Fanning happy to share his passion
Sometimes, Tim Fanning is the teacher. Others, he is the pupil. Always, the subject is basketball.
Fanning, the lead assistant coach for the Fico Finance Nelson Giants, came to New Zealand to add another page to his coaching resume. He had already played and coached in Europe and was working with the Delaware 87ers in the NBA's Development League when the chance came to join head coach Liam Flynn in Nelson.
His feet have hardly touched the ground since.
Every week, often from 7am, he and Flynn run individual and group sessions for a range of players - from promising 13-year-olds to Giants veterans. The pair also watch hours of film of both the Giants and their opposition, spotting flaws and enhancing strengths. Then there's official trainings until 10pm, three or four nights in an average week, and game time - at least one and often two a week.
It's a daunting workload but one the self-avowed hoops-head relishes.
"Everything is going really well," the 30-year-old said. "Right from the start, the club made it easy to jump in and get to work.
"You know, when the players you work with don't need motivation, they come in and get down to business, it honestly doesn't feel like a job.
"It's more like sharing your passion with other people who understand."
Flynn and Fanning have forged a tight bond and share many common coaching philosophies. Although the final responsibility rests with Flynn, Fanning says they have worked as a team since his arrival in April.
"We will meet every day and watch a game or two, ours or a rival team, then we spend a lot of time in the gym with the guys," Fanning said. "It's Coach's voice on game night but we have already attempted to talk over most of the possible scenarios before we get to that stage.
"Every game takes on its own world and we need to be prepared for any situation, even before it arises."
Fanning has enjoyed the mix of players he has worked with here. He has seen rising talent in the cream of Nelson's college students, has nurtured those on the cusp of NBL careers and still had the chance to work with the Giants' veterans.
"It's a mark of the quality of person the Giants recruit when your veterans are your hardest workers," Fanning said. "There is nothing Josh Pace or Mika Vukona won't do at training, no drill is too monotonous, they are just such committed basketball players and that filters through the whole group.
"We have our moments, like any collection of individuals does, but this is a very connected team."
They will need that this weekend. The Giants are on their way to Napier to take on the Bay Hawks, the current competition leaders, on Saturday at 7pm. With coach Tab Baldwin pulling the strings, the Hawks have maximised their talents to the tune of a 10-2 record. Nelson are 8-5 and can ill afford another loss with the playoffs just over a month away.
"We maybe didn't play to our true ability when we had them [Hawks] here. They were very good, very clear in their roles, but we let one slip. We learned lessons from that game though and we will prepare accordingly."
Forward Jamal Boykin had a tough night but bounced back on the road last weekend with a player of the week performance. With Mika Vukona still not ready to return to Nelson just yet, Boykin and his fellow bigs will need to be at their best in the Bay.
"Jamal is another of those players who makes coaching satisfying," Fanning said. "He wants to work, wants to learn and that's an attribute you can't actually coach . . . players will have it or they won't."
Fanning is unsure where the coaching carousel will carry him after the NBL season ends in early July. There is a chance he might head back to Delaware where one of his recent "projects", swingman Thanasis Antetokounmpo, appears likely to be drafted into the NBA next month.
"As a coach, your role is to help players develop, as individuals and within a team.
"I'd be thrilled if Thanasis was drafted - the talent to play basketball is his, but you like to think you can play some small part in unlocking that potential and helping showcase it."
NBL POINTS TABLE - P W L Win % Pts
Hawke's Bay 12 10 2 83.3 20
Wellington 12 8 4 66.7 16
Nelson 13 8 5 61.5 16
Southland 9 6 3 66.7 12
Waikato 11 6 5 54.5 12
Otago 9 4 5 44.4 8
Taranaki 10 4 6 40.0 8
Waitakere 11 4 7 36.4 8
Manawatu 9 2 7 22.2 4
Canterbury 11 1 10 9.1 2