No Resentment: Mitch McCarron just wants to win
It's about looking past the rocky season so far, and the viral video, and committing to what the team needs.
Things change. It’s the nature of evolution and that’s as true for individuals as it is for anything. Whether you’re an entertainer, a politician, a business person or an athlete, you’re never going to be at the peak of your powers forever. Change is inevitable, and sometimes it can be hard. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made for the greater good, no matter the individual cost.
The Adelaide 36ers have gone through a fair bit of change this season. From new imports, to adding DJ Vasiljevic, to a coaching change with Scott Ninnis taking over from CJ Bruton last month, to veteran players seeing their roles change and their minutes impacted. It hasn’t been an easy season in the City of Churches and 36ers captain Mitch McCarron knows that all too well.
Credit: JBC Studios
Having started 186 of 217 career games before this season and averaging around 30 minutes per game from his second NBL season on, McCarron has had to adapt to change. In doing so, he’s had to deal with being moved to a bench role, having his minutes reduced to around 13 to 14 per game, plus enduring another losing season with Adelaide in last place currently.
It certainly been challenging for McCarron, who spoke with The Pick and Roll last Wednesday.
“Yeah, from an individual perspective I think it’s definitely been one of the more mentally challenging,” said McCarron. “I think it’s been, hopefully a good one for the future. I think I’ve learned some things. But, yeah definitely been tested this year.”
McCarron is in the third and final year of a three-year deal he signed with Adelaide back in 2021. Coming off a championship with Melbourne United, he took a risk by leaving that team, seeking the opportunity to be a full-time point guard and more of a leader for an emerging Sixers roster under Conner Henry.
The Sixers were coming off an underwhelming season where they finished seventh with a 13-23 record (NBL21 was a 36-game season). Despite the headlines around Next Star Josh Giddey, who won Rookie of the Year before getting drafted by the OKC Thunder, there wasn’t enough winning.
Isaac Humphries was returning though, after a first strong season with Adelaide back in the NBL and Daniel Johnson was still doing his thing.
But by the time McCarron arrived for preseason, Henry was no longer the coach. CJ Bruton was announced a couple of weeks later, a change McCarron hadn’t prepared for.
“I don’t have any regrets,” McCarron acknowledged. “I made my decision and I still think it was the right one, based on the circumstances. But, I liked the way that Conner Henry coached and I was excited to play for Conner.”
McCarron certainly learned some things from Bruton along the way, but the on-court results through the course of his time in Adelaide have been disappointing. Adelaide finished seventh in NBL22, eight in NBL23 and are currently sitting in last place in NBL24.
Adelaide chairman Grant Kelly has spent good money on the roster and invested in the club’s facilities and staff. Talented players like Antonius Cleveland, Robert Franks, Cam Bairstow and Anthony Drmic have come and gone. Kai Sotto brought a lot of eyeballs to the team and last year they became the first ever NBL team to defeat an NBA team, when they beat the Phoenix Suns in an NBLxNBA game.
But something has been missing to allow Adelaide to maximise the talent that’s been there and give them success on the court. McCarron was quick to identify that.
“At the end of the day, we haven’t executed offensively and defensively consistently,” he explained. “A lot of people say that last year a lot of money was spent and the roster looked better on paper, but even in my first year in Adelaide, when we did what we wanted to do in terms of executing, in terms of everybody showing up to play and being consistent in that sense, I felt like we were in the game with everybody, with every team.
“And this year has been no different. We’ve pushed the best teams, we just got a win against Melbourne United. I feel like we’ve been really competitive with a lot of different teams throughout the league and it’s just [that] you have to be so consistent in this league to win.”
Adelaide went on to also defeat the Sydney Kings last Thursday night – the day after I spoke with McCarron – giving them two big scalps in a row, before losing to Cairns on Saturday.
But before those two wins, things were not going well. Bruton was let go on December 6th with the team having won only four of thirteen games. Ninnis took over as interim head coach and set about making some changes.
But just a couple of days into his tenure, things were not going well at a training session and McCarron had seen enough. Normally a pretty level-headed guy, McCarron delivered a spray to his teammates at the end of that session that was caught on film. The footage went viral.
McCarron’s verbal outburst was a little polarising. Some saw him calling out teammates despite his own play having underwhelmed, while others saw it as a veteran player trying to get his team aligned and back on track under a new coach. Most people though, saw it reflective of a team that had hit rock bottom this season and were at an inflection point.
McCarron thinks it was overblown and the reality was much less momentous than it appeared from the outside looking in.