As reported by Melbourne United this morning, MBO Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare has accepted a coaching position with Melbourne United in the ANBL, one that will allow him to continue in his role with the national men’s team as they progress towards qualification for the FIBA World Cup in 2019 and beyond that, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Henare says the call came out of the blue, with the position opening at short notice to work alongside Dean Vickerman, in a role that reprises their days working together at the Breakers.

“It was kind of out of nowhere, I wasn’t looking for anything else, but it has come up. There are two things to this, one it came from Deano who I am close friend with and had a good working relationship with at the Breakers. But also, this is a chance to go into a good organisation that projects a real professionalism and won a championship last year, and I am curious to see how they operate as a club. It is a random but really cool opportunity.”

Henare says any new role had to allow him the time and focus to continue with the Tall Blacks, something he would not budge on.

“I have been through this a couple of times in regards looking at other opportunities outside of the Tall Blacks. First and foremost, I am always upfront about my responsibilities and commitments with the Tall Blacks and if it fits great, but if not then it was not meant to be.

“The first thing that Deano said was we understand your commitments to Tall Blacks and want you to continue doing that, once that was clear we were able to talk some more and reach an agreement.”

Basketball New Zealand CEO Iain Potter says Henare takes up the role with the blessing of the organisation.

“Paul has kept us informed throughout the process and we wish him well in the new role. It is one that will complement his work as MBO Tall Blacks Head Coach and allow him the necessary time to plan and be available for all the FIBA qualifying windows.

“This is in effect the best for all involved, for Paul this means he is constantly at the coal face and staying at the forefront of coaching, as well as keeping close tabs on many of the Tall Blacks as they play in the ANBL, while he maintains his strong Tall Blacks focus around the FIBA World Cup windows.

“Equally though these past few months have been great, having Paul working in the community and with our age group programmes, I know his presence there has been hugely appreciated by everyone that has had the chance to work with him or just rub shoulders with our national men’s coach.”

Henare says that while he has enjoyed the past few months, with more family time back in the Hawke’s Bay, thoughts of a return to full time coaching has him excited for the next chapter in his career.

“This break has been good for me and for the family. It wasn’t until I was sitting at the Cairns Brisbane game watching from the stands and the competitive juices started to flow. Seeing the teams compete and the coaches play their chess match I realized how much I miss that day to day work. This is a really good opportunity to be in a high-performance environment for five months, it will be beneficial to me as a coach but also to the Tall Blacks.”

Henare dismisses any concerns about adapting to an assistant role, after leading the Breakers and the national team in recent years.

“Everyone has an ego but for me I am just fulfilling a role. I really respect Deano as a person and a coach, I have a responsibility to help him and help the team succeed. I am more than happy to be in that role and be in an environment where I know I can learn as well, so for me I see it as a step up.”

Henare emphasized he sees this as a win-win, with benefits for the Tall Blacks programme.

“I will learn how the organisation works, how the team works, some new things from Deano and also to be that much closer to all the Tall Blacks playing in the NBL. I will be able to track them even more closely than I would have been able to do from home and from the TV screen.”

Paul Henare leaves for his new role tonight and is available for media interview and comment at Auckland Domestic Airport before he transits to his international flight.