Brian Kerle - Brisbane Bullets - National Basketball League

Brian Kerle

Mr Basketball…

Written by Peter Blucher

He went by the nickname ‘Prince Pineapple’, had a liking for loud ties and occasional crazy hairstyles, and carried a program rolled up like a security blanket, but really Brian Kerle was more than that. He was ‘Mr Basketball’.

He was the man who took a vast knowledge and experience in pure basketball matters and added a marketing and promotional genius not previously seen in the game to convert the Bullets from a tin shed operation into a multi-million dollar business. Literally.

Prior to 1984 the Bullets were an organisation that was only really well-known to life-time basketball fans. They played to friends and family in a two-court stadium at Auchenflower, and had next to no public profile or media presence.

They’d finished 5th, 3rd, 4th, 8th and 10th in the first five years of the NBL, but weren’t exactly blowing the roof off their tin shed headquarters with success on or off the court.

Then, in perhaps the single most important decision in the foundation club’s history, they lured Kerle “home” from Melbourne, appointed him Coach and General Manager of the struggling team, and empowered him to turn the operation into a winning one. On and off the court.

In one of Queensland sport’s most special stories, Kerle, armed with a willing band of loyal volunteer helpers and a fine group of players, won the hearts of the State’s sporting public.

They played in four grand finals in a row from 1984-85-86-87 for championship wins in 1985 and 1987, and earned a standing in the sporting landscape that most would have thought impossible when ‘Prince Pineapple’ took charge.

He dedicated the first championship to Vince Hickey, his long-time mentor and the unofficial grandfather of Queensland basketball after whom the stadium at Auchenflower is named. And rightly so. For it was loyal basketball people like Hickey who played such a pivotal support role in making it all happen.

They were a small group thrown together with high hopes and dreams working on a minimal budget, and, embracing all facets of the fast-growing Bullets family, they operated like a smooth organisation than had been in place for decades rather a fledgling outfit fighting for credibility.

Kerle appealed to sponsors, media, fans and even Government authorities to ‘give us a go’. And when they did just that he and his team delivered.
The coach, known simply as “Kerley” to a growing legion of fans, became a household name in Queensland sport alongside the likes of Leapin’ Leroy Loggins, Larry ‘The Skipper” Sengstock and Ronnie ‘The Rat” Radliff, stars of the Bullets team of the mid-80s.

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