Hawke's Bay Sports Hall of Fame's latest inductee Paul Henare has stepped down as head coach of the Tall Blacks basketball team.
While a Basketball New Zealand press release today wouldn't elaborate on Henare's next move apart from referring to "an exciting opportunity overseas, to be announced later this week", reliable sources have indicated he has an opportunity in Japan. His decision ends a 17-year involvement with the team - nine years as a player, three years as an assistant coach and the last five years at the helm.
Just as he was in his playing days as a point guard Henare, 40, has always been someone clear in his decision making and career path, never hesitating to make what might appear tough decisions if they are right for him, his family and the teams he works with.
"The decision to step down from my role as head coach was in some ways an easy choice, as strange as that may sound. Over the last few years my family have had to follow me around the country as we would pack and unpack moving from job to job," father-of-four Henare said in the press release.
"Time that I did have between seasons was snapped up by Tall Blacks commitments. Having one job now allows me to focus more on my family and gives me some much-needed time as a father and a husband."
Henare's decision was helped by the current state of the team, with the Tall Blacks enjoying a superb World Cup qualifying campaign and tournament in China and despite not progressing from pool play they have jumped to 24 in the world rankings and secured a place at the 2020 Olympic Repechage tournament.
"The Tall Blacks and basketball in New Zealand are in a great place. I leave this role knowing that the foundations of this team that have been built over many years are as strong as ever. The talent coming through means our future is bright and with the talented coaches we have here in New Zealand means they are getting the guidance and appropriate support they need.
"I want to add that I'm extremely grateful to Iain Potter, Leonard King, and the crew at Basketball New Zealand for enabling me to lead the team that I love. Of course that opportunity not only helped me secure the next opportunity, but also allowed me to be a part of the Tall Blacks. I leave knowing that the programme is in a great position and set to achieve further success."
When reminiscing about his time with the Tall Blacks, Henare said he doesn't reflect on the last five years as the head coach, but instead the 17 years he has been a part of the team as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
"I can only look back at my time with the Tall Blacks and smile. Those lifelong memories and friendships are something to cherish and something I will forever be grateful for."
Basketball New Zealand CEO Iain Potter said it's tough to see Henare go and he looked at how they might be able to keep him in New Zealand, but ultimately pockets need to be deeper to keep a coach of Henare's calibre in New Zealand.
"We would have loved to keep Pauli aboard, but it comes down to the fact that Basketball New Zealand cannot offer a full-time position in this role yet. We will miss Pauli tremendously, his mana with the team and this programme is something to behold. He has led the team superbly during a testing few years as we have headed into new territory as part of Asia," Potter said.
Basketball New Zealand's high performance director, Leonard King, said they will consider options and introduce a new head coach for the February Asia Cup qualifying window and then the Olympic qualifying tournament in June at a yet to be confirmed location.
"I know that Pauli has a deep passion for the Tall Blacks and that he will remain committed and as dedicated as ever to see the team be successful. There are many different elements that are inherent to be a great coach, Pauli displays so many of those attributes and characteristics. I would like to thank Pauli for his leadership, mentorship and friendship. It has been incredibly gratifying to have an opportunity to work with Pauli and we wish him well on all of his new opportunities."
Napier Boys' High School product Henare was inducted into the Hawke's Bay Sports Hall of Fame in May. He was Hawke's Bay's Sportsperson of the Year in 2002 and was a multiple winner of the coach of the year award at both the Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year and Ngati Kahungunu Sportsperson of the Year functions.
Before his Tall Blacks World Cup duties this year Henare coached the Wellington Saints to victory over the Hawke's Bay Hawks in the Christchurch-hosted NBL final.