Paora Winitana says he always aspired to become a coach but that role has come much sooner than anticipated.
The Hawks franchise yesterday dumped new coach Liam Flynn and replaced him with co-skipper Winitana as player/coach.
"I've had the awesome support of players," the 38-year-old said last night, revealing the players had a heart-felt meeting on finding out on Wednesday that Flynn was losing his perch.
"Everyone in the team spoke up and they'll fight for me and alongside me."
While he had not officially been appointed to a coaching position in NBL, Winitana said it was a given for all players to assume that mantle considering it was something elite coaches such as Tab Baldwin and Shawn Dennis had encouraged in their tenure.
"Captain, player or coach, this is where I want to be right now for a long time.
"I want to be helping, leading, identifying and scouting for a while now."
Furthermore, he had sounded out Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare and Waitakere Rangers player/assistant coach Dillon Boucher before accepting the position here.
"Paulie's my best friend and brother but as a mentor he told me straight up what I'll need to be if I take the job. I also spoke with Boucher for a long time."
However, Winitana said it was imperative for the region to get behind him and the team to overcome their hurdles.
"Everyone knows I'm Hawke's Bay through and through," said the small forward, impressing passion was vital in achieving goals. "We have to feel right and bleed black and white so I'm looking forward to it."
He said Theo Tait, who stepped down as co-assistant coach three weeks ago had "a lot on his plate so the best decision was for him to step aside".
Winitana said in his two-decade career, coaches had impressed the need to be coaching to acquire a better mental game.
He had filled that role when his mentors were fulfilling sponsorship obligations or was unavailable for whatever reasons, so the Hawks stint was a natural progression from that.
"I feel competent and confident enough at this level.
"For me it's about applying passion back into the black jersey," he said, urging the crowds to return for their remaining home games at the Pettigrew-Green Arena in Taradale.
Winitana said Flynn was a "great coach" but was not the "best fit" for this season's roster.
"He's a great dude and someone I'd known from before so I give him my best regards," he said, adding Flynn was a professional and would find another coaching stint.