THE American dream is within the reach of Bathurst’s Stephen Bird – a man who is hoping to work in the National Basketball Association.
A former Charles Sturt University senior lecturer and current associate professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Doctor Bird been in contact with NBA side Oklahoma City Thunder.
Bird boasts an impressive resume for the Thunder to go over, as it includes being the department head for Strength and Conditioning in the Indonesian Olympic team for the 2008 Games in Beijing.
He currently works as the high performance manager for both the Townsville Crocodiles in the National Basketball League and the Northern Pride Rugby League Club.
A chance to work in not just the world’s best basketball league, but one of the most prolific sporting competitions on the globe, would be nothing short of a dream come true for Bird.
“There’s an opportunity I’ve been exploring at the moment with the Oklahoma City Thunder. There’s been a real infiltration by Australians into high performance work ... as the Americans have been seeing the developments that us Australians have been doing,” he said.
“I’ve had email correspondence with them and they’re currently reviewing the work I’ve done in the Olympics and the NBL.
“Lachlan Penfold has worked with Golden State Warriors, Suki Hobson with the Milwaukee Bucks and David Pyne with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“They’re three Australian high performance coaches who have gone over and ... I’ll wait and see if I can join that list.”
Basketball has been a big part of Bird’s life in recent times, previously working as a consultant for the Perth Wildcats and Western Australia’s youth high performance program.
Bird has also relished the challenge of taking one of the NBL’s most inexperienced teams in the Crocodiles and making them an outfit to be feared.
“I’d been doing game day performance reviews for the Cairns Taipans and prior to that, I was working with the Perth Wildcats remotely,” he said.
“I’ve recently relocated to Cairns and now signed up with the Townsville Crocodiles. The Crocs have a very young team and are the least experienced in the NBL and coach Shawn Dennis, who I had worked with previously at the Wildcats, was keen to have me on board.
“So far we’ve knocked over Perth in Perth, Sydney and Adelaide at Adelaide and we probably should have beaten Melbourne too. The guys have really bought into the program and it’s been awesome for us so far.”
Being a high performance manager can be a tough task, particularly when a team is on the back foot, but that’s the challenge that Bird thrives on.
“It’s a position you’re always quite vulnerable in when you look at high performance. The coach can be replaced at any moment along with the staff,” he said.
“Stability and security in the position is not good because you’re at the mercy of what education you are able to put into your players. At the end of the day if you have more losses than wins, then you tend to be judged on that rather than the progress you’ve developed with your players.”
Bird still maintains his ties to the Central West of New South Wales as he holds his position as the Director of Strength and Conditioning for the Western Region Academy of Sport.