Sharks coach Henare close to unlikely milestone
Paul Henare is set to notch up an unlikely milestone this weekend - a milestone he hadn't even considered until it was pointed out to him after the Southland Sharks most recent game.
If the 35-year-old takes the court against Nelson on Friday night and then again against the Canterbury Rams the next day, he will bring up game No 250 in the National Basketball League.
It will be a remarkable milestone considering just weeks ago he was retired and had no plans of playing another NBL game.
Henare had carved out a legendary career in New Zealand, starting out in 1995 as a 16-year-old with Hawke's Bay.
He also had stints with the Auckland Stars and Christchurch Cougars before returning to his home province of Hawke's Bay for his final NBL season in 2010.
With his playing days thought to be done, last year he joined Southland as their head coach, leading the organisation to its first-ever NBL title in his first year in the job.
He returned this season and, when four frontline players were ruled out for off-court reasons, Henare stepped out of retirement to pull on his playing shoes again.
He has juggled his coaching duties with his playing minutes.
He initially retired in 2010, on 243 games, but has taken the court five more times for the Sharks this season and is now set to join the rare 250-game NBL club.
"I guess if it works out that way, it will be pretty cool. I honestly didn't even know till you just told me that though," he said soon after Friday night's win over the Canterbury Rams in Invercargill.
"It's obviously a pretty cool milestone but, geez, it sort of pales in comparison when you look at Dillon [Boucher]. When we played the Rangers up there, he just brought up his 350th game and Phil Jones has just got the all-time record with whatever number of games he's played.
"Two hundred and fifty is pretty cool but it's not something I'd thought about since my last New Zealand NBL game, which was in 2010."
On top of Henare's 248 New Zealand NBL games, he also played a remarkable 250 games for the New Zealand Breakers in the Australian National Basketball League before retiring from the Breakers in 2011.
While his best playing days are probably behind him, what he has shown in his cameo return to the basketball court is that the basketball nous and vision is still well and truly there.
His strength has always been his passing and he has shown off those skills during short time back on the court this season.
- Fairfax Media