Wellington Saints CEO Nick Mills contemplating going out on a high after 10th title

The Wellington Saints celebrate their 10th National Basketball League title with chairman Justin Toebes (centre).
JOHN COWPLAND/PHOTOSPORT

The Wellington Saints celebrate their 10th National Basketball League title with chairman Justin Toebes (centre).

Perfect season, perfect end?

That was the question keeping Nick Mills awake on Saturday night after the Wellington Saints went 20-0 to capture their 10th National Basketball League title.

Aside from a decade-long hiatus in the 1990s, Mills has been the figurehead of the Saints since 1982, with his sons, Nick Jr and Jordan, helping run the team for their last five titles since 2010.

Wellington Saints chief executive Nick Mills could be about to end his 35-year association with the team.
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Wellington Saints chief executive Nick Mills could be about to end his 35-year association with the team.

But with both the time and monetary investment required to stay on top continually increasing, it's left Mills Sr contemplating the future. 

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"As a family we put thousands and thousands of personal dollars into this club and, you know, when does it end?

"I did wake up several times last night asking myself that same question, but really as much as the attention is on me it's really a family decision. Obviously I'm the spokesperson and the father of the family, but it's one in, all in for us. We need to work out as a family where we go and what we do. 

"I want to sit down and talk to my family, talk to [general manager] Fran [Scholey], talk to [coach] Kevin [Braswell], and then we'll make that decision.

"I would say at best it's 60-40 in favour of giving it away, maybe 50-50, but sooner or later there will be someone better, fitter and stronger than me to take it on and that's the person we're looking for."

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Such was Mills' desire to have some time after the season to think about these issues, as of Monday at 4pm no-one has a Saints contract. No players on the books for next year. Not even two-time title-winning coach Braswell.

But it's also not the first time Mills has thrown out the possibility of giving it away, only to come back for another crack at it.

It's just that this year everything has fallen into place so well, as the team became the first team to go undefeated and win the title, that it would seem fitting if it ended here.

It sure is a long way from the first Saints' first season.

"I remember thinking about in '83 when we first went into the league we had 15 losses in a row and things weren't looking that good. I remember people taking the mickey out of us and I remember saying to myself one day we'll beat everyone, we'll win the whole thing undefeated. 

"It brought a tear to my eye when I really thought about it, after 35 years we've achieved that. Personally it was a monumental thing."

As Saturday's final - which the Saints won 108-75 against the Southland Sharks - came to a close, Mills couldn't help but take it all in.

"I was looking at Nick and seeing the joy on his face and thinking to myself how lucky a person I am to have my two sons and my wife sitting around all watching the game. [Long-time chairman] Justin Toebes was still there and watching with his wife and we're making history and we're all there together, the people that mattered. That was special."

If this is goodbye for Mills, then he's earned every accolade coming his way.

While some might not have agreed with his style over the years, his team's have always set the standard in the NBL and to do that for such a long period of time is a credit to the man.

 - Stuff

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