Henare takes on new challenge
Anendra Singh talks to basketball legend Paul Henare who has settled with his family in Waipukurau
Henare says there’s only one professional job in New Zealand, the Breakers plying their trade in the Australian National Basketball League (ANBL), but he’s not in that equation any more and has had no choice but to put his feelers out elsewhere.
“You know, I’m a little bit nervous and a little bit excited about where that might be although I don’t know where,” he says after helping launch the ABC programme which is part of the Paul Henare & Paora Winitana Hawke’s Bay Basketball Academy established in 2012.
Henare says he wasn’t on the same songsheet as the new Breakers ownership, which former NBA player Matt Walsh fronts. Tall Blacks skipper Mika Vukona also left the franchise with the likes of Rob Loe, while centre Alex Pledger was released.
“The new owners came in and there was always going to be a change so it’s their money and they can do what they want, really,” says Henare when asked if he was offered a contract.
“Maybe I just jumped the gun and it was coming but for me there wasn’t anything happening anytime soon so, with my gut feelings with whatever was going on, I made the decision to leave.”
He said a contract wasn't on the table although he was offered a one-year extension last December before the ownership changed hands.
Henare says time will tell how the Breakers will fare under the tutelage of new Breakers mentor Kevin Braswell because the pre-season blitz can be a warped yardstick of what is good or bad about a
team. “It can be short and yet become so long once you get involved in the intensity of the season.”
It pleases him to see six Kiwis plying their trade in the ANBL — two each in Brisbane, Cairns and Melbourne.
“It’s great for New Zealand basketball for having the Breakers for those guys to play there.”
The former Napier Boys’ High School pupil isn’t an advocate of the cream of Kiwi basketball flying the Breakers flag but simply players having a chance to carve a niche anywhere in the ANBL.
“Fingers crossed” for another stint, he believes Europe may be a little far off but he’s hoping the recent exposure through Asia with the good reputation of the Tall Blacks will put him in good stead for potential career openings in the United States or clubs in Australia.
“There’s always things out there but the opportunities are so limited. I’m a big believer in over time what will be, will be and that everything happens for a reason.”
Henare hastens to add that doesn’t mean he’s simply sitting on his laurels waiting for something to happen.
At the ABC launching, he revealed how a quote from a Phil Jackson book resonated with him when he picked it up a month ago while touring with the Tall Blacks and New Zealand Development side during the Fiba World Cup qualifiers.
“The most important thing about basketball, isn’t basketball,” he says, paraphrasing Jackson, an 11-time NBA championship-winning player, coach and executive.
It had dawned on Henare, as a mentor trying to establish a better rapport with squad, where the players are coming from and where their journey is taking them to.
“[I learned] a little bit about their life stories and how to communicate with them,” he says although he had not disclosed to them the contents of the book.
“It made me sort of realise that the basketball side of things is the easy part,” he says, finding it more a challenge to connect with people in trying to bring the best out of them.
He was compelled to share that desire with Winitana. “That is the most important thing about our academy and the ABC programme. It’s not the basketball.”
A worn out phrase at the academy is using basketball to drive home some life-defining messages to enhance the lives of a community or families or a child to embrace better habits to garnish their lives in school or at home.
Born and bred in the Bay, Henare says he and Winitana have come across countless courtsavvy players in their illustrious basketball careers who have slipped through the cracks for myriad reasons.
“They were talented as any other guys I ended up playing with in my professional career but, for whatever reason, they didn’t have the whanau or financial support or mentorship and guidance to just make that left turn, instead of the right one.”
The former Taylor Corporation Hawks coach and captain says that is common thread in not just basketball but any walk of life.
“It’s one of the responsibilities that Paora and I take on with everyone else we have involved in the academy — that we can have a positive influence in people’s lives. If it’s one, 10, 100 or a thousand then, hopefully, everybody will be in a better place for it.”
Henare says while he has helped Winitana get the academy off the ground, he has had to embark on a career outside the province for several years so the board and backers have played an integral part in its longevity.
“We love it and Hawke’s Bay is part of what we’re passionate about but we understand there’s a good chance that we could bugger off if a job comes along. I’ve got to do what’s best for my family and it’s the same for Paora because his kids are growing up and will start spreading their wings so the two of us might not be around but, we hope that everything we’ve done and the people we’ve worked with have put the academy in a place to keep carrying on.”
Paul Henare pictured in his role as Tall Blacks head coach during the Tall Blacks vs Lebanon basketball World Cup qualifying match at the Rotorua Event Centre in Rotorua on September 17.