You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has made a bigger contribution to basketball in Mildura over the last 20 years than James Madigan.
He’s given basketball his all since coming to Mildura to play the sport – when he planned to be here for a season, but stayed for many, many more.
Madigan’s character around the stadium is as big and impressive as his coaching ability – and that whistle he does to summon his troops for instruction on court is unmistakable.
This weekend, when the Heat line up against Western Port at the Hothouse, Madigan will celebrate his 400th game as coach of representative senior basketball.
It’s fitting he celebrates the milestone in front of a crowd that have become so fond of him, but it’s a two-way street, and as I found out, Madigan appreciated the basketball community just as much.
Although I knew Madigan would want to keep the achievement on the down low, he always has something entertaining and refreshing to say – so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to chat to him.
Madigan coached the Mildura Mavericks in the SEABL before coaching the Mildura Heat in the Big V. Although he has coached the men in the current Big V league in the past, he is currently the coach of the ladies team.
Before he was a coach though, he was a player – this being the reason he came to Mildura in the first place.
“I came from a basketball family when I left Adelaide,” Madigan said of his arrival to Sunraysia in the early 1990s.
“It has always been part of my life and that is the reason why I came to Mildura, to play basketball, and never left.
“I was only coming over for a season, but I loved Mildura and the people so I stayed.
“Basketball is a major part of my every day life.
“My life is family, work and basketball – that’s it.”
Madigan currently has his charges sitting third on the ladder, with five wins and four losses. This weekend they play eighth placed Western Port.
“I guess after 400 games coached you don’t get too nervous,” Madigan said.
“To me, it’s just another game.
“It’s a nice achievement and yeah, it means I have been around a long time.
“But more importantly, I have been blessed with the players I have got to coach over that time.”
Madigan has seen some changes to the game over the past 20 years.
“Each year you get a different group of personalities, the game itself, the game night, has probably become a bit more professional over the years,” he said.
“The way the players prepare has changed from having a casual shoot around on a Saturday afternoon to now.”
When asked what his greatest challenge had been over the years as a coach, Madigan didn’t hesitate in answering.
“Coaching my own children,” he said.
“It’s really hard because in the back of your mind you always think you are either favouring them or picking on them.
“I’ve tried to avoid it as much as I can but I did finally talk my daughter into playing one year and she busted her leg.
“I’m still paying for that one, every day.”
Although Madigan’s career has had its challenging times, it has certainly had its fair share of great times and he is unable to pinpoint just one.
“The year before I took over coaching in Big V, the team had finished bottom of Division Three,” Madigan said.
“The next year we went 25-0, undefeated.
“The girls making the grand final last proper season was a highlight of my career in coaching, and the 2010 mens group was a great team as well.
“But I’ve had highlights with both teams and for me it’s not all about winning titles, it’s about what they achieve throughout the season.
“You watch the Melbourne teams recruit from all over the place.
“Hardly any of the teams have the same players two years in a row, but we have this loyal group of players in Mildura – men and women – who stick together through the good times and the hard times – and it’s just really nice.”