Taylor Hawks coach Jacob Chance could lead his team to its second National Basketball League title just two weeks after arriving in the country.
The Australian got to Napier on the morning of the Hawks' penultimate regular-season game last Saturday and has been busy fine-tuning his squad for the Final Four on Thursday and Friday in Porirua.
Chance has had a distance-coaching role while completing commitments as assistant coach of the Perth Wildcats in the Australian NBL, which had been delayed amid the effects of the global pandemic.
"It's been a whirlwind," Chance said of his time on the ground in Hawke's Bay having coached the team from afar all season.
"I came straight from the airport, straight to a shoot-around and I'd only been here 20 minutes, but it felt like I'd been there three months."
That familiarity comes down to the previous connections Chance had with players like Rhys Vague, Jarrod Kenny, Devondrick Walker and Jordan Hunt, as well as the work the group accomplished during his physical absence for the duration of the Australian league.
"I think if Covid showed us anything, the chance to connect remotely is pretty powerful these days, the tools you've got," he said.
"The connection within the group is strong."
If the Hawks can fully coalesce and hit their ceiling on both ends of the court this week, their loaded roster should see them hang another championship banner in Pettigrew Green Arena next to the one from 2006.
"We're proud of the fact that we're the deepest team in the league," Chance said.
"We back ourselves in that any five guys at any given time can go out there and produce for us ... that's going to be a big weapon for us coming up this week."
A second-place finish in the regular season means the Hawks will play the Southland Sharks in the second semifinal, at 8pm on Thursday, with a place in Friday's final against either the Wellington Saints or Auckland Huskies up for grabs.
Hawke's Bay recorded double-digit victories at home and away against the Sharks earlier in the year, however, both sides ended up with 13 wins from their 18 games.
Chance said Southland will probably look to muck things up on the defensive end – a hallmark of their veteran coach Rob Beveridge's career on the other side of the Tasman, especially in one-off games.
"It's all designed to break a bit of rhythm and just try and take you out of your flow," Chance said.
"We can't get bogged down and have got to make sure we're finding our way through that stuff and still keep generating the shots and the looks that we want."