Mike Kelly, a former Westmont basketball standout, was named the Coach of the Year in Australia’s National Basketball League.
Kelly guided the Cairns Taipans to their first playoff apperance in four years, and the team improved its win total by 11 games. The Taipans lost a best-of-three semifinal series to the Perth Wildcats, the eventual NBL champions.
“Making the playoffs this year with a team that no one gave a chance was really cool,” Kelly said. “I loved the chemistry of this Taipans team.”
Kelly spent 12 years as an assistant coach for five different teams. Most recently, he was an assistant for Melbourne United, whom he helped coach to the team’s first ever NBL championship in the 2017-18 season.
Kelly played at Westmont for two seasons, helping the Warriors to their first ever Golden State Athletic Conference regular season title in 1987-88. He earned All-GSAC honors in both his seasons as a Warrior.
“I loved the friends I met at Westmont through basketball and just being on campus,” Kelly said. “Westmont was the place I got challenged about my faith and it made me think about what I believed.”
After graduating from the college in 1989 with an economics and business degree, Kelly went overseas to play pro basketball. He started in Taiwan and then hooked up wtih a team in Australia.
“Over 15 years, I played at every level in Australia,” he said.
Kelly played for a total of eight professional teams from 1989-2005. He won the 1993 South East Australian Basketball League title with the North East Melbourne Arrows. Then in 1996, Kelly and the Melbourne Magic won the NBL title, Australia’s top prize.
Individually, Kelly was twice selected as the NBL Defensive Player of the Year.
His playing career ended in 2005 with the Wollongong Hawks, the first team he served as an assistant coach.
Kelly returned to the United States, where he was an assistant at Westmont’s GSAC rival Vanguard for two seasons. He then moved up to the NCAA Division I ranks with Utah Valley, serving as an assistant coach for four years, including in 2011-12 when current Westmont assistant coach Rob Goodrow served as Director of Basketball Operations.
Then Kelly made his move back to Australia, first coaching with the Townsville Crocodiles (2013-15) and then Melbourne United (2015-18), before taking over as head coach of the Cairns Taipans.
Kelly still remains connected to Westmont. His daughter, Ashton, graduated from the college earlier this month with a Bachelor of Science in cellular and molecular biology and a minor in chemistry. Ashton often worked the shot clock during Westmont men’s basketball games.