Henare takes on new chal­lenge

Anen­dra Singh talks to bas­ket­ball leg­end Paul Henare who has set­tled with his fam­ily in Waipuku­rau

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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.

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