Tommy Greer, General Manager of the NBL’s newest franchise, the South East Melbourne Phoenix, talks the club’s plans to represent a basketball heartland with pride.

The team’s name and inaugural uniform were recently unveiled and Greer and company are now hard at work recruiting players and signing sponsors before the team enters the league for the 2019/20 season.

Earlier this week, the Phoenix announced Mitch Creek, a star for Adelaide 36ers in his last NBL stint, as its first marquee signing.

There is also a lot of work to be done around establishing an organisational culture and Greer says there is a buzz around the nascent club.

“It’s exciting, everyone who is on board understands the opportunity that we have in the Southeast of Melbourne, it is the heartland of basketball,” he says.

Tommy Greer
South East Melbourne Phoenix General Manager Tommy Greer. Photo: South East Melbourne Phoenix

New franchise is seeking to build strong community ties

Australian basketball has long enjoyed strong participation numbers, nowhere more so than in this stretch of Melbourne. Greer says all five of the biggest basketball associations in Australia are located in a 10-15 kilometre radius of Melbourne’s Southeast.

This gives the new team a strong base of potential supporters, but Greer says getting community engagement right will be one of its main projects. One motto within the franchise is that the public doesn’t want a community club, but a professional club which maintains strong community ties.

“It’s a really educated basketball public,” Greer says of South East Melbourne. “They have seen teams come and go but they know how basketball works at the grassroots level, they are the experts in the field in terms of participation and growth in the game.

“So, it is a matter of working alongside those associations and domestic clubs and doing whatever we can to assist them rather than compete with them.”

Greer says the Perth Wildcats, who have played in six of the last nine NBL grand finals, and who he describes as “the most community-engaged club in the NBL”, have set the benchmark for Australian franchises.

Internationally, he looks up to the Boston Celtics. “I love the fan culture…they really get around the community,” Greer says. “That is definitely something we aspire to create, that kind of fandom and the love for that team.”

Tommy Greer: strategic partnership will be central to Phoenix’s NBL longevity

As well establishing deep ties with the local community, Greer says partnerships such as that the Phoenix recently signed with AFL powerhouse Hawthorn Hawks will go a long way to ensuring its sustainability as an NBL franchise.

“While there is no ownership stake, and we remain completely our own club making our own decisions and having our own staff, having a resource or crutch like Hawthorn to the side of you, providing advice and know-how, that is a great step towards securing that longevity.

Prior to being named General Manager of the new team, the 34-year-old Greer spent five years at the NBL front office. Before that, he was a player in the league and got some hands-on leadership experience as captain of the Melbourne Tigers. He says this background has been an “incredible advantage” in his new role.

“A lot of times, it gets overlooked the amount that athletes, particularly in team sports, learn throughout their career.

“Things like managing people and situations and leadership really translates to the business world.

“Obviously, there is a steep learning curve when you leave professional sports, but I feel it is an advantage that most people aren’t afforded and that has put me in good stead.”

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Header photo credit: Tajna Heffner