'Luckiest guy' could do without the fuss

23:23, Jun 03 2012
tdn coach stand
Steve McKean

Steve McKean wanted to make this story as short as possible.

Although he is humbled at being made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, the man known almost universally as "Coach" could do without the fuss.

It has been 41 years since McKean arrived in New Zealand from the United States to take up a contract as player-coach for Auckland basketball club side Panmure. Since then he has orchestrated New Zealand's first win over Australia, shifted to New Plymouth (where his National Basketball League team continually over-achieved), and then moved into sports administration.

The face of secondary school sport in the province, McKean has transformed the organisation into one of the best in the country with a participation rate the envy of most regions. And he's done all that without losing his trademark personality. It's fitting then that McKean should be recognised for services to sport because there would hardly be a sporting personality in New Zealand who he does not know.

Testament to that is the variety of legends whom he has brought to Taranaki to speak to his beloved Coaches' Club.

Think Sir Graham Henry, Ricki Herbert, Andre Lemanis, Barbara Kendall, Yvonne Willering ... the list goes on and on.


Still, McKean has never lost that "buzz" of watching "a special kid" develop.

"There is no better arena to be involved in than secondary school sport," he said.

"There are some people who I am extremely grateful for – Lynn Bublitz, Barry Finch and Jane Gaudin – who got together with the Hillary Commission at the time to appoint a regional sports director and I was very lucky to get the position."

Deflecting praise is nothing new for McKean, who insisted that those who wrote letters of support for his Queen's Birthday honour be thanked.

"The awards that a person gets, he or she wouldn't get that award without some real support around them," he said.

"I've got to be the luckiest guy in the world because I work with 40 different sports clubs in this province and I'm close to every one of them. I've got great sports co-ordinators and work with some great people, none better than [Sport Taranaki chief executive] Howie Tamati.

"These awards are great but I know I wouldn't be getting it without these people."

As for his future, McKean refuses to give any definitive answer on retirement, despite being 68.

As he says, he hasn't done too badly for someone who still does not know how to turn on a computer.

Taranaki Daily News