How heartbreak turned to opportunity for Fire's Shannon Seebohm

Shannon Seebohm never imaged he'd love coaching basketball more than playing it.

As a 9-year-old he told his parents he wanted to represent Australia, he did at an under-19 World Cup, and when he signed his first professional contract with the South Dragons in the NBL another childhood dream was achieved.

But then his life stopped. Literally. For 15 minutes when in his rookie season he collapsed and went into cardiac arrest at training. A staff member revived him, saving his life.

Seebohm would have surgery to implant a cardiac defibrillator, told he'd never play again.

It took some time but he began coaching and by 26 was head coach of the Sydney Flames and WNBL coach of the year in his debut season.

Fast forward eight years, Seebohm, now 34, won his third coach of the year gong on Sunday night and has minor premier Townsville Fire on a 12-game winning steak heading into the finals.

Next on the list: his first championship.

"I worked my entire childhood to sign my first professional contract, played for Australia at a World Championship then had my cardiac arrest and couldn't play anymore. I thought the basketball journey was done," he told ESPN.

"I had zero wish to coach. I did not want to be a coach, it wasn't something I ever wanted to do. When I was 19, 20, 21-years-old I honestly didn't think I could stand up and talk in front of a group.

"But, all of a sudden, I got the itch to jump in and start coaching a little bit and now I love it more than I ever did playing.

"It's something I love doing so much. I've learned so much about the game and being able to pass some of that on to players. I'm so lucky I get to coach."

Karen Dalton spent three decades playing for, coaching then as general manager of Sydney. She met Seebohm at Hornsby Basketball Association and recognised early that Seebohm oozed potential.

He'd coached at various levels, assistant coached in the NBL and was spending 70 hours a week on court.

"I thought we needed someone fresh and young. He had such a passion for the game, I think the fact he couldn't play coaching was his avenue of keeping his basketball dream alive," Dalton says.

"I was just so impressed by him and I'm super proud of how far he's come."

Seebohm thought it was cool someone took a chance on him and concedes "it's worked out pretty well."

"At 26, it was a really cool position to be in and there were definitely a lot of things I didn't know and was probably making it up as I went a little bit. It's hard as a 26-year-old to sit a player down and tell them 'this is the expectations, this is what I need you to do, this is what you're not doing'.

"I feel like I've got a lot more comfortable at finding the right way of reaching each player and probably building a strong culture. At times to do that you need to be a little bit more demanding and that's where I think I've got a lot better up here (in Townsville)."

Seebohm's a little older, wiser and more knowledgeable but his fundamentals haven't changed - he wants his players to feel confident and comfortable under his tutelage.

How would he describe himself as a coach?

"I think I'm a coach that puts his players interests before his own. I always try and make sure I make my players feel important, I care about each and every one of them," Seebohm explains.

"Even though we're in a very stressful, must-win environment I try and keep it light, loose and fun. We laugh a lot. When we are there to work it's serious but we have a lot of fun mixed into that.

"I take a lot of pride in my work, making sure my team is prepared, we're ready for each game.

"And trying to put my players in the best position to be successful so whether that's systematically, if it's in their role of whatever it needs to be for them to be the best player and best team we can be."

Point guard Steph Reid is reaching her potential, and the best player she can be, now in her third season at Townsville.

"Seeing somebody come into our team as our back-up point guard and grow within a couple of years to being the best Australian true point guard in the competition is just really satisfying," Seebohm says.

Reid is full of praise for her coach.

"Shannon genuinely understands and knows the game better than anyone I've ever met but what makes him a such a successful coach is that he knows how to motivate every person on the team," she says.

"He builds relationships with his players to where we trust him 100 per cent that he wants what's best for us as people and players but also in the success of the team environment. When you've got someone who is so selfless and would genuinely do anything for the success of his players, we'd sacrifice everything to do that for him as well.

"He's just the best."

Townsville host Perth in game one of a best-of-three semi-final series starting Thursday, the Fire four wins way from lifting the trophy.

So, what would a maiden championship mean?

"A lot. Since I've got to Townsville that's been the goal," Seebohm says.

"To be able to bring another championship to the community. For someone like our GM Sam Pascoe who took a punt on bringing me to Townsville, all of the board members who sacrifice and do so much to make the club what it is, it would be great to reward those guys.

"And I just want to see the players enjoy this process and if we are able to win one one day see what it means to them and see them enjoy that knowing the work they put in.

"It would be just the best thing, the best accomplishment to be able to see us do that."