Henare readies for next chapter in Southland
Like many young kids around New Zealand, Paul Henare tried his hand at a lot of sports - rugby, cricket and basketball, he had a crack at them all.
But as time wore on he become aware basketball would be his sport, and by the age of 15 he was training with the Hawke's Bay National Basketball League team. At 16 he played his first game.
It lit the match to a professional playing career which spanned 16 years.
In those 16 years he squeezed in a lot, and lived through moments most basketball players in New Zealand can simply dream of.
He's won NBL and ANBL titles, made NBL All Star teams, he's had a lengthy career with the Tall Blacks - there's not much Paul Donald Henare hasn't done.
The special times in his career included the 2002 Tall Blacks team which captured the nation's heart by making the top four at the World Championships.
"I was lucky to be part of a special time for the Tall Blacks, it was quite a special group with the guys that were around at that time," he said.
Henare's playing career also coincided with the evolution of the Auckland-based Breakers franchise, which joined the Australian National Basketball League in 2003.
Henare was a foundation player and rode through some tough times when results were poor, but the Hawke's Bay kid wasn't fazed, he was still getting paid to play the game he loved.
Over time the results improved, and in 2010, in Henare's eighth and final season with the club, they hit the pinnacle.
Henare captained the team to their first ANBL title, signing off on the brightest of notes.
His contribution to the club was acknowledged when his jersey number 32 was retired - a tradition at other clubs, but a first at that time for the Breakers.
"It's something I never even dreamed about. You know, you see it in the NBA all the time but obviously growing up with basketball in New Zealand it had never been done before. You don't plan to have your jersey retired one day, you don't even think about it, but when they did it, it was obviously very special.
"I'm grateful that they did it, having my name and number hanging up there is quite a honour. It just means I'll be a part of that club for as long as they are around."
With the curtain coming down on his playing career, Henare looked to the next stage of his life.
Basketball was what he had always known. Many of his coaches over the years had suggested he would make a good coach himself.
Straight from his playing career he took the plunge, taking on the Hawke's Bay coaching role for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
At the end of the 2012 season he thought a change was what he may need to take his coaching career to another level.
The Southland Sharks job come up and he put his name forward and won the role.
"I came down for an interview, and I liked what I saw - a good club that are looking to make some improvements.
And I guess one of the other factors is that, as a coach, I really needed to challenge myself. Who knows, I could have stayed there for as long as I liked, which is quite unusual for a coach to have that security.
"But, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself, come to a team that had struggled the last couple of years and get involved with a team that I was unfamiliar with, in terms of players and that sort of stuff."
With the 2013 season now upon him, Henare admits to plenty of emotions as he eyes game one against the Super City Rangers tonight in Invercargill.
"It's kind of snuck up on us. We've spent so long looking forward to April 19 and now we're here, I don't know where the time has gone," he said.
"There's a little bit of excitement, but I'd be lying to say there's not a little bit of anxiety as well, because of the unknown. I think the unknown because the disruption we've had through the preseason, Brian [Conklin] being injured, Luke [Martin] coming in late, Reuben [Te Rangi] and Morgan [Natanahira] coming in late, it's going to take us time."
The Southland Times