Breakers: A master plan coming to fruition

22:51, Apr 12 2013
Breakers vs 36ers
Dillon Boucher and Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers compete with Anthony Petrie and Daniel Johnson of Adelaide.
Breakers vs 36ers
Jason Cadee of Adelaide competes with Daryl Corletto of the Breakers.
Breakers vs 36ers
Will Hudson of the Breakers dunks the ball during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers vs 36ers
Stephen Weigh of Adelaide makes a break during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers vs Wildcats
lex Pledger of the Breakers competes with Matthew Knight of the Wildcats during the round one NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers vs Wildcats
Mika Vukona of the Breakers drives passed Shawn Redhage of the Wildcats.
Breakers vs Wildcats
Tom Abercrombie, CJ Bruton and Dillon Boucher of the Breakers look on during the round one NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers vs Wildcats
Damian Martin of the Wildcats gets around CJ Bruton of the Breakers.
Breakers
Breakers' Mika Vukona drives against Crocs' Jacob Holmes.
Breakers
Mika Vukona under pressure from Jacob Holmes.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers rides the shoulders of Jacob Holmes of the Crocs.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers rides the shoulders of Jacob Holmes of the Crocs.
Breakers
Gary Ervin lays up a shot for the Crocs as Alex Pledger attempts a block.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie goes for the block on Kings' Tom Garlepp.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson with the ball for the Breakers.
Daryl Corletto
Daryl Corletto the ball up for the Breakers.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson collides with Corin Henry of the Sydney Kings.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona shoots the match-winning three-pointer against the Sydney Kings.
Breakers vs Crocs
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers looks to drive past Larry Abney of the Crocodiles.
Breakers vs Crocs
Daryl Corletto of the Breakers drives past Jacob Holmes of the Crocodiles.
Breakers vs Crocs
Russell Hinder of the Crocodiles attmpts to drive past Alex Pledger of the Breakers.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton barks out some orders to team-mates.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson on the ball for the Breakers.
Dillon Boucher
Dillon Boucher celebrates during the Breakers win over the Townsville Crocodiles.
Tom Abercombie
Tom Abercombie throws down a slam dunk.
Tai Webster
Tai Webster takes the ball to the hoop.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Tom Abercrombie of New Zealand (L) and Seth Scott of Melbourne compete for the ball.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Will Hudson of the Breakers during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers collects the rebound during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Cory Webster of the Breakers takes a shot against Melbourne.
Breakers v Taipans
Cedric Jackson goes up for two of his NBL career-high 32 points against the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Mika Vukona chases a loose ball during the Breakers win over the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Tom Abercrombie floats a ball over Brad Hill of the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound against the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Dillon Boucher sticks close to Dusty Rychart of the Taipans during the Breakers' 97-76 win.
NZ Breakers
Adelaide's Luke Schencher protects the ball as CJ Bruton, Dillon Boucher and Will Hudson close in.
NZ Breakers
Mika Vukona guards Adelaide's Dan Johnson.
NZ Breakers
Cedric Jackson goes up for a lay-up during the Breakers away win over Townsville.
NZ Breakers
Breakers and 36ers players dive on a loose ball.
NZ Breakers
Will Hudson attempts a block on Crocs player Michael Cedar.
NZ Breakers
Leon Henry celebrates his double three-pointers at the end of the third quarter against the Crocs with teammate Mika Vukona.
NZ Breakers
Mika Vukona protects the ball from Hawks players Tyson Demos and Oscar Forman.
NZ Breakers
Tom Abercrombie completes an alley-oop pass from Cedric Jackson during the heritage game against the Hawks.
NZ Breakers
Dillon Boucher, a member of the original Breakers side, looks for a pass during the heritage game.
NZ Breakers
Will Hudson blocks Hawks guard Adris Deleon.
Breakers v Kings
Tom Abercrombie goes up for a dunk as James Harvey of the Kings looks on.
Breakers v Kings
Daryl Corletto and Dillon Boucher celebrate the Breakers' hot start against the Kings.
Breakers v Kings
Mika Vukona goes for the easy lay-up.
Breakers v Kings
Daryl Corletto nails a three on his way to 14 points in the first four minutes against the Kings.
Breakers v Perth
Corey Webster shoots over Kevin Lisch on his way to a career high 14 points.
Breakers v Perth
CJ Bruton celebrates a three pointer.
Breakers v Perth
Cedric Jackson lays the ball up over Perth's Matt Knight.
Breakers v Perth
Tom Abercrombie loses a shoe as he goes for a dunk over Greg Hire.
Breakers v Perth
Jeremiah Trueman of the Wildcats and Alex Pledger of the Breakers compete for the ball.
Breakers
Mika Vukona celebrates a late basket with CJ Bruton.
Breakers
Dillon Boucher goes for a steal during the Breakers 92-84 win over the Wollongong Hawks.
Breakers
Tom Abercrombie takes a jump shot during the game against the Hawks.
Breakers
Cedric Jackson shoots under pressure from Wollongong Hawks players.
Breakers v Hawks
Cedric Jackson makes a pass around Oscar Forman of the Hawks.
Breakers v Hawks
Tom Abercrombie shoots a jumper during the win over the Hawks.
Breakers v Hawks
CJ Bruton entertains the crowd during a break in play.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers player Corey Webster scores a layup against the 36ers.
Breakers vs 36ers
Tom Abercrombie slam dunks the ball.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers' Mika Vukona drives at 36ers' Stephen Weigh.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers' Corey Webster takes on 36ers' Anthony Petrie.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers' Dillon Boucher celebrates the team's 13th straight win.
Breakers vs Cairns
Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers hangs on the hoop after dunking the ball.
Breakers vs Cairns
Mika Vukona goes after the ball against Cairns.
Breakers vs Cairns
Cedric Jackson shares a hug with Dillon Boucher after the thrilling win over Cairns.
Breakers vs Cairns
Mika Vukona of the Breakers lays the ball up.
Breakers 2012-2013 season photos
An injured Mika Vukona is helped off the court during the Breakers' clash with the Tigers.
Breakers 2012-2013 season photos
Dillon Boucher waves to Breakers fans for the last time ahead of the game with the Tigers.
Breakers 2012-2013 season photos
Christopher Goulding of the Tigers tries to block Dillon Boucher during their clash at the North Shore Events Centre.
Breakers v Tigers
Tai (left) and Corey Webster enjoy some time on court together in the final quarter of the win over the Tigers.
Breakers v Tigers
Reuben Te Rangi drives past Lucas Walker of the Tigers.
Breakers v Tigers
Tom Abercrombie soars high for one of his three alley-oops in the opening quarter of the win over Melbourne.
Breakers v Wildcats
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound in the regular season finale against the Wildcats.
Breakers v Wildcats
Cedric Jackson mulls the loss after the Wildcats defeated the Breakers in Perth.
Breakers v Wildcats
Dillon Boucher tries to deny the pass for Jesse Wagstaff during the Breakers loss to the Wildcats.

At the Breakers they've never measured success like the rest of us. The championship banners, the winning streaks, the awards and the mass adulation are all just icing on the cake.

What's really important up on level one of their Atlas Place headquarters on Auckland's North Shore are things like legacy planning, developing young Kiwi talent, establishing aspirational pathways and making a difference in the community.

Seriously. It's the way New Zealand's most successful sporting franchise operates, and it's what sets them apart from almost every other organisation within their sport, and outside. Sure, the championships are great. They celebrate them, cherish them and understand too well that they're an important part of establishing the profile the club needs to continue to make a difference. Even the good guys have egos.

But when owners Paul and Liz Blackwell sat down with General Manager Richard Clarke - one of two staff members who have been with the club since day one - and coach Andrej Lemanis eight years ago to put together a master plan for a club that had been swimming in a sea of ignominy since their 2003-04 debut in Australia's National Basketball League, the goals were not centred on championships or winning ratios.

"There have been a lot people who have had a good vision and stuck to a plan in order to bring this to where it is today," said coach Andrej Lemanis just prior to last night's second game of the NBL's grand final against the Perth Wildcats

"The thing I'm most mindful of, and take the biggest joy out of, is the fact we have built the base, an academy programme that is doing what it's supposed to do. It's starting to deliver players and that's what puts the club in a position to have sustained success over time."

That's why March 14 earlier this year was a milestone moment in this club's history. That night at the North Shore Events Centre during a 114-84 rout of the Melbourne Tigers the future and the present combined gloriously. The Breakers' four leading scorers were Tom Abercrombie, Corey Webster, Alex Pledger and Reuben TeRangi and when they were joined on court late by Tai Webster it was a quintet not only of outstanding talent, but of New Zealand players who had all been developed in the Breakers system.

"With that base of New Zealand kids who are talented continuing to join what we have, I think we have an opportunity for sustained success," adds Lemanis who will hand over the reins to his assistant Dean Vickerman if he lands the Boomers job due to be announced soon.

"In Australia they say we have a lot of talent and we should be winning. But what we've done is develop that talent and invested in it. It's part of our plan. We didn't just go out and buy the best 10 players, and that for me is the great reward for all the work people put in."

What started eight years ago has culminated now in a club with some pretty firm foundations. They have made outstanding personnel decisions, thought long and hard about the type of player - and person - they needed, established key pillars, and built around them. Tony Ronaldson, CJ Bruton and Kirk Penney established a winner's mindset, and Paul Henare, Dillon Boucher and Mika Vukona continued it.

The culture at the club is one centred on playing hard, acting responsibly and supporting one another. 

"It's no secret we operate based on love, where everyone looks after one another and looks out for one another, and that's set by Paula and Liz Blackwell," says Lemanis.

In Lemanis (and his assistant Vickerman) they chose wisely, and most importantly gave him the time to build his team. Paul Blackwell believes the longer you take to build something, the more solid the base. They are not empty words. Other things have been important. Blackwell's now famous "No Dickheads" policy, while amusing, is also vital. The Breakers have firm rules around character, behaviour and responsibility, and believe firmly that not only do good people make good basketballers, but also positive role models.

Corey Webster's situation is a classic example of what the club does so well. When the young man erred repeatedly they tore up his contract. A message had to be sent.But after Webster served the time, they didn't abandon him. They set up a series of hoops he had to jump through to prove his commitment, and then offered him the lifeline to save his career. Webster was welcomed back to the "family" and has paid them back splendidly with a series of outstanding performances over the second half of the season. This club doesn't abandon its own. It reforms them. 

Ronaldson says he feels "proud" to have been part of building something so substantial for New Zealanders. It's all about "trust" reckons Vukona. 

"We come in and trust each other 100 per cent. I know my brother has got my back on the practice court and then on game night. We trust the coaches have got the game plan right, and we trust Paul Blackwell and all the office staff. Trust goes a long way."

Tom Abercrombie adds: "We think we're playing for the best club in the league. We have an unbelievable organisation from the top down, and it's a fun place to play. I wasn't enjoying my basketball when I came back from the States, but that first year rejuvenated me. It gave me that spark and fire back being around good people who loved the game and played it the right way."

And as the Breakers have shown, the right way can also be the winning way.

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Alex Pledger
Darnell Lazare of the Kings defends over the top of Alex Pledger during game one of the ANBL semifinal series at Vector Arena.
Leon Henry
Leon Henry of the Breakers collects a rebound during game one of the ANBL semifinal series with the Sydney Kings.
Andrej Lemanis
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis gives instructions to his players during game one of the ANBL semifinal series against the Kings.
Daryl Corletto
Daryl Corletto of the Breakers looks to play the ball against the Sydney Kings in game one of their semifinal at Vector Arena.
Breakers in 2013 ANBL Playoffs
Darnell Lazare of the Kings is blocked by Cedric Jackson of the Breakers during game one of the NBL Semi Final series between the New Zealand Breakers and the Sydney Kings.
Breakers in 2013 ANBL Playoffs
Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers dunks the ball during game one of the NBL Semi Final series between the New Zealand Breakers and the Sydney Kings.
Breakers in 2013 ANBL Playoffs
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers shoots during game one of the NBL Semi Final series between the New Zealand Breakers and the Sydney Kings.
Breakers in 2013 ANBL Playoffs
Dillon Boucher of the Breakers collects the ball during game one of the NBL Semi Final series between the New Zealand Breakers and the Sydney Kings.
Breakers in 2013 ANBL Playoffs
Ian Crosswhite of the Kings loses the ball during game one of the NBL Semi Final series between the New Zealand Breakers and the Sydney Kings.
New Zealand Breakers
Mike Vukona in action in the second semifinal against the Sydney Kings.
New Zealand Breakers
Corey Webster puts up a shot against the Sydney Kings.
New Zealand Breakers
CJ Bruton reacts after sinking a three-pointer against the Sydney Kings.
New Zealand Breakers
The Breakers celebrate after winning the semifinal series against the Sydney Kings.
Breakers
Breakers forward Leon Henry and centre Alex Pledger celebrate victory over Perth Wildcats in game one of the ANBL grand final series.
Breakers
Tom Abercrombie steal possession and make a charge against the Wildcats.
Breakers v Wildcats
Daryl Corletto gets two of his team high 19 points during game one.
Breakers v Wildcats
Cedric Jackson gets around Rhys Carter of the Wildcats.
Breakers v Wildcats
CJ Bruton and Daryl Corletto high five after a made three-pointer.
Breakers v Wildcats
Corey Webster finds away to get around Jeremiah Trueman and Everard Bartlett.
Breakers v Wildcats
Alex Pledger is unlucky to be called for the foul after this block on Perth's Jeremiah Trueman.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton looks for a passing lane under pressure from Everard Bartlett.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton works the referee during the second quarter of Game 2.
Leon Henry
Breakers small forward Leon Henry reaches for a rebound in the second period.
Shawn Redhage
Shawn Redhage attempts to grab control of the ball in Game 2.
Breakers celebrate three-peat
The NZ Breakers celebrate their three-peat after defeating the Perth Wildcats in Game 2.
Breakers celebrate three-peat
Will Hudson jumps into the arms of coach Andrej Lemanis, while Corey Webster and Mika Vukona celebrate the final seconds on the bench.
Breakers celebrate three-peat
Somewhere at the bottom of the Breakers celebratory man-stack is Dillon Boucher, who fired the ball in the air as time expired.
Dillon Boucher cuts down the net
Retiring Dillon Boucher wears the championship net around his neck.
CJ Bruton and Cedric Jackson
CJ Bruton and Cedric Jackson show off the Australian NBL Trophy and their championship medals in the locker room.
Dillon Boucher and CJ Bruton
Multiple champions, Dillon Boucher (left) celebrates his fourth ANBL crown, while CJ Bruton savours his sixth.
Andrej Lemanis
Head coach Andrej Lemanis cuts down his piece of net after the Game 2 victory.
Andrej Lemanis
Andrej Lemanis speaks during the post-game ceremony, while Dillon Boucher celebrates after his last game.
Will Hudson
Will Hudson lets the Perth crowd know exactly which team just beat their Wildcats.
Breakers celebrate three-peat
The entire Breakers team swarms around Dillon Boucher after time expired.
Shawn Redhage
A bandaged Shawn Redhage sums up the emotions of the Wildcats and their fans.
Breakers wins
Paul Henare of the Breakers lifts the trophy after winning game three of the NBL Grand Final series in 2011.
Breakers wins
Paul Henare of the Breakers lifts the trophy after winning game three of the NBL Grand Final series in 2011.
Breakers wins
Dillon Boucher of the Breakers holds the NBL trophy during their victory parade in 2011.
Breakers wins
The Breakers celebrate winning the 2011 NBL Grand Final.
Breakers wins
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher celebrating as the Breakers won the 2012 NBL Grand Final.
Breakers wins
The Breakers celebrate their 2011 NBL Grand Final win.
Breakers wins
The Breakers 2011 NBL Grand Final victory parade.
Breakers wins
Breakers coach Andre Lemanis shares a kiss after winning the 2011 NBL final.
Breakers wins
Breakers captain Paul Henare celebrates with the net after winning the 2011 NBL final.
Breakers wins
The scoreboard after the Breakers won their 2011 NBL final.
Breakers wins
Breakers fans during their 2011 NBL final, which they won.
Breakers wins
The Breakers celebrate their 2012 NBL Grand Final win.
Breakers wins
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers thanks fans after their 2012 NBL Grand Final win.
Breakers wins
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers goes up against Luke Nevill of the Wildcats during their 2012 NBL Grand Final. The Breakers ended up winning.
Breakers wins
Breakers' Mika Vukona spins around Wildcats' Shawn Redhage during their 2012 NBL Grand Final. The Breakers ended up winning.
Breakers wins
The Breakers celebrate their 2012 NBL Grand Final win.
Andrej Lemanis
WORTH THE WAIT: Despite little success in the early years, Breakers' management stuck with young coach Andrej Lemanis which turned out to be a wise move.

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