Henare eager to boost Southland Sharks' bite
Former Tall Black point guard Paul Henare was right at the forefront of the New Zealand Breakers' basketball transformation, and he wants to create something similar at the Southland Sharks.
Henare replaced Richard Dickel as head coach of the Sharks in August, and arrived in Invercargill on Wednesday with wife, Lisa, and daughter, Kaia, 3, to begin his two-year contract.
Henare, 33, has made an almost seamless transition into the coaching ranks after ending his memorable basketball career in style, by winning an inaugural Australian National Basketball League title with the Breakers in April, 2011.
Henare is considered one of the legends of New Zealand basketball, after attending two world championships and two Olympic Games with the Tall Blacks, as well as playing 15 seasons in the Kiwi national league.
He is best known for being the heart and soul of the New Zealand Breakers franchise. Henare was with the Breakers when they made their foray into the Australian NBL in 2003 and holds the record for the most games (250), assists (904) and consecutive appearances (130) for the Auckland-based club. His on and off the court deeds were recognised by the Breakers at the start of last season, when he became the first player to have his singlet number (32) retired by the franchise.
The Southland NBL franchise has been around for only three years, but Henare sees parallels between the Sharks and Breakers, with their professionalism, family ethos, and passionate fans. He said those factors were a major drawcard for him and believed the Sharks organisation had massive untapped potential.
"What the Sharks have done in such a short space of time is pretty outstanding really. The structure and base is there. Hopefully, I'm able to take it to that next step," he said.
"The Sharks have a really good reputation for looking after people down here. It's a solid organisation."
After hanging up his sneakers, Henare has enjoyed success as coach of the Hawke's Bay Hawks in the New Zealand NBL, leading them through to the final in 2011, and the semifinals this year. His coaching promise was further illustrated this year when he was named as Tall Blacks' assistant coach for the team's Olympic qualifying tournament in Venezuela. Henare was also recently named New Zealand under-17 men's coach.
Many people have questioned why Henare would want to leave his Napier hometown and head to Southland, but for him it was an easy decision.
Henare has aspirations to make a career out of coaching and said the chance to test himself in a new environment and step out of his comfort zone was appealing.
"I've probably picked one of the most insecure jobs in the world, but I'm so passionate about the game.
"One day, I'd love to coach the Breakers and the Tall Blacks."
As a basketballer, Henare was famous for his unselfish play and ability to make his team-mates better.
That has flowed through to his coaching, where he loves nothing better than seeing young players develop and helping turn them into better basketballers.
Luring high quality players down to Southland from the North Island can be difficult, but Henare said he already had a list of names in mind and was confident the Sharks could assemble a talented roster for 2013.
"There are a few players I have my eye on. One of my selling points is, it's a great place, the people are friendly, and it's a great organisation - it's stable.
"I'm confident we'll be able to put together a good team next year."
Henare was hopeful he could have the bulk of his squad finalised by Christmas, which would enable him to work out what positions they wanted their two American imports in.
He had spoken to several players from this year's Hawks team about the possibility of following him south, but the arrival of former Tall Blacks coach Tab Baldwin at Hawke's Bay is likely to complicate that. Baldwin, who steered the national team to a fourth place finish at the world championships in 2002, shares a close bond with Henare, who he coached for many years with the Tall Blacks and Auckland. Ironically, Baldwin also applied for the Sharks' head coaching job, but missed out to Henare.
Henare plans to hold open trial runs and scrimmages in Invercargill soon, as he looks to find out what the level of playing talent is like in Southland, and which players are interested in being apart of the Sharks' setup.
Homegrown Southland talents will need to prove their worth and show they deserve a spot in next year's side. "I do have a definite intention and focus of having locals on board, but I'm not going to bring the quality of the team down just to bring in local players," he said.
During his two years with Hawke's Bay, Henare was renowned as a defence-first coach, with the Hawks giving up the least number of points per game in the NBL this season. That mentality will not change with the Sharks, and Henare said the makeup of the squad would dictate how the Southland team functioned on offence next season.
"I like to have a strong emphasis on defence first and foremost. That's where I'll continue to go with the Sharks. That won't change.
"My one common factor is always going to be defence and rebounding."
Henare was coached by some of the best in the business during his playing career, including Baldwin, Keith Mair, Shawn Dennis, Nenad Vucinic and Andrej Lemanis.
He said his coaching style was a mixture of different elements from those names, combined with his own individual flair.
Henare will need to find an assistant coach for the Invercargill Licensing Trust funded Sharks, and said his preference was to go for a promising, emerging coach in Southland, who wanted to learn more about coaching at the elite level.
Henare has been employed chiefly as head coach of the Sharks, but said he had already had discussions with general manager Jill Bolger about the exact nature of his role.
He is keen to work with age-group representative coaches in Southland and offer up his wisdom and expertise.
"I will definitely be involved in Southland Basketball, in some capacity.
"Where I can see I would help, would be more along the coaching side of things. I'd like to try and share my experience and knowledge with them," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News