IF THERE'S one thing Liam Flynn has learned in sport, you can never say never.
When coach Flynn bid Nelson Giants farewell at the end of the last Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL) season, he thought he had concluded a chapter in this country and opened another exciting one in Europe.
"I had a really good situation in Germany but, when my agent called to say this job was up, it tweaked the interest a little bit," says the 35-year-old from Brisbane who is, ironically, at the helm of the IMS Payroll Hawks when they tip off against the Giants at the Pettigrew-Green Arena at 7pm in Napier today.
Flynn was enjoying his second season as assistant coach of Giesson 46ers, who are second on the table of the second-tier Bundesliga.
"I had every intention of staying in Giessen for the full season," he says, with Giants assistant coach Tim Fanning itching to take over in the NBL.
Flynn sees the professionalism of the Hawks franchise as "right up there" as he, ironically, prepares for his first game in Napier against the Giants today.
It didn't take much to convince the former Townsville Crocodiles and Adelaide 36ers assistant coach the Bay was worth it.
"It's a beautiful part of the world. I really admired the way the team played last year," he says.
A team-orientated, unselfish constitution of the Tab Baldwin-coached Hawks struck a chord with Flynn.
"They were tough, physical, so a lot of attributes I admire as a coach the team played with.
"I think it's very professional club with high expectations and I like that.
"It's got the resources to meet that expectation."
While there are other NBL clubs who have more leeway with their payrolls, he believes the Hawks have the talent and roster to compete with anyone.
"The only reason I returned to this club was that I knew they had the chance to win it," says Flynn, of the Bay franchise who have won the NBL title only once, in 2006, under former Australian coach Shawn Dennis, who is now plying his trade in the ANBL.
He feels a healthy dose of luck is vital to lift the crown for the second time, looking at the other talented NBL teams.
"We have to focus on our processes and how we're playing so that, on our day, we can beat anyone."
While, on a single elimination game, a team would have to be at its best on the day, he feels the Hawks have all the qualities to do the job.
Securing a good roster is equally essential, something Flynn attributes to Baldwin, who quit to become Philippines national coach last year.
The core is centred around co-captains Paora Winitana and Jarrod Kenny, as well as Darryl Jones, Anamata Haku and Marco Alexander, who were instrumental in the Hawks finishing as losing finalists to the Wellington Saints last year.
The Pero Cameron-coached Saints beat Taranaki Mountainairs 102-93 in New Plymouth on Wednesday.
The Hawks host the Saints at the PG Arena next Friday.
All Flynn needed to do this year was add size and athleticism to his roster and he has fulfilled that through new US imports Zac Atkinson and Suleiman Braimoh.
"No question, it's a tough league with some talented teams, but we like our roster."
Atkinson, of North Carolina, led the NBL in shot blocking two years ago, averaging 14 rebounds a game.
"He's also an excellent catch-and-finish guy around the hoop so he's going to be our anchor at the No5 spot.
"He's probably the most athletic player I've ever coached. He's six foot nine, long arms and jumped out of the gym," says Flynn of the former Taranaki import.
Braimoh was the NBL's most outstanding forward last season.
"Su is an extremely talented offensive player as well, so last year he averaged 25 points a game and 12 rebounds - both guys have had double-figure rebounds," Flynn says.
The Hawks came up shy in two successive seasons when the opposition pulled out their knuckle dusters in the playoffs, an affliction Flynn also encountered with the Giants.
"We did the best we could and we were smaller," he says, believing they struggled to protect the rim and score from there at key moments.
Consequently that's where Atkinson and Braimoh come into the equation this winter.
Former US imports Kareem Johnson and Dustin Scott were great guys who fit into the culture.
"It was definitely a basketball thing with Kareem because I wanted someone a little more athletic and younger.
"It's no slight on him because he's been a fantastic player for this club and this league but we were going in a different direction so I wish him all the best in Wellington.
"Dustin was very happy to have him back because, I think, he was extremely talented last year but, due to personal reasons, he couldn't come," he says.
Flynn's style embraces a gritty work ethic and claustrophobic defence, on the platform of scouting teams well before restricting them to low scores.
He brings a "flamboyant" European attacking play with a "pick-and-roll" approach.
"They'll see contrasting things like a gritty team on the defensive end but we'll make the extra pass and will be unselfish on the offensive end."
He will maintain Baldwin's full-court Northern Hemisphere-style of play.
"We get off the floor. We like to make the opposition feel uncomfortable so we don't want them to be able to walk the ball up the floor and get organised in set offences."
Flynn urges Hawks fans to support them this season on the promise of some exciting basketball and building on last season's success.