Phil Smyth

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Phil Smyth
Personal information
Born (1958-05-11) 11 May 1958 (age 58)
Adelaide, South Australia
Nationality Australian
Listed height 183 cm (6 ft 0 in)
Listed weight 76 kg (168 lb)
Career information
Playing career 1982–1995
Position Point guard
Career history
As player:
1982 St Kilda Saints
1983–1992 Canberra Cannons
1993–1994 Adelaide 36ers
1995 Sydney Kings
As coach:
1998–2008 Adelaide 36ers
Career highlights and awards

As a player:

As a coach:

  • 3x NBL champion (1998, 1999, 2002)

Philip John Smyth AM (born 11 May 1958) is an Australian former basketball player and four-time Olympian who won three National Basketball League (NBL) championships with the Canberra Cannons before going on to be a three-time championship-winning head coach of the NBL's Adelaide 36ers.

Professional career[edit]

Smyth, an Adelaide junior, was already seen as one of Australia's best point guards when the National Basketball League first started in 1979, yet it took him until 1982 to actually play in the league, despite having represented Australia at the 1978 FIBA World Championship in the Philippines and at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

For personal reasons, Smyth chose not to play in the NBL until 1982 and even then, while still living in Adelaide, he signed to play with the St Kilda Saints, commuting between his home in Adelaide and Melbourne where the Saints were based. He only played for St Kilda for the 1982 NBL season, winning the NBL's Defensive Player of the Year award and selection in the NBL's First Team in the process before signing with the Canberra Cannons from 1983. At this time he also moved from Adelaide to Canberra for what would prove to be 10 seasons in Australia's capital city. During that time he enhanced his reputation as one of the best ever Australian basketball players and helped transform the Cannons into a championship winning team.

Canberra won their first NBL Championship in 1983, Smyth's first season with the club. The Cannons defeated the defending champion West Adelaide Bearcats 75-73 in the grand final. They would go on to win the championship again in 1984, this time defeating the emerging Brisbane Bullets 84-82 in another closely fought grand final win. Smyth's play during this time was a major contributor to Canberra's success. He won his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award in 1983 and was also a member of the ALL NBL First team in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988 and 1989.

Smyth would win his 3rd NBL Championship when the Cannons defeated the North Melbourne Giants in the 1988 grand final series two games to one. He would also be named as the Grand Final MVP in 1988. He narrowly missed out on a fourth NBL crown in 1989 when the Giants reversed the 1988 result by defeating Canberra two games to one.

He would play on with the Cannons until the end of the 1992 NBL season when he was lured back home to Adelaide to play for the Adelaide 36ers. Despite being in the twilight of his playing career, Smyth would again be a major contributor helping the generally under-performing 36ers get back into the playoffs. Smyth played two seasons for the 36ers and would lose his second and last NBL grand final series in 1994, again to the North Melbourne Giants who defeated Adelaide 2-0 in the championship series.

After two season back home in Adelaide, Smyth signed for the NBL's highest profile club, the Sydney Kings for the 1995 season. In an injury interrupted season, Smyth played just 16 games for the Kings, who didn't make the playoffs. He retired from playing professional basketball after his season with the Kings.

Phil Smyth played 356 games in his NBL career, 25 with St Kilda, 282 with Canberra, 33 for Adelaide and 16 for Sydney. He averaged 22.3 points per game at 44.8%, 5.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.8 steals.

International career[edit]

Smyth represented Australia at four Summer Olympic Games (1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992), achieving a best result of 4th at the 1988 Games in Seoul where he was the team captain. He was also a member of the Boomers at the FIBA World Championships in 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1994 with a best result of 5th place in both 1982 and 1994. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Games, Smyth and his wife, Jenny Cheesman, would become the first husband and wife to captain Australian teams at the same Olympics.[1]

Coaching career[edit]

After Adelaide 36ers coach Dave Claxton failed to take the team to the playoffs in 1997, the club hired the recently retired Smyth as head coach of the team from the 1998 NBL season, the club banking on his years of experience as a player despite his only previous coaching experience being as a specialist coach at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) during his playing days with Canberra. His impact on the club was immediate, with the 36ers winning both the 1998 and 1998–99 NBL Championships in his first two seasons coaching in the league. The team was beaten semi finalists for the next two seasons before winning their 4th championship, and 3rd under Smyth, in 2001–02. Under his coaching the team would reach the elimination finals in 2002–03 and 2003–04 and improve to the quarters in 2004-05 and 2005–06 before failing to reach the playoffs twice which resulted in Smyth being replaced as head coach by former player and assistant Scott Ninnis.

In all, Phil Smyth coached the 36ers in the NBL for 365 games over 11 seasons, winning 205 games and losing 160.

Following his stellar international career as a player and his championship success coaching the 36ers, Smyth was appointed head coach of the Boomers in January 2001. Unfortunately his international coaching career only lasted eight months. After losing the 2001 FIBA Oceania Championship to the New Zealand Tall Blacks 1-2 the team failed to qualify for the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis as a result. It was the first time Australia had missed out on the FIBA World Championship since making their championship debut in 1970. Smyth resigned from the job on 27 September 2001.[2]

Media work[edit]

In March 2009 Smyth broke new ground and joined radio and sporting legend KG Cunningham to host an internet sports show KG and the General,[3] streaming live from 3-6pm weekdays and podcast. The show is a first of its kind in Australia and is produced by at Chapel Lane Studios in Hindmarsh, South Australia.


Smyth was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1988, inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1997, and received an Australian Sports Medal in 2000.[4][5][6]

Pop culture[edit]

During the mid-1990s, the Martin Molloy radio drive time show announced that a new men's fragrance had been released, that had simply been called "Smyth". This proved to be just a satirical gag.[citation needed]

Honour roll[edit]

NBL career: 1982–1995
Games: 356 (StK 25, Can 282, Adl 33, Syd 16)
All-NBL First Team: 6 (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989)
NBL best Defensive Player: 4 (1982, 1983, 1988, 1989)
NBL Grand Final appearances (player): 5 (1983, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1994)
NBL Championships (player): 3 (1983, 1984, 1988)
NBL Grand Final MVP: 1988
NBL Grand Final appearances (coach): 3 (1998, 1998/99, 2001/02)
NBL Championships (coach): 3 (1998, 1998/99, 2001/02)
NBL 20th Anniversary Team: 1998
NBL 25th Anniversary Team: 2003

Coaching Record[edit]


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win-loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win-loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Adelaide 36ers 1998 30 19 11 .633 2nd 4 4 0 1.000 Champions
Adelaide 36ers 1998–99 26 18 8 .692 1st 7 6 1 .857 Champions
Adelaide 36ers 1999–00 28 22 6 .786 1st 3 1 2 .333 Semi-finalists
Adelaide 36ers 2000–01 28 16 12 .571 6th 6 3 3 .500 Semi-finalists
Adelaide 36ers 2001–02 30 17 13 .567 3rd 8 6 2 .750 Champions
Adelaide 36ers 2002–03 30 16 14 .533 5th 3 1 2 .333 Elimination-Finalists
Adelaide 36ers 2003–04 30 14 19 .424 8th 1 0 1 .000 Elimination-Finalists
Adelaide 36ers 2004–05 32 19 13 .594 5th 1 0 1 .000 Quarter-finalists
Adelaide 36ers 2005–06 32 19 13 .594 4th 1 0 1 .000 Quarter-finalists
Adelaide 36ers 2006–07 33 11 22 .333 11th Missed playoffs
Adelaide 36ers 2007–08 30 14 16 .533 9th Missed playoffs
Career 329 185 134 .580 34 21 13 .618


  1. ^ Back in the Day: Late Autumn 1984. Basketball Australia News (May 18, 2010). Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  2. ^
  3. ^ KG and the General
  4. ^ "SMYTH, Philip John, AM". It's an Honour. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Phil Smyth AM". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Smith, Phillip: Australian Sports Medal". It's an Honour. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 

External links[edit]