Last November Augusta MountainAirs announced that the current Tall Blacks Assistant Coach will be taking over the coaching reigns in Taranaki.
Ross McMains returned to New Zealand in January, fresh from his two year stint as Assistant Coach for the Reno Bighorns in the NBA's D-League. Prior to that he was the Player Development Coach for the Sacramento Kings. Ross says he's split his time so far at about 50/50 between New Zealand and the States, but he views himself as a Kiwi because he grew up here in Waiheke Island where he spent his youth playing, dreaming and thinking basketball.
"Coaching with the Tall Blacks has been a dream of mine since I was 11 years old, so it has been an awesome opportunity to spend some more time on Kiwi soil working with Kiwi players. Now taking the job in Taranaki it has me here in New Zealand, for half the year, the longest I've been back since 2007," he says.
Ross was born in New Hampshire in the USA, but his early childhood memories are from New Zealand. Ross remembers taking the boat to school every day to Kadimah College. Ross says that he probably carried a basketball on every one of those trips.
"Basketball has been most of my life since four years old. I think NBA.com has been my homepage since six years old. My secret claim to fame is that I may have made the first basketball shot in the world of the new millennium back in 1999 heading into the year 2000. While others were partying or preparing for Y2K, I was outside in the dark with my watch illuminated, waiting for the clock to hit midnight so I could find my piece of unique basketball history."
Ross returned to the States at age 11 when his family moved to Santa Barbara. There he went to Santa Barbara High School. He says it was during that time that he really got into coaching. After high school Ross returned to New Zealand again. He managed to get some work with the Breakers in 2007, while also playing for Kelston Boys.
"With the Breakers I found my first great example of how a pro organization should be run. I was surrounded by awesome coaching models in Andrej Lemanis, Dean Vickerman, and Judd Flavell."
About a year later Ross returned to the USA where his CV continue to fill up with impressive experience. He started in player development, working with a mix of pro players in Los Angeles. That led to an opportunity to work with players in Latvia, France, and China. Ross also ran NBA Pre-Draft Preparation for two years in Santa Barbara, while also running off-season workouts for a selection of NBA and international players. Along the way he spent some time at university in Rome and was exposed to European basketball. Then, in 2012 Ross secured a role as the Player Development Coach for the Sacramento Kings. The Assistant Coach role with the Reno Bighorns soon followed in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
With all this experience behind the young coach, Ross says his advice for younger people who are considering coaching is based around dedication.
"My advice is you must be extremely passionate about it. Coaching is a 24/7 job if you want to be great at it. You also have to be a major information seeker, enjoy dealing with all sorts of different personalities, and have an ego-less approach to coaching a team or individuals. I am pretty paranoid about keeping up with and staying ahead of the trends of basketball around the world, I think to stay competitive as a coach you must be curious and creative."
McMain's next entry in his CV will be from his time in New Plymouth with the Mountain Airs. "I am simply excited to get to work. Get to work on the court with the players and all around the community. I am excited to impact basketball in New Zealand at a grassroots level, not only making major gains within our team, but also hopefully bringing some new stuff to the whole region for young basketball players in the area. There are a great group of players, coaches and management down in the Taranaki area, that love the game of basketball, so I am humbled to have the opportunity to work there with great people."
When asked if he brought a different coaching style for Kiwi teams compared to coaching players in the States, Ross gave a real insight into his style of coaching anyone.
"There's no difference between coaching the two," he said. "All players are different."
Yet putting McMains coaching style in a box isn't straight forward.
"I would have a hard time categorizing my coaching style. You would be better suited to ask my players, and I would imagine you would get a variety of responses."
But it's clear that McMains puts a lot of value in being detail-oriented, a teacher, and a very positive and energetic leader.
"I want to continue to improve myself as a coach and everyone that I have the privilege to coach along the way. I want to coach winning teams in great organizations with great people."
Looking further into the 2016 season, the Tall Blacks have a big challenge on their hands with the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in the Philippines. Ross says that the Tall Blacks' culture is one of a kind and he cherishes his time whenever the team is in camp.
"Paul Henare is an awesome coach to work for. It is a privilege to be on his staff. We have a great group of coaches, with Pauli, PC, Juddy, and myself. Those guys are hilarious, a lot of fun, and some really smart basketball minds and tireless workers. Pauli does an awesome job of using his staff and letting us contribute everything we have to offer. We all wear many hats impacting the team offensively, defensively, and with player development.
"The Tall Blacks culture is an awesome thing to be a part of. To be playing for our country, getting to represent New Zealand and the Black Singlet brings another level of passion and commitment that I think is hard to find in any professional basketball situation. It is a selfless group, doing whatever it takes to win and willing to sacrifice for one another, and fight for each other every single moment. Kiwi basketball players are some of the toughest if not the toughest basketball players in the world. Steven Adams shows that every night in the NBA, and between PC, Pauli and Judd, those are some of the toughest players to play the game that now lead the way as coaches. We are a defence-focused unit, refusing to give up easy baskets, and offensively play smart, making reads as a team to out-execute the competition."
The big challenge for the Tall Blacks this year is something that Ross says the team is looking forward to, not one to be concerned about.
"The OQT is an awesome opportunity for us. I like our group, we will be up against some great teams, and we are all excited for the challenge, and ready to get started on making a run to Rio. We have a very deep talent pool right now in New Zealand, and it will be fun seeing some of that talent on display leading up to Tall Blacks camp in the NZNBL."
When asked about what Ross does outside of basketball, he laughs and says "Basketball is life!" He adds that he rarely gets to step away from it, but he has a strong appreciation for the opportunities provided through the game including the experiences of travelling to new places. That said, it's clear that New Zealand has a strong hold on this traveler. "Any chance I can get back to Waiheke Island to relax and be around nothing but beauty is always a priority," says McMains.