JackJumpers coach Scott Roth's focus on culture at heart of success

If you've had the chance to spend any time with Tasmania JackJumpers head coach Scott Roth, you wouldn't be surprised by his reaction to the possibility of winning NBL Coach of the Year award.

"If I was lucky enough to get that trophy, I'd want to cut it in half and give it to my assistant coaches who have been an incredible driving force behind all this and the other half to the players," Roth told ESPN prior to officially winning the award on Wednesday night.

"I'm the one who stands out in front but there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes. My staff has been remarkable, my players have been great, and I'd just rather give it to them.

"It's not an individual thing. It's been great to represent the state and the fans deserve a lot of it too. It's not on my bucket list but it would be great for the state, the coaching staff and payers to have that honour."

Roth's mention of the state is heartfelt, with connection to the locals one of his highest priorities since joining the first-year franchise. In fact, the first practice session the team held in training camp involved no balls and was held far away from the hardwood of a basketball court.

"Our first official practice was with Andrew Smith who is the apple grower down here. We were on his property all day, we put them to work, they went to work from eight to four to find out what it means to be Tasmanian.

"They worked all over the farm picking apples, they were in the restaurant serving, they were in the cider factory bottling and they rotated in groups and learnt what it meant to work here."

That first bonding exercise was just the beginning, with a player's lounge built at the facility where the players could hang out after practice, eat food and watch NBA games.

"A lot of little things that we were doing was maybe different but forced them to be together early on and then the bonds started clicking. All these little friendships started building and it just took off from there."

With decades of experience as a player and coach across the world, Roth focused on bringing in players who would work hard, bring a positive presence in the locker room and perhaps most importantly, represent the club with honour and pride.

"You just start to learn what works and what doesn't, why things are successful and why things aren't. You take things from other places, and you incorporate in what you're doing.

"People make their assumption on paper (about our roster). I chose character over talent, and I will always do that moving forward. I'd rather have a high character guy that's maybe a lesser talent then a really talented guy who is a pain in the rear and thinks it's about him.

"With our guys, it was more finding guys that were ready to come out of their shell, maybe an underdog or overlooked and had more to give. I think our guys are talented in their roles, they know what their roles are and they're very good in those roles. The strength of the team is the depth."

As a personality, NBL fans have learned to love Roth the motivator, who wears his heart on his sleeve and thrives on the team's underdog status. Calm and relaxed in nature, he admits it has taken him some time to find what works best for him on the sideline.

"I think in general I'm relatively calm and laid back. At home I love being with my wife and daughter and relaxing. I smoke a cigar on the patio, have a margarita and just hang out.

"On the floor you morph into whatever you want to be. Early on, 15-20 years ago I was ranting and raving and running up and down the court and had a bit of Dan Shamir in me and that probably wasn't who I really was," he says with a laugh.

"When I took this job, I wanted to remain calm, make sure these guys who have a lot of things on their mind don't have me yelling and screaming at them. I think I'm a player's coach, but I can also be very hard on them, keep them accountable.

"I've definitely made these guys uncomfortable to get out of their zone and do something other than they would be doing. I think I'm fair at the end of the day."

On the eve of a historic postseason appearance, Roth admits life in Tasmania has changed over the course of the season, with the JackJumpers quickly becoming heroes of the state, with the team easily the number one ticket in town.

"When I first got here it was relatively easy to move around but over the last few weeks and months, I guess I have become pretty recognisable.

"This morning I walked in the Banjos and people give me a standing ovation, I have no idea who they are, but they are congratulating me. We were up in Launceston a few weeks ago at nine o'clock at night and we went to the store to grab some snacks and three or four people came down to get a selfie and say hello and congratulate us on the season.

"We are two and a half hours away from Hobart and you start to feel the impact of what's going on around the state. It's been remarkable."

It's fitting that Roth has been recognised as the league's best coach for NBL22, with the job so much more than x's and o's on the court. The JackJumpers has a distinguishable brand on and off the floor, with the remarkable run a testament to the plan Roth had in his mind when he first accepted the job.

"We have standards that we're setting, and I think people are recognising that they value those things. I kept my ear very close to the heartbeat of what Tasmanian people were wanting from a team and tried to mould them around those standards. I think the fight and the grit and the model of defending the island has resonated with everyone.

"I keep it forefront because it's important to me to make sure this place is recognised for what it is and although we're in Hobart, this is Tasmania and that's what we're representing."

Next up: A postseason run beginning with a semifinal series against the defending champions, Melbourne United. By this stage, you should know it would be silly to write off Roth and the JackJumpers.