, as a result of I used to be mates with Vince and Chris.”

The brand new membership struggled for identification and on-court success till Vickerman and former AFL participant Trent Hotton arrived, guiding it to victory in opposition to Adelaide within the 2018 NBL grand ultimate.

“It’s been undersold how essential Trent was to that championship,” Mitchell stated.

“He was the pinnacle of tradition and he got here in and simply swept the ground and stated, ‘That is our course, that is how we do issues now’.

“He and Vicko helped construct what United is in the present day.”

The subsequent season, Mitchell was known as up by Phoenix per week into the season.

“Phoenix did it the suitable means, requested the membership, ‘Would you guys be OK, we’re curious about Simon’,” he stated.

“That’s the way it all took place … And now we don’t like one another.”

Footballer Trent Hotton marking ball.
AFL football - Carlton vs Collingwood match at Optus Oval 09 Jul 2000.   a/ct
Digital camera IconTrent Hotton, taking a hanger for the Blues, was a key determine at Melbourne United. Credit score: Information Restricted

‘Grumpy previous bastard’

As we proceed on this musical opus, Mitchell speaks with reverence of the nice Mark Lanegan, of Screaming Timber fame, who died this month

He’s animated as he reels off the names. Queens of the Stone Age, The Treatment (not their synth stuff) and even the likes of Bob Dylan and Canadian folks songstress Sarah McLachlan.

Throw in some Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Jane’s Habit, too: “So long as it’s rooted in guitar or had actual songwriting, I’m as much as attempting it.”

There’s an vitality and a purity in regards to the music. An authenticity that takes him again to his youth. Away from life’s stresses.

Simon Mitchell’s favorite songs

He delves into black steel nobody’s heard of, like “Agalloch, out of Portland, Oregon, or Khorada”, who helped him lastly recognize the brilliance of Canadian legends Rush.

“They’ve simply taken a unique path, extra genuine, not replicating their idols.”

That’s the place the “grumpy previous bastard” comes out — even when he’s cautious how he labels music which may not be to his style.

“One factor, as an previous man — and I personal my age now — I really like to search out new bands, however it’s so onerous as a result of they simply don’t measure up,” he stated.

“There’s a whole lot of s— on the market however, on the identical time, there are folks on the market who recognize it.

“I don’t like The Eagles, however I’m not going to sit down right here and say they’re s—. They’re clearly nice musicians and excellent songwriters, it’s simply not for me.”

He nonetheless buys CDs — has a large assortment — however makes use of streaming app Spotify “as a style check”.

“I’m a traditionalist, so I’ll examine a band — which is what all of us did it again within the day — give it a go on Spotify and, if I prefer it, I’ll purchase it,” he stated.

Central Station Records in the old City Square, which is now Fed Square.
Digital camera IconCentral Station Information within the previous Metropolis Sq., which is now Fed Sq.. Credit score: Provided

‘Tears welled up in my eyes’

Any steel fan of Mitchell’s classic will bear in mind Central Station Information within the previous arcade at Flinders St Station, the place Fed Sq. now stands.

“My favorite factor on the earth as a child, in addition to getting within the storage with my mates and enjoying (guitar), was going to a joint known as Central Station data,” he stated.

“My mates and I’d go there and we’d get misplaced, spend the entire day listening to music, speaking to employees, discovering the most recent data and simply gazing album covers.

“I bear in mind when Metallica introduced out their first album, we paid $35 for it on vinyl as a result of it was imported.”

Metallica’s first three albums are Mitchell’s bread and butter — the extra thrashy stuff, earlier than they actually entered the mainstream.

“I bear in mind the primary day I noticed Grasp of Puppets come out (1986, he was 13), I used to be at a spot known as CC Information at Greensborough Procuring Mall,” he stated.

Singer James Hetfield from rock band Metallica performing at Big Day Out on the Gold Coast 18 Jan 2004.  big/day/out 
Digital camera IconNew Metallica? For $13.99? Mitchell would run a half-marathon for that. Credit score: Information Restricted

“I lived about 5km from the mall. I had by no means seen a Metallica album at a document retailer exterior of import stuff, the place you needed to save up for ages to purchase it as a result of it was so costly.

“I simply bear in mind seeing Puppets for $13.99, and tears welled up in my eyes that you might purchase a Metallica document with out paying $35.

“So I hid the album cowl behind Abba and ran dwelling, bought cash ran again to the shop, purchased it, then ran dwelling once more to take heed to it.

“I ended up doing a 15km run, which was in all probability good for my basketball.

“You then’re on the telephone calling your mates, ‘I simply purchased Metallica’s new album!’.”

He found Brit steel legends Judas Priest due to an aunt who labored at RCA Columbia Information.

“My first steel album was Unhappy Wings of Future. My aunt knew I favored onerous rock and she or he got here round our home at some point and threw a heap of albums at me,” he stated.

“I performed it first as a result of I beloved the album cowl and, to at the present time, it’s nonetheless my favorite of all time.”

‘There’s one thing in that’

Mitchell’s love for music has been handed all the way down to his kids.

“My two youngest, they’ve discovered their very own stuff,” he stated.

“My youngest daughter, she loves Kiss, she loves W.A.S.P., her favorite, although, is Pat Benatar.

“She heard a few Avril Lavigne songs and skim that she listened to Pat Benatar.

“She discovered Aerosmith for herself. She loves Fleetwood Mac. She loves Stevie Nicks — like everybody does. Stevie was my crush once I was a child.”

His eldest daughter is a fan of The Treatment and “my son parades round the home in Skid Row T-shirts”,

“No matter it was again then for me, it has stayed with them and so they’ve discovered their very own bands now,” he stated.

“I’m simply glad they’ve gone for music that’s not created in studios with one individual and computer systems.”

Covid sucks

The one factor Mitchell hates greater than lacking gigs throughout the lockdowns of the previous two years is being unable to look at his kids hoop.

All three are proficient ballers with vivid futures, but lockdowns and the NBL’s strict Covid restrictions has made it inconceivable for him to look at them.

“I haven’t seen them play in two years, it’s horrible,” he stated.

“As a part of the NBL restrictions, I’m not allowed within the gyms. I even have to sit down within the carpark whereas they practice.

“My eldest is absolutely gifted, however simply not that into it. She’s bodily gifted and actually expert. She has time to determine it out.

“The opposite two are full on, they’ll each be actually high-level gamers.”

Mitchell’s had an attention-grabbing trip with Covid. Whereas he hasn’t contracted the virus, his son did and, as an in depth contact, it compelled him to overlook three Phoenix video games — which he needed to watch on the TV at dwelling.

He’s needed to get refunds for quite a lot of gigs he’d purchased tickets to earlier than Victoria was locked down — quite a few occasions.

“When Covid kicked in, I feel I had tickets to 4 reveals,” he stated.

“(Iron) Maiden had been popping out. I had tickets for Love/Hate, that bought cancelled. Religion No Extra bought cancelled, and LA Weapons was cancelled.”

25/02/2003. KISS - Tommy Thayer, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and members of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Digital image
Digital camera IconKiss’ run with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is iconic. Credit score: Information Restricted

He’s seen Kiss six occasions and vowed by no means to do it once more. However the youngsters need to go now and, given the upcoming world tour is ready to be their final, he’ll should chunk the bullet.

“I’m wanting ahead to dwell music once more,” he stated.

“I do fear that the bands I need to see, it received’t be economically viable for them to return — they will’t afford to take a late cancellation.

“Are the opposite smaller venues going to have the ability to help dwell music once more? I don’t need to see too many bands at Rod Laver Enviornment.

“The business simply retains taking hits.”

Simon Mitchell’s favorite bands

Extra steel within the fitness center? Perhaps not

Phoenix pumps up the John Cain Enviornment crowd earlier than video games by blaring Enter Sandman.

Mitchell would like earlier Metallica.

He’s glad there isn’t a lot steel at video games: “I’d lose my practice of thought and focus.”

“I bear in mind (Dio’s) Holy Diver approaching (at a Phoenix recreation), and I used to be like, ‘Oh, I’m listening to Holy Diver at a basketball recreation in Australia, that is unbelievable’.

“The one different time I feel I’ve ever heard a (steel) track while I’m within the fitness center throughout a time-out was The Recreation by Motorhead up in Illawarra.

“They performed it and it pricked my consideration. I don’t actually like that track that a lot, however I worship the whole lot Motorhead — it’s my favorite band.”

By no means glad

Mitchell says the exterior expectation doesn’t match up with what he expects from his workforce.

In its second yr of existence, the Phoenix made the NBL semi-finals and pushed eventual champions United to a few video games.

Most pundits thought they overachieved. Not Mitchell.

“I don’t know if I’m happy with what we’ve been in a position to obtain,” he stated.

“Individuals had been saying final yr, ‘Oh, it’s so nice, you guys made semi-finals in your second yr’, and I used to be like, ‘F—, we simply misplaced’.

“Profitable, to me, has by no means been one thing that’s joyful — It’s anticipated.

“It’s the dropping that drives you to by no means need to lose once more.

“I battle to have fun the wins. I let the fellows have fun and I actually pat them on the again after a win however I don’t benefit from the wins as a lot as I hate the losses.

“It’s simply the best way I’m wired.”

So why does he do it then?

“I need to win a championship,” he stated.

“We’re not sneaking up on anybody this yr. I’m positive different groups have a look at us and assume to themselves, ‘They’re powerful’.

“Shedding final yr within the semis simply made me need to win it extra, so, for me, it’s simply head down, preserve working, let’s get higher.

“Hopefully this yr it’s the yr.”

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