They came from diverse sporting backgrounds but Keith Price and Chris McIvor are finding immense satisfaction and returns from basketball in Hawke's Bay.
Price, who is has played and coached up to HB development rugby since arriving here from his childhood days in Gisborne, is delighted with how the Taylor Corporation Hawks have already booked a Final Four berth in Christchurch next weekend.
"I like youth and sport because it's the old saying of play sport and stay out of court, which is a great thing" says the chairman of the five-member franchise board before the Zico Coronel-coached Hawks tip off at 7pm against the Canterbury Rams in their last National Basketball League (NBL) game in Napier tonight. The televised match will be an ideal dress rehearsal at the Pettigrew-Green Arena and the last time the Hawks faithful will see their team unless they travel to Horncastle Arena for the semifinals.
How much the mentors will want to unveil tonight is anyone's guess but there'll be some cat-and-mouse affair. For the third-placed Hawks, who have lost on the road to the second-placed Rams when they were still building and massaging their squad, it's whether US import small forward EJ Singler will return from a back injury hiatus.
Winning tonight or against the Huskies in Tasmania in the final match on Saturday won't change their match-up against the Rams because leaders Wellington Saints have been crowned premiership champions and play the Southland Sharks in the second semifinal.
The 65-year-old Napier City councillor, who runs the show with wife Amy, a Karamu High schoolteacher, became a member of the Basketball New Zealand board 18 months and only assumed the mantle of Bay board chairman four months ago when patron Colin Francis had approached him over a cup of coffee.
"He asked me if I would chair it to keep it alive," he says of Francis, a former Hawke's Bay Rugby Union board member. The franchise "belongs to the province", with Kevin Atkinson as its only other patron.
However, Price says it wasn't a stroll across the court when he took over the board four years ago although people love watching a winning team.
"In the first year we had no wins but we stayed in the league and then the next year we had a few wins," he says, after the Hawks made the playoffs in the past two seasons under Coronel's tutelage.
In some respects, he feels while basketball has been a challenge it also is pleasing to know the philosophies of sport allow cross pollination of ideas when it comes to administering any code even if one isn't hoop savvy.
"I think sometimes I don't understand the game of basketball properly but I'm beginning to know it a little bit although it's far more technical than I ever thought it was," he says with a chuckle.
Price says he channels his energy into the business side of things so sometimes there's no room for passion cluttering the thought processes when it comes to making hard decisions.
"I wouldn't have been able to do it without my wife but In feel we've got pretty close to a sustainable package now."
Working with first-year Basketball Hawke's Bay general manager Chris McIvor has created an elevator effect.
Price suspects there has "never" been an amalgamation of the professional and amateur bodies before so it's encouraging to see a backbone forming.
It hasn't missed his or McIvor's attention that with the incremental improvement of the Hawks and growth of basketball at grassroots level the PG Arena reached full house this season in the Saints match to bring back fond memories of the yesteryear.
"It was really satisfying to fill it but my [goal] is to feel it every week but it's hard out there because a lot of other sports and things are on."
With the NBL securing TV rights fans can also stay home on cold nights but he emphasises basketball is an event with an appealing entertainment atmosphere.
He salutes all sponsors but singles out the team naming one as "outstanding" in enabling the community to watch a game for a gold coin and then later for $5.
"Taylor Corp don't sell one apple in New Zealand so it's all go overseas," he says, relishing the third-best crowd turnout this season, behind Wellington and Christchurch.
In taking the himself to another level as an 11-year assistant coach, Coronel had lifted the Hawks to new heights as well.
McIvor, who has an administrative background in other codes including badminton, says existing in that bubble offers incisive and effective approaches.
The 40-year-old, who had a stellar football career as a former Napier City Rovers player from 16, had a stint with Sport Hawke's Bay as well before two-year stint as community manager with Badminton New Zealand.
"Basketball has kind of attached itself to a generation so it has been a kind of hip thing to play indoors among boys and girls and where it never rains," he says, adding Steven Adams' presence in the NBA culture also was rubbing off on youngsters.
Basketball HB's challenge, McIvor says, is not just taking that growth into the NBL space for the next Henares, Winitanas and Bartletts but also start a women's league team as well.
"It's not just the top level but the social and health level so basketball has a massive role to play in health," he says of a lower socio-economic demography that identifies with it as a life-long engagement.
McIvor has played a record 87 matches for Hawke's Bay United, from 2004-09. In his heyday he played in Brisbane and Sydney in their state leagues in 2005-06. He also has picked up medals in two former (winter) national leagues and Chatham Cup campaigns with the Rovers.
"It's been an interesting journey but once I had a taste of working in sport I just thrived in it, working in the unknown," he says, adding it's even more rewarding with minor codes.