Dynamic shooting guard Milton Doyle captured Tasmanian hearts with his incredible season for the JackJumpers. (Picture: Tasmania JackJumpers; Design: Madeline Irwin)

Few people know Tasmania JackJumpers star Milton Doyle better than Chicago Bulls assistant Damian Cotter, who opened up on the All-NBL guard’s journey.

When asked what his first impressions were of Milton Doyle, Chicago Bulls assistant coach Damian Cotter gave an apt response.

“The lad can get buckets,” Cotter said.

It’s probably similar to what JackJumper fans first thought when the talented guard arrived at MyState Bank Arena and showed his tendency to knock down big shots.

Heading into its sophomore NBL season, Tasmania faced the daunting task of backing up its spectacular debut year.

An improbable Grand Final berth was fuelled in part by bombastic import Josh Adams, who won the club’s MVP award and made All-NBL second team. But with Adams departing in the off-season, coach Scott Roth needed a new star to lead his squad.

After scouring the globe the JackJumpers turned to Doyle, a versatile 193cm shooting guard with NBA experience.

Doyle came in and not only took over from Adams but played better than him as the team fell one game short of the championship series.

The Chicago native enjoyed a standout season where he was named All-NBL first team, lead the club in scoring and won Tasmania’s MVP, averaging 17.2 points and five rebounds a game.

The 29-year-old seamlessly slotted into the JackJumpers’ defensive scheme and team-first culture, while also leaving his own imprint on the young franchise.

Doyle’s coolness at the end of games and ability to step in the clutch rubbed off on his teammates, with the team earning a reputation of being impossible to squash no matter how far down it was.

While most fans might not have been familiar with Doyle before he came to Tasmania, Cotter had an intimate understanding of the guard’s talent as well as the league he was heading to.

The Australian coach is one of the country’s many great basketball stories after working his way up to earn a spot on Billy Donovan’s staff at the Chicago Bulls in the NBA.

Having previously coached the Sydney Kings and Australian under-19 men’s team, Cotter joined the Brooklyn Net’s G League affiliate side, the Long Island Nets, in 2017 as an assistant coach. Doyle also landed with the team during that time after going undrafted out of college with the Loyola Ramblers.

Cotter was quickly impressed by the guard’s skill and how well he got on with his teammates.

“What stood out was Milt’s instinctual play along with his high intellect and how much his teammates liked playing with him,” Cotter told The Inner Sanctum.

“Milton is popular with his teammates, through his consistent play he develops trust and respect. He backs himself but he’ll also take joy in his teammate’s success.”

Doyle’s high level of play in the G League earned him a two-way contract with Brooklyn, which led to NBA minutes.

“It’s always exciting when players get called up. The staff were very proud of him, it’s what the G League is about,” Cotter said.

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While Cotter and Doyle both left New York after that season, the duo would reunite a year and a half later in the latter’s home city of Chicago.

Cotter was named head coach of the Windy City Bulls in 2019, while Doyle signed with the Chicago Bulls before being assigned to the G League affiliate side.

During a tough Covid shortened season, Cotter praised Doyle’s strong form and toughness while playing through injuries.

“Obviously I was thrilled that Milt elected to play for us. He was just a more mature version of what he was in Long Island,” he said.

“Milt was a soldier that year, playing most of the year hurt.”

Through their time together the pair have developed a strong rapport and even live in the same suburb in Chicago.

“I enjoy my relationship with Milt, we stay in touch regularly and our relationship is built on direct talk. His straightforwardness comes from where he grew up and that characteristic lends to respect,” Cotter said.

“I’m quite proud of him for what he has achieved as a player and the man that he has become.”

JackJumper fans should thank Cotter for helping bring Doyle to the team after the Australian made him aware of the league.

When Doyle signed with Tasmania last June, he credited his former coach as the person who first put the NBL on his radar as an option.

Milton Doyle after being named team MVP last month. (Picture: Tasmania JackJumpers)

Cotter revealed he spoke with various teams who were interested in signing the guard, but the dedicated work of JackJumpers assistant coach Mark Radford stood out.

“I communicated with a few clubs about Milt leading up to his signing with the JJ’s. I have a huge respect for Mark Radford as he was on it straight away seeing Milt’s talent and what he could give the JJ’s,” he said.

While Cotter hasn’t had the chance to watch Doyle in the NBL outside of his highlights, he’s been impressed with what his former player has achieved in the league.

“We have traded texts on and off throughout the season. I’m very happy for him that he landed in Tasmania as I know the JJ’s are an impressive organisation,” he said.

The JackJumpers are looking to bring back their out-of-contract MVP, who is currently over in Turkey playing in the Basketball Super League.

The Chicago native has quickly become a Tasmanian sporting hero through his exploits on the court and has an offer in front of him to return to the Apple Isle.

Cotter said retaining a player of Doyle’s quality would only bolster what Tasmania has already established.

“I always think continuity leads to success. Having someone of Milt’s calibre and character would no doubt enhance the JJ’s already strong culture,” he said.

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