Andrej Lemanis has bid an emotional farewell to his eight-season, three-title reign at the NZ Breakers.
The 44-year-old has this morning been confirmed as the new coach of the Australian men's basketball team.
Under Lemanis, the Breakers won the last three Australian national league titles, and they will now be gunning for a four-peat without him. Assistant coach Dean Vickerman is expected to be named the next head coach in the coming days.
Lemanis has signed on as the Boomers coach through to the 2016 Olympics and as part of the new full-time role, he will also become head of the men's programme at the Basketball Australia National Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
A visibly emotional Lemanis took time to reflect on what he and the club have achieved at a press conference this morning.
"I am honoured and humbled to be given the opportunity by Basketball Australia to lead the Boomers programme through this next Olympic cycle," said Lemanis.
"To coach the national team of my home country is the greatest honour I can have as a coach. I leave the Breakers with a heavy heart. I am extremely proud of what we have been able to build here together over the past eight years and take comfort in knowing that the club is in a better position now than when I arrived.
"We have proven time and again that the club is bigger than any one person - and so it is with me. The great people involved in the club combined with the investment the club has made in the development of our young players will ensure the club continues on its current successful path both on and off the court.
"Thank you for all of the positive support I have received from the public over the last few weeks wishing me well. You are a special group – I ask that you continue to enjoy the ride with the Breakers – it is a unique club and one you should fell great being a part of.”
Lemanis gave special thanks to owners Paul and Liz Blackwell, as well as the players and staff he had worked with during his tenure.
The Breakers have always openly supported players striving to reach the NBA and similarly supported Lemanis in his goal to coach the Boomers.
“Andrej has been an integral part of the development of the Breakers, not just as head coach but as part of the leadership team that has driven the strategic direction of the club and created what has become the Breakers environment and philosophy," said Paul and Liz Blackwell.
"We are sad to see him go as we value him greatly as a person and a friend, but he leaves with our best wishes and will always be part of the Breakers family – we would not be the club we are today without Andrej’s contribution.”
General manager Richard Clarke said the club had started the process of replacing Lemanis and had interviewed Vickerman on his vision and approach to the role. Clarke said at this stage it was a "one-candidate process".
Lemanis served as an assistant coach to former Boomers head coach Brett Brown at the 2010 world championship and 2012 London Olympic Games, and said the national team was in a good position because of Brown.
"We have a core group of players who are all committed to the programme and are excited about the future," Lemanis said of his new team.
"It is an exciting time for Australian basketball as we start to change the elite development landscape. I look forward to working with all the passionate people involved with basketball to achieve a programme all Australians can be proud of."
Prior to his time in Auckland, where he took the Breakers from table cellar-dwellers to three-time champions and to what Basketball Australia said was the "envy of the league", Lemanis served as an assistant coach with the Townsville Crocodiles for seven seasons, starting in 1998.
Lemanis will work out one month notice with the Breakers and assist in a handover to the new head coach before commencing his role with Basketball Australia.
- © Fairfax NZ News