|Arena||State Netball and Hockey Centre
|Capacity||SNHC – 3,500
HA – 10,500
|Team colours||Navy Blue, White
|Head coach||Dean Demopoulos|
|Team captain||Nate Tomlinson|
|Ownership||Larry Kestelman & Michael Slepoy|
|Championships||4 (1993, 1997, 2006, 2008)|
|Retired numbers||6 (6, 8, 10, 21, 25, 50)|
Melbourne United is an Australian professional men's basketball team competing in the National Basketball League (NBL). United are the only team in the league representing Victoria and is based in the state capital, Melbourne. As of the 2015–16 season, the team splits its home games between the 10,500 seat Hisense Arena and the 3,500 seat State Netball and Hockey Centre (SNHC), known as "The Cage" within the NBL.
Melbourne United's history stems back to 1931 with the beginning of Victorian Basketball. The Melbourne Tigers brand came into use in 1975, and after the Tigers senior men's team won the South Eastern Basketball League (SEBL) title in 1983, a new Melbourne Tigers entity was entered into the National Basketball League (NBL), as an extension of the Melbourne Basketball Association (MBA). The NBL franchise entered into private ownership in 2002, ending the club's relation with the MBA. After 31 seasons of using the Melbourne Tigers name, the club owners decided to rename the franchise Melbourne United in May 2014, with new colours, uniform and logo to be implemented for the 2014–15 season. The change was not well received, as it created an uproar amongst Tigers fans and the wider NBL community.
Melbourne United are the equal second most successful club in the NBL alongside the Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers, with all three clubs having won four NBL championships. Only the Perth Wildcats, who have seven NBL championships, have won more.
- 1 Team History
- 2 Honour Roll
- 3 Retired Jerseys
- 4 Current roster
- 5 Club History Summary
- 6 Notable past players
- 7 References
- 8 External links
1984–1991: Early Struggles
Melbourne United, then known as the Tigers, joined the National Basketball League in 1984. Throughout the majority of the 1980s, they saw limited success, despite the number of records which superstar Andrew Gaze, son of coach Lindsay, racked up. 1987 saw Andrew average 44ppg, and set a single game scoring record of 60 points, however, the team still failed to make the playoffs. Once imports David Colbert and Dave Simmons were recruited in 1989, the Tigers began to see greater on-court success, making the playoffs for the first time that year. Colbert however, left the club to move to Brisbane in 1991, leaving the Tigers looking for a new import.
1992–1997: Championship Years
With basketball about to boom in Australia, the Tigers moved into what is now called Rod Laver Arena, the biggest indoor stadium in Melbourne, moving out of the 7,200 seat Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre at the end of 1991. New recruit Lanard Copeland signalled the good times ahead with a dunk for his first points in the NBL and the first points at Melbourne Park. He went on to team up with Andrew Gaze in a decade long backcourt partnership, which many observers cite as the greatest backcourt duo in Australian basketball history. Dubbed "the dynamic duo", the pair were noted for their signature "alley-oop". With this potent backcourt leading the way, the Tigers made the Finals in 1992, against the newly formed South East Melbourne Magic. Despite the Magic losing point guard Darren Perry to a torn achilles tendon in game one, they managed to rally to beat the Tigers in 3 games.
The Tigers filled their biggest need in the off-season, by recruiting one of the best big men in the country in Mark Bradtke. Teaming up with Gaze, Copeland, Simmons, and the newly recruited Robert Sibley from Brisbane, the Tigers boasted a formidable starting lineup. They defeated the arch rival Magic in the second round of the playoffs, to set up a Finals matchup with the Perth Wildcats. Having split the first two games, the Tigers faced the difficult task of the deciding game in the hostile environment of the Perth Entertainment Centre, a venue they had never won at.
The Tigers controlled much of the game, but in the closing minutes had to withstand a furious comeback from Perth, led by their captain Andrew Vlahov. Andrew Gaze iced the game with a pair of critical free throws in the final seconds. The emotional toll of the championship was evident on coach Lindsay, and son Andrew after the game, as they broke down crying whilst embracing. The Perth crowd were noted in the media for a lack of sportsmanship, as they booed Andrew Gaze during the acceptance speech.
The Tigers were unable to reach the Finals for another three years, where they faced cross-town rival South East Melbourne again. In a tough three game series, the Magic again prevailed. During the following off season, import Dave Simmons departed, and was replaced by Jarvis Lang. Having to deal with a mid-season return from Mark Bradtke from the NBA, the Tigers started the 1997 season in very poor form, with a 3–11 mark at the midpoint of the season. Lang was sacked due to concerns over tendinitis in his knees, and Marcus Timmons was brought in on a tip from former assistant coach Brett Brown.
From that point, the Tigers did not lose another game until the second game of the Finals against the Magic. They equalled the now defunct Sydney Supersonics winning streak of 16 consecutive games. With Timmons teaming up with Gaze, Copeland and Bradtke, this quartet accounted for over 90% of the Tigers points production. Game one of the Finals was a whitewash against the Magic, which saw coach Brian Goorjian resort to a more slowdown offense and physical defense in Game two, to combat the Tigers' free-flowing style. The Tigers regained the ascendancy in Game 3, as they claimed their second championship in front of their home town fans.
1998–2002: Financial troubles
The Tigers were unable to recapture their championship form throughout the rest of the '90's. Andrew Gaze spent part of the 1999 season with the San Antonio Spurs in the American National Basketball Association (NBA), winning a championship with them. Without Gaze's on-court leadership and point production, the Tigers faltered in the latter half of the season, after looking like running away with the competition at the midpoint of the season. They eventually fell in the first round of the playoffs. After this, import Marcus Timmons requested permission to break his contract, to play in Poland. Permission was granted; however, he returned for the next season, this time with the Perth Wildcats, where he led the team to the championship and was named Finals MVP.
As spectator basketball's popularity in Australia fell throughout the late '90's and into the new millennium, the Tigers experienced great financial trouble off the court. In 2000, they moved to the newly constructed Vodafone Arena, but struggled to fill it. By 2002 crowds were at less than 50% capacity and it was revealed that they were $2.5M in debt, and in serious danger of folding. Andrew Gaze himself did not have a salary paid to him for his final few playing years in order to ease the financial burden. He supported himself through endorsement deals.
2002–2005: Ownership Restructure – 'A Family Business'
A new ownership consortium under Melbourne businessman Seamus McPeake and the Gazes, saw financial stability restored to the club for the 2002–03 season. At the same time, Melbourne's other team, the Victoria Titans (formed under a merger of the North Melbourne Giants and South East Melbourne Magic in 1998) were unable to survive and folded. The licence was quickly picked up and the Victoria Giants were formed, with many former Titan players, including league legend Darryl McDonald.
The Tigers embarked on a financial rationalisation project, the first priority of which was to no longer play games at the very high rent 10,500 capacity Vodafone Arena. The Tigers moved their home games to the smaller main court of the State Netball and Hockey Centre in Royal Park, with the deal signed in July 2002. On court, the Tigers were still perennial playoff contenders despite their ageing superstars Gaze, Copeland and Bradtke no longer producing at the levels they did in the 1990s. However, the club was unable to return to the finals. In 2003, the Tigers reacquired the services of Darryl McDonald after the Victoria Giants let him go.
2005–2009: The New Championship Years
The conclusion of the 2004–05 season saw a changing of the guard for the Tigers. League legend Andrew Gaze retired, and Mark Bradtke accepted an offer from Brisbane, in part to be closer to his wife's (Nicole Provis – former Australian Tennis Champion) family. Lanard Copeland's dwindling production saw the Tigers decide not to renew his contract, although, he was offered an off court role with the club. Believing he still had playing years in him, he followed Mark Bradtke to Brisbane. Imports Rashard Tucker and Dave Thomas would take the lead on court roles at the club, joined by big man Chris Anstey who returned from a 3-year stint in Europe.
With D-Mac moving into the starting line-up, joined by Thomas, Tucker, Anstey and an improving Neil Mottram, the Tiger's had an extremely successful regular season, which saw them finish second to the Sydney Kings. Tigers coach Al Westover was named Coach of the Year. Centre Chris Anstey was named both the Grand Final Series' Most Valuable Player and league MVP and Stephen Hoare won Sixth Man Of the Year.
The Tigers swept the playoffs, defeating the Perth Wildcats 2–0 in the Semi Finals and the Sydney Kings 3–0 in the Finals. D-Mac's season was particularly impressive, as he outclassed many quality point guards throughout the season, including starting Australian Boomers point guard C. J. Bruton in the Finals. His stellar performances were seemingly at odds with his advanced age of 42, making him the oldest player in the league.
A new Melbourne team provided a new local rivalry in the 2006–07 season. The South Dragons, having enticed Shane Heal back from a two-year retirement, showed respectable form in their first season, making the playoffs. Although they added former NBL stars such as Frank Drmic and big man Matt Burston from Perth, their youngsters such as Joe Ingles led the way. Former NBA All Star and all time NBA freethrow percentage leader Mark Price added a great measure of respectability to the organisation, as their inaugural coach however, in the midst of many early personnel changes, was fired and replaced by player-coach Shane Heal.
The Tigers roster was enhanced for the 2006–07 season. D-Mac signed a new two-year contract, and former Tiger Nathan Crosswell returned from Cairns to back him up, with a promise he would eventually take over the reins. Neil Mottram exercised his European out clause to play with Italian second division team Fabriano. Despite rumours that local big man Simon Conn, or ex West Sydney Razorback Simon Dwight were in their sights to replace Mottram, the Tigers managed to secure Axel Dench's signature on 9 August 2006, just before leaving for Singapore for a pre season competition. They successfully appealed Dench's point status, allocated from when he was previously active in the NBL 2 years ago with the Hawks. The Tigers now looked extremely strong for the upcoming season, as League MVP Chris Anstey returned to the Tigers, after not receiving a call-up from the NBA after his off-season work out with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Tigers won the Singapore Cup, in their first games with new additions Axel Dench and Nathan Crosswell. D-Mac's son, Derrick, also played with the Tigers on the trip. He would continue to see court time with his father throughout the season as a developmental player on the Tigers roster.
The Tigers fell to the Brisbane Bullets in the pre-season Blitz, which perhaps proved an omen for the upcoming season. With a roster that was legitimately 10 deep, the Bullets dominated the season, en route to an NBL record 21 game win streak and defeated the Tigers 3–1 in the Finals.
This defeat perhaps indicated to the Tiger's management that despite their depth and experience, a dose of athleticism was required in the roster. They responded by signing athletic young Boomer David Barlow from Sydney on 3 April 2007.
Despite releasing back up centre Axel Dench to free up points for Boomer Brad Newley, Newley announced on 27 April that he was signing with the Adelaide 36ers.
The Tigers were expected to look for a new import guard after declining to resign import Rashard Tucker, who subsequently joined the Cairns Taipans.
However, Melbourne veered away from signing an import guard, instead looking to veteran Estonian, former NBA big man and long-serving Euroleague player Martin Müürsepp to fill the breach at centre. His signing came as a result of his close relationship with Chris Anstey whilst in Dallas and Russia, and after the Tigers missed out on Sean Lampley.
The 205 cm, 105 kilogram Muursepp saw time as part of the Tigers' front line – taking minutes previously allocated to both Dench and Tucker. The decision to not sign an import guard indicates that talented Canadian swingman Dave Thomas would see more time there during the 2008 season, in addition with former Kings swingman David Barlow and the up-and-coming Tommy Greer.
The Tigers began the '07/'08 campaign in fine form, with nine straight victories, as new import Martin Muursepp eased into the lineup with his precision passing. However, in early November, the Tigers hit a rough patch. They lost star import Dave Thomas for two months with a dislocated kneecap, and Martin Muursepp was battling an ankle injuries, receiving cortisone injections before the game to play. The Tigers lost four straight game, which prompted a crisis meeting, where the Tigers brought out their '06 championship trophy at a training session and asked each player to talk of what it meant to them.
The Tigers responded by steadying the ship with a tough win against Perth at home, before letting import Martin Muursepp go, whilst signing their initial target, Sean Lampley. With Lampley providing a much needed scoring punch, especially due to Thomas' injury, the Tigers held down second spot for the remainder of the season. Dave Thomas returned late the season, and despite having not beaten either the Kings or the Bullets in five encounters this season, they appeared to be hitting top form at the right time.
The Tigers faced Brisbane in the semi finals, and after easily accounting for them in game one, closed out the series in overtime in Brisbane. Sean Lampley and Chris Anstey made several big shots down the stretch, with Lampley taunting the Brisbane players down the stretch with his clutch shooting. Anstey was fined $2000 by the league for making an obscene gesture to the fans after the game.
The Finals Series proved to be one of the best in NBL history. The Tigers matched up against the Kings, and after fading out in the last quarter of game one, took game two down in Melbourne, as several Kings players lost their cool down the stretch. In Game three Sean Lampley hit clutch three-pointer with just 13 seconds remaining to clinch the game, and the Tigers looked ready to close out the series on their home floor in game four.
However the Kings, showing the tenacity they have been regarded for, fought through injury and poor shooting to take game four on the Tigers floor with a gutsy performance down the stretch. In Game five the Kings sold out the Entertainment Centre, with a new buzz around basketball due to the intensity of the series. Down the stretch, the Tigers were able to make the big plays, and closed out the championship, providing the perfect farewell for veteran guard Darryl McDonald.
2009–2014: The New NBL
On 11 May 2009 the Tigers made a short lived decision that they would sit out a year of the new NBL competition, due to poor financial management from Basketball Australia, with McPeake stating that his concerns were with "Governance and the TV deal."  The Tigers had been the most profitable and well run club in Australia, stringing together five consecutive profitable seasons. With no naming rights sponsor for the league and a poor television deal, the financial forecast was poor, and the Tigers made the decision to sit out one year.
On 10 June 2009 the Tigers announced their first two signings, Mark Worthington and Chris Anstey, and confirmed that they would commence the new season with no imports for the first time in club history. It was further reported that they had let Stephen Hoare go, and Tommy Greer would pursue options elsewhere, likely with the Cairns Taipans. The Tigers are waiting on Sam Mackinnon to be passed fit by doctors, with youngster Jesse Wagstaff as a backup option. Nathan Crosswell may have played his last game for the Tigers, as they look to secure Nathan Herbert's signature. On 17 June 2009 the Tigers announced they had resigned Darryl Corletto, as well as newcomer Ryan Bathie. On 18 June 2009 they announced they had resigned David Barlow and Luke Kendall. On 19 June 2009 they announced they had resigned Daniel Johnson and Matt O'Hea, meaning that three spots were remaining on the roster. Tommy Greer and Sam Mackinnon are understood to have been offered contracts, with Stephen Hoare awaiting their decision. On 23 June they announced the resigning of Sam Mackinnon, meaning that two spots remain. On 26 June they completed their roster, securing Tommy Greer, despite offers from Cairns, and resigning Nathan Crosswell, after apparently missing out on Nathan Herbert. On 21 July it was announced that David Barlow would play in Spain this year, meaning that the Tigers would need to look for a replacement. They subsequently signed Ben Knight and Timothy Lang.
In the off-season of 2010, the Tigers roster was dismantled after the departure of Julius Hodge, Mark Worthington, Nathan Crosswell as well as the retirements of NBL greats Sam Mackinnon and Chris Anstey. The Tigers announced the signing of American import guards TJ Campbell and Eric Devendorf. They then landed the signature of Wollongong Hawks superstar Cameron Tragardh. The Tigers would then sign big men Matt Burston, Wade Helliwell and Luke Nevill. They capped off their roster with the signing of Big V forward Lucas Walker. Along with Bennie Lewis, Daryl Corletto and Tommy Greer, who had stayed in Melbourne, the Tigers completed their roster for the 2010/11 season.
The season started disastrously for the Tigers losing their opening game at home to their rivals, the re-vamped, Sydney Kings. The Tigers would proceed to start the season on a 7-game losing streak. After the 6th loss, Melbourne fired point guard TJ Campbell and signed 2009/10 NBL MVP, Corey 'Homicide' Williams as their new point guard. After showing positive signs in the loss against reigning champions Perth, the Tigers finally broke the shackles and won their first game when they defeated the Gold Coast Blaze on the road. Throughout the season the Tigers claimed big scalps including a victory against Perth, in Perth, that ended in controversy with Corey Williams and Eric Devendorf taunting the crowd. In early February, the Tigers released centre Luke Nevill, in an agreement that would let him play in Russia. They also released import Eric Devendorf leaving them with only 1 import. Daryl Corletto and Matt Burston were promoted to the starting line-up and stayed there for the rest of the season. After the terrible 7-game-losing start to the season, the Tigers would finish with a 10–18 record and 7th place on the ladder.
In the off-season of 2011, the Tigers were the most active club at the beginning of Free Agency. They secured the signature of NBL Coach of the Year, Trevor Gleeson as their Head-Coach on a three-year deal. On the first day of Free Agency, Melbourne announced the signing of Australian Forward Liam Rush, who would be returning to the NBL after stints in Europe. They, on the same day, announced the addition of exciting young guard Daniel Dillon as their second free agent signing of 2011. After just a week of Free Agency, Melbourne announced the final 3 positions on their roster had been filled after they re-signed Forward Lucas Walker as well as the huge signings of the exciting import duo Ron Dorsey and Ayinde Ubaka who had both starred for the Cairns Taipans in season 2010/11, helping them to their first Grand Final appearance.
In January 2012, Seamus McPeake, after a terrible loss to the Gold Coast Blaze, gave the players an unprofessional spray in the locker room, allegedly abusing several players with offensive language and sacking guard Ayinde Ubaka on the spot.
2014–present: The New Melbourne
On 20 May 2014, the club changed the name of the Melbourne licence, announcing they will be known as Melbourne United from 2014–15 onwards. The change was met with strong scrutiny from members, fans and past legends such as Andrew Gaze and Lanard Copeland, with the latter even stating he wanted his jersey "taken down from the rafters".
After missing the playoffs in 2014–15 with a 13–15 win/loss record, Melbourne hired former NBA assistant coach Dean Demopoulos as their head on a two-year deal. The club then hired former Townsville Crocodiles assistant Mike Kelly, and named former Tiger Tommy Greer as Basketball Operations Manager for the 2015–16 season. On 22 May 2015, United signed another former Croc Todd Blanchfield to a two-year deal also.
|NBL Championships:||4 (1993, 1997, 2006 & 2008)|
|NBL Finals Appearances:||16|
|NBL Grand Final appearances:||8 (1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)|
|NBL Most Valuable Players:||Andrew Gaze (1991,'92, '94, '95, '96, '97, '98), Mark Bradtke (2002), Chris Anstey (2006, 2008)|
|NBL Grand Final MVPs:||Lanard Copeland (1997), Chris Anstey (2006, 2008)|
|All-NBL First Team:||Andrew Gaze (1984–2000; 15 times), Mark Bradtke (1994, '96, '97, 1999–2005; 10 times), Lanard Copeland (1999), Chris Anstey (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009), Dave Thomas (2007), Ebi Ere (2009), Mark Worthington (2010), Seth Scott (2013), Chris Goulding (2014, 2016), Daniel Kickert (2016)|
|NBL Coach of the Year:||Lindsay Gaze (1989, '97, '99), Al Westover (2006)|
|NBL Rookie of the Year:||Andrew Gaze (1984)|
|NBL Best Sixth Man:||Darryl McDonald (2004), Stephen Hoare (2006, 2007), Hakim Warrick (2016)|
|NBL Best Defensive Player:||Chris Anstey (2008)|
|NBL Most Improved Player:||Nate Tomlinson (2014)|
Source: Melbourne United History
- #6 Warrick Giddey
- #8 Ray Gordon
- #10 Andrew Gaze
- #21 Lanard Copeland
- #25 Dave Simmons
- #50 Mark Bradtke
Note: Flags indicate national team eligibility at FIBA sanctioned events. Players may hold other non-FIBA nationality not displayed.
|Melbourne United roster|
Club History Summary
|Years||Chairman||CEO||Head Coach||Championships||Finals Appearances|
|1984–2000||Lindsay Gaze||Lindsay Gaze||Lindsay Gaze||1993, 1997||1992, 1993, 1996, 1997|
|2000–2005||David Minear||Seamus McPeake||Lindsay Gaze|
|2006–2009||Greg O'Neill||Seamus McPeake||Al Westover||2006, 2008||2006, 2007, 2008, 2009|
|2010–2011||Seamus McPeake||Seamus McPeake||Al Westover (2010)
Trevor Gleeson (2011)
Darryl McDonald (2011)
|2012–2015||Larry Kestlemen||Vince Crivelli||Chris Anstey
|2015–present||Larry Kestlemen||Vince Crivelli||Dean Demopoulos|
Notable past players
- Chris Anstey
- Mark Bradtke
- Kevin Braswell
- / Lanard Copeland
- / Ebi Ere
- Andrew Gaze
- Chris Goulding
- / Julius Hodge
- Sam Mackinnon
- / Darryl McDonald
- Jordan McRae
- Patty Mills
- Luke Nevill
- / Dave Simmons
- Dave Thomas
- / Ayinde Ubaka
- Hakim Warrick
- / Corey 'Homicide' Williams
- Mark Worthington
- Melbourne United to play home games at Hisense, Margaret Court
- Tigers now able to gaze into a future
- Melbourne Tigers to change their name to United
- Tigers turn United in hope of galvanising the community
- Melbourne United a step backwards for the NBL
- Tigers' greats dismayed at change
- 1992 Lanard Copeland debut - YouTube
- Andrew Gaze and Lanard Copeland - YouTube
- 1992 NBL Grand Final - YouTube
- 1993 NBL Grand Final - YouTube
- Melbourne Tigers 1993 news report - YouTube
- 1996 NBL Finals Magic v Tigers (sorry for the poor quality) - YouTube
- Melbourne Tigers Championship story - YouTube
- Andrew Gaze, Australia ...player profiles by Interbasket
- "Marcus marches on". The Advertiser. 8 January 2007.
- WTK Anwil Włocławek - Zepter Śląsk Wrocław 82:75 (18.12.1999 r.) - skrót - YouTube
- BASK Timmons leaves cats to chase overseas riches - Search results from HighBeam Research
- "Tigers' new home near zoo". The Age. 26 July 2002.
- "Anstey to play on after Tigers U-turn". The Age. 28 May 2009.
- Sgargetta, Davin (29 May 2009). "Tigers U-turn on new league". The Age.
- PM - Melbourne Tigers join new Australian basketball league
- "Melbourne Tigers to join Basketball Australia comp". AAP. 28 May 2009.
- Basketball Australia & NBL needs real reform | The Roar
- Basketball - News, NBA News, NBL News - Sportal
- "Melbourne Tigers to join national basketball competition". The Australian. 28 May 2009.
- Basketball - News, NBA News, NBL News - Sportal
- "Stephen Hoare future limbo". 19 June 2009.
- "Lang signs with Tigers for 09-10 NBL Season". KilsythBasketball.com.au. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
- Flailing Tigers sack import Ayinde Ubaka
- Melbourne United Joins NBL
- Melbourne Tigers greats dismayed at name change
- Melbourne ups the ante with performance coaching team
- Blanchfield heading to Melbourne