When one door closes, another inevitably opens except Clifton Bush II wasn't expecting it to so soon.

The former HBS Bank Hawk is the new junior development officer for Basketball Hawke's Bay from Monday next week.

He finishes working with the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) today as part of a mass redundancy.

"Eight years ago I applied for the [basketball] job but I didn't get it," says Bush with a laugh, adding he drifted to Palmerston North to play for the Jets that year only to return the following year to have former Hawks coach Shawn Dennis recruit him as a player.


With two children, Maria, 12, and Clifton Bush III, 10, in the Hawke's Bay age-group teams, the senior Bush feels he couldn't have asked for a better transition although he absolutely loved his work in the child services section of the IRD for the past seven years.

"It's the best place I've ever worked but, hopefully, it won't be forever because I have the coaching job now.

"It's a pretty good transition so I might as well do it now," he says after outgoing development officer and ex-Hawk Ben Valentine gave him a heads-up and he spoke to "The Coach" and basketball GM Paul Trass.

A bad boy on the NBL court in his heyday - "I'm 35 if anyone asks but I'm older" - Bush is a gentleman off the court.

"I always left my emotions on the court. I always found I talked a lot more than the other guy."

Bush had a penchant for getting under the skin of his opponents but he was always mindful that while he got a mental edge if they lost their cool, he had to "walk the talk" although they often told him what they thought of him between beers after a high-octane match.

Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the American plied his trade in Iceland - easily the most physical country he's played in.

It was there that an agent asked if he or any of the eight players he lived with wanted to go to New Zealand off-season.

"I had never heard of New Zealand before but when I heard it was English-speaking, I asked him to put my name down."

An affable Bush arrived in Christchurch three days after talks to play for the now defunct Canterbury Rams.

"I had never seen a beach before so they took me down to one [Sumner] and I stood there taking photos and everyone thought I was crazy or something."

He still longs for Christchurch, having made many friends including a couple, Mary and Peter Kaywah, who still run a Chinese restaurant there after the earthquake.

"I still love the place and I've adopted a family there. I call them my mum and dad," he reveals, taken aback that people could be so genuinely nice to others.

His father, the late Clifton Bush the First, remains his major inspiration.

"I'm still trying to live up to him," he says of his father who won a scholarship to play basketball at the age of 19, but met his mother, Christine Long, and they had children so that became a priority.

Having attended a few camps of former NBA star Sidney Moncreif in Arkansas as a kid in the 1980s, Bush always wanted to be like his idol but couldn't emulate him.

"I changed a little from the way I played in the gym or in the pick-up game."

It was an eye-for-eye mentality when he was coming out.

"Sidney was the man although other stars like Scottie Pippen also came from Arkansas later."

For Bush, giving back something to the kids now and watching them flash that smile of success are priceless.