Basketball pioneer Longley honoured

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
Australian basketball great Luc Longley at home in Denmark.
Camera IconAustralian basketball great Luc Longley at home in Denmark. Credit: Albany Advertiser, Mark Bennett / ABC

There is a sense of unfinished business as Luc Longley reflects on his long and distinguished basketball career.

The three-time NBA champion in the Chicago Bulls’ golden era of the 1990s is proud to call Denmark home and represent the region on this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Longley was among 1214 honours recipients announced by Governor-General and Chancellor of the Order of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove.

For his significant service to basketball as a player, coach and administrator, Longley was yesterday appointed a Member of the Order of Australia.

But his basketball career is far from finished as he helps guide the Boomers towards an elusive Olympic medal as an assistant coach as they prepare for the World Cup in China, which starts in August, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I’ve been to four Olympics — three as a player and one as a coach — and there was a fifth I should have gone to when I was injured. We have come fourth every time, bar one,” he said yesterday.

“Boomers basketball has never got a medal, so what keeps me busy and at it is getting that elusive medal we have never got and I feel we have got a squad that can deliver that and a coaching staff that can deliver that.

“Now we just have to get on the court and do it, which is exciting.”

As a player, Longley stepped into a new world as the first Australian to play in the NBA when he was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1991 before joining the Bulls.

On reflection, Longley said basketball was “really simple and fun”, playing in the dominant Bulls era alongside the great Michael Jordan, which saw him earn three NBA championships in his five seasons.

A Boomers assistant for seven years, the 50-year-old said he “stumbled” into coaching but it continued to be rewarding mentoring Australia’s best.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the basketball court and I’ve done a lot of things since then, so it’s nice at 50 years old to be recognised for all the basketball work I’ve done,” Longley said. “I feel very proud of it. I suppose I’m happy for my mother and father and children most of all. It’s the sort of thing mothers and fathers are proud of. I think they will be really stoked.”

Longley has lived in Denmark with wife Anna Gare for the past five years.

He said being on the road with the national basketball side made his quiet life in the coastal tourist town even more special.

“It was already special but having that work and home balance has been good,” he said.

“I bought this place as a bit of a sanctuary when I was playing in the NBA and it’s been that for me ever since.”

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