An Amer­i­can in Porirua

Kris Dando speaks to long-time Pa­pakowhai res­i­dent Bob Bishop about coach­ing the Tall Blacks, life in the mil­i­tary and los­ing 19 straight games.

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

How did you get in­volved in bas­ket­ball?

I lived in Des Moines, Iowa, in the late 1950s and there were all girls in my neigh­bour­hood. The older boys had gone off to col­lege, but there was a bas­ket­ball hoop. I used to play by my­self, imag­ine I was a fa­mous player and re-cre­ate games.

It was all about bas­ket­ball from an early age for me. Ohio State were the na­tional [ col­lege] champs in the late 1950s, and I was en­thralled by them.

High school bas­ket­ball must have been a big in­flu­ence on you?

We had a great bas­ket­ball pro­gramme at high school, but I put in more time man­ag­ing the foot­ball and bas­ket­ball teams while still at school. Our coach, Bob An­der­son, was a ma­jor in the war in Korea. He was the the best man­ager of young people I’ve met and taught me a lot — he de­manded a stan­dard of ex­cel­lence. That was the start of a lot of things for me.

What about school?

I played small for­ward for Cor­nell Col­lege in Iowa and we went un­de­feated among the small col­leges when I was a fresh­man.

What I learnt most play­ing in col­lege was about play­ers hav­ing spe­cific roles and that if ev­ery­one does their role, things will come to­gether.

I took a job with Cor­nell in their ad­mis­sions depart­ment and, as part of the role, got a car through a lo­cal Ford deal­er­ship. I had to choose a sedan or a Mus­tang — life is full of choices!

Then the mil­i­tary came call­ing?

I got drafted in 1968. I was 23. I worked in lin­guis­tics for the mil­i­tary and was based in Cal­i­for­nia. I played bas­ket­ball for my bri­gade. We lost the fi­nal to a team that had four NBA play­ers in it.

Then I was shipped to West Berlin and was based in the old SS head­quar­ters. I’d only been there a day and was told I was go­ing to play for a mil­i­tary team in the Berlin city champs. I even got ex­cused from du­ties for a while! I got my first taste of coach­ing there. It was strange for some­one who wasn’t an of­fi­cer to be boss­ing guys around.

What brought you to New Zealand?

I met my wife, Lynn, while she was trav­el­ling in Ger­many. She was from Palmer­ston North. Af­ter the mil­i­tary I was work­ing in ad­mis­sions for Cor­nell again, but was get­ting more in­ter­ested in biome­chan­ics and sports sci­ence.

One of the top sports sci­en­tists was James G. Hay, a Kiwi work­ing at the Univer­sity of Iowa, and there were other New Zealan­ders in that field as well. I heard of a job go­ing at the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury, so came out in 1979 to teach physics and hu­man phys­i­ol­ogy.



can­celled my Sports Il­lus­trated sub­scrip­tion be­cause I wanted to be com­pletely as­sim­i­lated into the New Zealand cul­ture.

You coached Can­ter­bury Univer­sity and the provin­cial team. Was the bas­ket­ball dif­fer­ent to what you were used to?

While there wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily the nat­u­ral talent here, there was that Kiwi at­ti­tude of hard work that I loved. It’s the same rea­son the USA aren’t go­ing to win at rugby – we don’t play enough, it’s not em­bed­ded in the cul­ture, es­pe­cially among kids. In my first year with the univer­sity team we went 0- 15, but we turned it around. I was named coach of the year in 1980 and started to get no­ticed.

Was there any money in coach­ing?

I would get $15 a game at the provin­cial level and I once got a box of Nel­son fruit for run­ning a coach­ing clinic there. It’s much dif­fer­ent now. Back then you were in it for love.

IAnd you got your shot with the Tall Blacks in 1985?

It was ex­cit­ing. We played a US All Star team and won all five games, but then lost to Aus­tralia in world champs qual­i­fy­ing. Luck- ily the com­pe­ti­tion was ex­panded from 16 to 24 teams, so we got an in­vite. We beat Malaysia and had a real chance to beat the Nether­lands, but had play­ers out be­cause it was played on Sun­day. I coached through to the end of 1987. In that time we had played the teams ranked 1 to 4, 6 and 8 in the world, and the Univer­sity of Las Ve­gas and Pur­due Univer­sity – 19 games and we went 0-19. People said: ‘‘Bob Bishop can’t win.’’

You’ve been in Porirua since 1989?

I came here to be the head of sport and re­cre­ation at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity and bought a house next to the po­lice col­lege. Been here the whole time — we over­look Aotea La­goon and the har­bour. I don’t think I’d want to live any other place. I love this com­mu­nity.

Did you still have na­tional roles in bas­ket­ball af­ter 1987?

I coached for a time at Vic­to­ria and was also part of a plan in the 1990s to de­velop bas­ket­ball in this coun­try. We had a tar­get of the 2000 Olympics in Aus­tralia. Then the stars seemed to align in that dream run at the 2002 world cham­pi­onships.

Tab Bald­win did a fan­tas­tic job that year. I kept out of coach­ing un­til re­cently, when I was asked by Frank Mul­vi­hill if I would work with Porirua coaches.

Have you en­joyed watch­ing Steve Adams with the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der?

He ab­so­lutely landed in the right team to be suc­cess­ful. He has the big men in front of him. There’s no pres­sure to score points when Kevin Du­rant is do­ing it – Steve can just be a rookie. He got clear di­rec­tions on what to do and to his credit he stuck to it.

Who are the best play­ers you saw?

The best player I’ve coached against was Drazen Petro­vic, who played for Yu­goslavia at the worlds in 1986. He had four years in the NBA be­fore he was killed in a car ac­ci­dent. He could do ev­ery­thing. The best I ever saw was Bill Rus­sell from the Bos­ton Celtics. He changed the way the game was played.

In New Zealand, the finest player I coached was Stan Hill – 6ft 10, un­stop­pable in­side, shot 50 per cent from three-point range and could take on the best in the world. He had the big­gest hands you’ve seen, but han­dled the ball like a point guard. Stan could win a game all by him­self and had a very high bas­ket­ball IQ.

And you’re still in­volved here in bas­ket­ball in Porirua, with a hol­i­day pro­gramme this week and next?

I get a buzz from see­ing these kids at Te Rau­paraha Arena [Bishop is a coach men­tor] and when they get out on that court with a ball. I’ll never get sick of that. We have the ath­letic talent in Porirua and the chance to give young people a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and de­velop.

Bishop was made a life mem­ber of New Zealand Bas­ket­ball last month.


Bas­ket­ball royalty: Bob Bishop, Porirua res­i­dent and for­mer Tall Blacks coach.

Leg­end: Bob Bishop says Stan Hill is the best player he coached.

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