News Article

Ninnis 'can't wait' for another opportunity

29 Feb
7 mins read

Written By

Dale Fletcher

“I enjoyed it right from the start, this is me, this is full on, I love it so much.”

Adelaide 36ers head coach Scott Ninnis has had basketball in his blood from an early age and he can’t wait to have another opportunity to lead the club close to his heart.

Ninnis, who is the only person to be involved in all four of Adelaide’s NBL championships, followed his father’s footsteps to Marion Stadium where Bruce Ninnis was a South Adelaide legend, winning multiple championships for the Panthers in the 1960’s.

After stepping away from the game for nearly a decade, it was a romantic return to his beloved South Adelaide Panthers which rekindled the coaching fire for Ninnis.


“Three years ago, I wasn’t coaching,” Ninnis said.

“So, to get back involved at the local level with South Adelaide was a wonderful thing.”

Ninnis led South Adelaide to their first NBL1 Central men’s championship success in 25 years, and in the process impressed Adelaide 36ers Executive Chairman, Grant Kelley.

“For Scott to take South (Adelaide) from ninth to first in what is a very tough NBL1 league spoke volumes,” Kelley said.

“We had always talked about basketball and the club and his insights into people management and how to bring the best out of people.”

Fast forward 16 months after the Panthers claimed the 2022 NBL1 men’s crown, Ninnis is back as the Adelaide 36ers head coach.

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During his 12-year playing career, Ninnis chalked up 318 NBL games across four teams and three states, and his coaching career has an eery parallel.

Ninnis returns to the 36ers for a second time as head coach, and during his playing days he came back to Adelaide three times.

After starting as a rookie at the 36ers in 1986, Ninnis was part of The Invincibles championship side, but limited opportunities after that season saw Ninnis move to Victoria, joining the Eastside Melbourne Spectres.

He played in the 1991 NBL grand final as part of the Spectres before Eastside Melbourne merged with Southern Melbourne Saints to create the South East Melbourne Magic.

In 1992, the Magic had immediate success, and Ninnis played a huge role in South East Melbourne’s 2-1 championship series win against the Andrew Gaze-led Melbourne Tigers.

After the championship win, Ninnis found his way back home, and won the NBL’s Most Improved Player in 1993, Adelaide’s first player to take out the award since Mark Bradtke in 1989 and earn a place on a star-studded All-NBL Third Team alongside Sydney’s Dwayne McClain, Canberra’s Rodney Monroe, Brisbane’s Andre Moore and Perth’s Andrew Vlahov.

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Ninnis was part of the 36ers 1994 NBL grand final side which lost to North Melbourne, and at the end of 1995, he took his career to Newcastle Falcons where during the 1996 NBL season, he averaged 13.5 points per game, before returning home, again.

Finishing his career where it started, Ninnis will be etched in club history, iconically holding the ball aloft as the buzzer sounded to end Adelaide’s 12-year NBL championship drought in 1998, ironically against the Magic.

After the title win, Ninnis moved to the assistant coach role for Adelaide as the club went back-to-back in 1998/99 and was also on the coaching staff when Adelaide won a fourth championship in 2001/02.

Ninnis then moved his coaching career to Far North Queensland as an assistant at Townsville Crocodiles, before joining the newly-formed South Dragons in 2006.

The club legend returned to replace Phil Smyth as 36ers boss in 2008 before being replaced by Marty Clarke after two seasons.

But, the decade away from the game has sparked a new fire into Ninnis and one which will no doubt lead the 36ers on a road to redemption.

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Ninnis will commence his second stint in charge of the 36ers after leading the club in the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons.

Adelaide made the 2008/09 playoffs, but Ninnis was sacked after the club missed the post-season the following season, with a year to go on his contract.

“Last time obviously didn’t end all that well, but everything has changed since then,” Ninnis said.

“I’d like to say I got older and more mature, but my wife would probably disagree on the second part of that sentence.

“I have matured as a coach, it was great to observe it as a spectator, it gives you a different perspective.”

Ninnis took control of the 36ers at the halfway mark of the NBL23 campaign and turned the club around to potentially make a late season run to the playoffs.

“He’s been part of all four of the club’s championships, but what he did in the back end of this season, was nothing short of remarkable,” Kelley said.

“He restored pride back into this jersey and gained respect from the league and most importantly, he’s inspired our fans.”

Adelaide was 4-9 when Ninnis took over and the 36ers finished 12-16, which included winning seven of the last 10 games and the final five games on home court at the Entertainment Centre.

“I just wanted to enjoy the journey (in the back half of NBL24) and there is a certain calmness to the way I approach coaching now that perhaps wasn’t there in the past,” Ninnis said.

“Those last 15 games, it was like a live audition for me,” Ninnis said.

“It gave the club an opportunity to see me, but it also gave me an opportunity to see if I wanted to do this again, knowing how full on it is,

“I enjoyed it right from the start, this is me, this is full on, I love it so much.”

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Ninnis is keen for his second stint as the man in charge of the Adelaide 36ers and says he’s already hit the ground running.

“This club has been a huge part of my life, and to have this opportunity again is very special,” he said.

“Now, we have the opportunity to put the right team together, I get them from day one, and I will be able to expand on my philosophies.

“We had some success in the back half of the season, but we have to get better and change is inevitable.

“I can’t wait to get a hold of this, I wish the season started tomorrow, but we have a lot of work to do.”

Ninnis said he will look to bring back the South Australian element to the club as he looks to retool the roster for the NBL25 campaign and beyond.

“That’s been a belief of mine ever since I started coaching and something this club has shied away from in recent times,” he said.

“We have had some great South Australian talent on the court this year at training, guys like Jacob Rigoni, Keanu Rasmussen and Tom Kubank.

“It’s an absolute priority of mine that we don’t lose South Australians to other clubs.”


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