IF SMILES are a yardstick of winning then it'll be hard eclipsing Robyn Broughton.
But Broughton's beamer rapidly metamorphosed to a frown when informed she had created history.
"In what way?," the Haier Central Pulse coach asked after their 47-42 victory over the Southern Steel on Saturday night in Napier.
It was the first win against the Steel in the ANZ Championship for perennial bottom dwellers Pulse, chalking up only their sixth victory since the Transtasman competition began in 2008.
It was also the first time Broughton, on her debut for the Wellington-based franchise, was up against the Steel, who she had coached since the inaugural 2008 season.
"Oh, really," an enlightened Broughton said, that affable smile returning.
She could see the irony in it, too, leaving the Steel at the end of last season controversially when the southern franchise advertised for a coach as part of its succession plan.
For Broughton it was a signal she had overstayed her welcome despite being at the helm of the Sting when they won seven titles in a decade of services and taking the Steel to the play-offs in 2009 and 2010.
Asked if the Steel franchise had erred in letting her go, Broughton replied: "They couldn't have cared less.
"The people could, though," she quickly countered, revealing she had received countless text messages on Saturday morning from people in the Southland wishing her all the best.
"It seems there are still a lot of people down there who are taking a lot of interest in what I'm doing."
Nevertheless, Broughton emphasised the Pulse and the Steel were both new teams who needed to move on.
"Donna, who has played for me with the Sting and the Steel, was my assistant coach so I look at her out there and think, 'You know, you're still the best player'.
"And she is. She's still outstanding," she said of the former Silver Fern, who had for a few years switched to basketball after publicly objecting to the inclusion of then South African Irene van Dyk's selection as a New Zealand international.
Broughton said the Pulse still had a long way to go despite flashes of brilliance - such as when goal attack Paula Griffin, thinking quickly on her feet early in the second quarter, bounced the ball off the goal post from outside the base line before re-gathering to draw a foul from goal defence Sheryl Scanlan.
"Mentally they kept cool heads and they were doing some patient things towards the end.
"It might not look spectacular but it'll win you the game."
Broughton expects her troops to graduate to players who should mind their own business in fulfilling their individual roles.
"We also need to feed into the circle much more."
Cutting out the unforced errors, she said, was also vital as a nine-goal lead was reduced to five from coughing up possession.
The Steel, Broughton pointed out, had depth and experience with a rash of former and current internationals and age-group representatives.
While her under-21 internationals were not of the calibre that Steel boasted, Broughton singled out defenders captain Katrina Grant, fellow Silver Fern Joline Henry, under-21 Kiwi international Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Victoria Smith coming off the bench as a back-up.
"You've got [Camilla] Milla Lees playing through the centre who could be a very good player," she said, emphasising the need to add more punch in the attacking circle.
"We need to put it together where they are working mechanically and clinically with each other because it's a waste of time giving the ball to the opposition down there."
Steel co-coach Natalie Avellino said it wasn't part of the Steel's plan to contribute to the Pulse's historic victory.
"We're very disappointed with our performance. The Pulse came out a lot harder and a lot tougher.
"They were quite physical out there and we just didn't adjust to their style of game," Avellino lamented.
She didn't want to read too much into the defeat or the commotion surrounding the coaching changes.
"A position became available in Dunedin and I applied for a job and for Robyn an opportunity came up somewhere else.
"From the outside, a lot of people are probably thinking that [Broughton should have been retained as coach] but from the inside that doesn't even come into it," the Australian said, adding her substitutions and switches weren't a series of knee-jerk reactions.
Bringing Storm Purvis at goalkeep and sending Scanlan to the bench were pencilled in for halftime, while the other major change was to find more flow on the court.
Hayley Saunders came off the bench to wing defence, prompting Phillipa Finch to take the centre bib off Shannon Francois, who became the sacrificial lamb for a stagnant mid-court.
"We weren't panicking or anything like that. We just didn't think the connections were working as smoothly as we first thought," said Avellino, who is at the coaching helm with former Otago Rebels coach Janine Southby.
The other shuffle involved bib swapping between goal shoot Donna Wilkins and goal attack Jodi Brown, who struggled in the first half.
If anything, the Steel relied too much on Wilkins and often chose to bypass captain Brown in the circle but Avellino didn't agree, feeling the Pulse put too much pressure on their shooters.
"Last time we measured up but this week they were more one-on-one in our face so we didn't score and we didn't get the rebounds," she said, although she added they would assess individual performances to boost the communal effort.
"We have to work on a lot before our next game," Avellino said before travelling to Christchurch on Sunday to play Canterbury Tactix in the third round.
Former Australian international Demelza McCloud echoed Avellino's disappointment, claiming their first-half energy had dissipated although they were guilty of not treasuring the ball.
"The Pulse were hungrier on their home court so we're really disappointed because we didn't do our colours proud.
"They were everywhere and wanted every single ball and they were urgent in their work.
"We were kind of on the back foot a bit and didn't chase down the loose balls to put ourselves in the contest."
McCloud predicted some soul searching before their next game.
"It's something we have to take back and honestly have to say, 'Did we actually play or were we just floating through', so we've got lots more to offer," said the former Canterbury Tactix player.
Central Pulse first:
Result: Central Pulse 47 Southern Steel 42
Q1: 12-10. Q2: 25-20 (13-10). Q3: 39-33 (14-13). Q4: 47-42 (8-9).
Offensive rebounds: 3/3.
Defensive rebounds: 6/4.
Contact penalties: 50/40.
Obstruction penalties: 25/17.
Bad hands: 8/6.
Bad passes: 7/3.
Pulse: Caitlin Thwaites 29/32 (91pc), Paula Griffin 18/26 (69pc). Team total 47/58 (81pc).
Steel: Donna Wilkins 29/33 (88pc), Jodi Brown 13/19 (68pc). Team total 42/52 (81pc).