Dickel hopes for return to Rams’ glory days

HOOP DREAMS: Mark Dickel won the Canterbury Rams coaching job ahead of a strong field of candidates.
HOOP DREAMS: Mark Dickel won the Canterbury Rams coaching job ahead of a strong field of candidates.

Former Tall Black great Mark Dickel has a bold vision for the Canterbury Rams organisation.

Dickel, who played more than 100 tests for New Zealand between 1994 and 2011, was yesterday confirmed as the Rams' full-time coach for the next two years.

He will work closely with the region's brightest young basketballers, overseeing the Rams academy and regional talent development programme.

The Press understands he landed the job over a strong list of candidates, which included Canterbury's Dave Langrell and former Nelson Giants coach Chris Tupu.

Dickel has aspirations to return the Rams to the glory days of the 1980s, where they were perennial title contenders.

He is also determined to pass his wisdom onto the next generation of talent in Canterbury and prepare them for college basketball and professional opportunities.

''My plan is to get as many players from our region in Canterbury over to college as we can,'' Dickel said.

''I want to give them enough confidence to go over there and do well, so they don't go over there for two or three months and come back.''

Dickel, 37, is regarded as one of New Zealand's finest basketballers.

The point guard, who is affectionately known as ''Sparky'' for his lightning-quick speed, played in several top European leagues.

He was a vital contributor for the Tall Blacks, playing in two world championships (2002 and 2006) and two Olympics (2000 and 2004).

Dickel also enjoyed a stellar collegiate career at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, from 1996-2000. He led college basketball in assists during the 1999-2000 season with nine per game.

Dickel had always been passionate about getting into coaching at the end of his playing days.

He was the Albanian national team coach between 2010 and 2011.

This year, he was player-coach of the Otago Nuggets in the National Basketball League and was Basketball Otago's director of development for the past three years.

Dickel spent much of his 162-game NBL career in the blue-and-gold singlet of the Nuggets and said it would be difficult to coach against them.

''It's going to be weird, for sure. I'm leaving a lot of people here I really like and care about. It's time to move on.''

Basketball Otago's precarious financial situation was a factor in his move north.

''You're not immune to that stuff, like everybody else. I've got a family and kids,'' he said.

Dickel has been appointed solely as a coach for the Rams and will not suit up for the team.

He was excited about the potential of the squad, based on what he saw this year.

Retaining homegrown starters Jeremy Kench and Ethan Rusbatch would be a priority.

He intended to speak to the Rams squad in the coming weeks about their plans for next season.

''We definitely want the Rams to have a local flavour on the team.

''I thought they were pretty good [this year]. I really like what I saw. Some of the local guys took their opportunity and that's what you want to see.''

Rams director Andrew Harrison said Dickel was the perfect person to guide the side in the NBL and work with the region's emerging talent.

''The most important thing he brings is an absolute expectation of excellence, from a playing and development perspective.

''Mark has got huge experience in a lot of different basketball environments.''

Dickel viewed himself as a career coach and said his ultimate goal was to be in charge of a top United States college team within the next three to four years.

He has taken elements from the various coaches he has worked under over the years, but had his own unique philosophy.

''I want the players to take ownership of what's going on and for them to get into the game and feel empowered.''

Dickel was yet to decide upon assistant coaches for the Rams, but was eager to get Caleb Harrison, who has coached at college level in the US, on board.

He will start in his new role in early October.

The Press