John Dybvig: motormouth, smart-alec, in-your-face American.

That's the basketball bad guy who put the sport on the map here when he arrived from California 31 years ago.

The newly minted Dybvig is 62, a house-proud St Heliers dad just back from taking his two young kids to school. At 9.30am, he's set the fireplace and cleaned the bench. Vacuuming and washing are on the to-do list. He still does LOUD, but with a handbrake.

So how did Dybvig go mellow? What happened to the alpha dog?

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The first answer is not so much a mid-life crisis as a medical emergency. He woke in the middle of the night with a belly full of Chinese takeaways and "a rhinoceros horning into my ribs", as he puts it in his account of his transformation, The Two of Me.

Gallstones were causing the acute pain, forcing the big tough Yank to his knees and then to hospital. Before surgeons dug them out, Dybvig got a little reflective.

"I got really scared that my mother would get a call that I hadn't made it," he recalls. "That really shook me. Absolutely nobody knew I was in the hospital. I just thought well, you know, there's got to be something more than this. I was doing Sky, I was well known in public but I just felt there was no foundation there."

He laid off the booze and cleaned up his lifestyle, a message he wants his book to carry. Then, for the third time, he married. Dybvig was 48; Jennifer, a New Zealander, was 34. She convinced him to stay home when their children, Sam and Lily, arrived.

"I actually just assumed that she would be the housewife. She said 'Let's look at this. I'm younger than you. I'd rather keep my job'."

For once in his life Dybvig listened.

"I don't think my story is that different from a squillion other guys. You know, the things I've done, hanging it out there, drinking too much, running around ... Some might think at that age it's too late to start again ... well, it's not."

He's not a wowser, he says, just doesn't do "half a bottle of Jack Daniels at a hit". Basketball is no longer front and centre of his life, though he admits he can't shed the game entirely: "It brought me here and put me on the map."

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He's coach of his 11-year-old son's team, and still makes enough noise to attract sideways glances.

"I enjoy doing it but I have to constantly police myself. I've already had basketball people saying 'You're very loud, you're very aggressive, you're very competitive'. I say yeah, so? That's all part of sport."

He tells his children "I'm a nutter when it comes to this," before Jennifer intervenes and reminds him to calm down a bit.

His philosophy is blunt: "I'm one of the last of the dinosaurs who doesn't bull**** people. I'm going to get more excited than you think I should. I'm going to play it hard to try and win then after that we'll let it go because there's always another game."

Off-court, Dybvig, whose movie credits include Peter Jackson's King Kong, pulls the odd role in commercials, does voice coaching - actors playing Americans learn accents from him - and wallows in his love for his homeland in a weekly chat with Graeme Hill on RadioLive.

Family have replaced sport in the Dybvig universe. The house-husband devotes a chunk of the book - his sixth - to domestic life.

One revealing chapter details Jennifer's battle with breast cancer, and who, after surgery and chemotherapy, is "doing great".

* The Two of Me How New Zealand's Loudest Man Eventually Found His True Self - By John Dybvig ( $29.99, Hurricane Press).