It's not often you will find a popular sports figure in a leadership role happily admit to mistakes that proved tumultuous in the establishment of their public image.
Then again, few orchestrate the mixture of genuineness and gaiety that Matt Walsh does, the majority owner of the New Zealand Breakers.
Two years and 10 months after taking over the franchise at the head of a consortium, Walsh has the team preparing for a vastly unfamiliar Australian NBL season, one that will tip off three months later than usual on January 15, all going well. But it's also one that features high expectations for the lone Kiwi side.
Looking back, Walsh happily concedes periods of his tenure have been rocky. Some of that comes down to mistakes made when taking over from previous owners Liz and Paul Blackwell.
"Every now and there criticism is warranted," Walsh admits.
"You know we signed Glen Rice [Jr.] and it didn't work out, I hired Kevin Braswell [former coach] in my first year and I realised pretty quickly that just wasn't the right decision for the organisation I was trying to build. You make mistakes and you move on.
"From day one I made no illusions that I had all the answers. I recognised some things that we could change, some things that we could do better. Some things that the Blackwell's did amazing that we just needed to build on.
"I'm still learning so much… while you want to compete every year, I was very realistic that it was probably going to take some time to make my imprint on the organisation."
Rewind 10 to 12 months and everything that could go wrong, in the words of Walsh, did. Off-court issues included Rice Jr. being involved in a brawl at an Auckland bar before breaching bail, which resulted in his contract being torn up, and Tom Vodanovich being met by police after an incident on a plane. Injuries hampered the majority of the Breakers' starters and sent them to the cellar of the competition, and not long after that beloved manager Fata Letoa tragically passed away in the middle of their campaign.
To top that off, the playing group was still feeling their way into a new system under coach Dan Shamir and his lead assistant Mody Maor.
That followed the departures of Paul Henare, Mike Fitchett, Shea Ili and Dillon Boucher, to name a few, that stripped the organisation of familiar Kiwi faces. The words 'Breakers', 'foreign' and 'chaos' seemingly went hand in hand, and another problem arising felt a formality rather than a question.
Fans pointed the finger at management and questioned if the club was in good hands. The still youthful 37-year-old Walsh says he is used to tuning out criticism, thanks to his lengthy basketball career in the US and Europe.
But once things calmed down, the team flourished. The last we saw of the Breakers on court was an emphatic finish to the 2019-20 campaign where they managed a league-best 11-3 record in the second half of the season, resulting in a 15-13 record and only narrowly missing out on the playoffs.
Success amid shambles further emphasised to Walsh the organisation's potential in pursuit of his vision.
The American twang he has and continues to implement on New Zealand sport – that loud, flavoursome energy at games that resembles the electric atmospheres in the United States – resonates with fans. Walsh says a semifinal in the 2018 NBL playoffs brought 2700 fans to Spark Arena. Since, they have never had an attendance so low despite failing to make the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
"There's huge opportunity to just really lift up the entertainment on a game day level… some things they do in the States in the top sporting events that we can do," Walsh adds.
"[After the first year] I fronted up with that to our members I said 'Look guys we're building something here that's going to take some time, put some trust in the organisation, put some trust in me because when we come out the other side, it's going to be amazing'… the next three for four years are going to be very exciting for the New Zealand Breakers."
That next "three or four years" has already started, and is set to roll out as an all but finished product in early 2021, and it is hard to ignore the beaming light shining off the team as they depart for Australia. The Breakers have confirmed they will ahead across the ditch on December 1 to set-up camp indefinitely, and they remain unsure if games back in New Zealand will be possible given the world's current climate.
Walsh says they are yet to determine their base there, but he brought up the Gold Coast and New South Wales as potential choices.
The roster is in its best shape in a long time. Perennial NBL MVP candidate Lamar Patterson arrived from Brisbane, Tall Blacks star Tai Webster has returned after an impressive couple of years in Europe, and American Colton Iverson comes on board with an abundance of top-line experience around the world. More importantly, the core of Kiwi talent, plus their lone Australian in Jarrad Weeks, are still around, all on multi-year deals.
"I think that's part of why our guys are itching to play. Obviously getting Tai Webster, Tall Blacks superstar, combined with the locals that we were able to re-sign. I think it's a testament to what we're building here," Walsh says.
"We're going to present a lot of match-up problems for teams no matter what kind of line-up we put out there."
Walsh says the system curated by Shamir is beginning to take effect, which was evident earlier this year. He believes there is "no question" Shamir and Co. will blossom this coming season.
"Once we came right, and not even totally healthy but just a little bit, and you saw the style of play, the impact of Dan and Mody."
Walsh's perception of how the coming months will go is not void of the awareness of Covid-19 and the way it can impact a business's health.
While Walsh expects his organisation to get through the backend of the pandemic, they have not been immune so far. He says financially they expect to get through, fingers crossed.
But for the meantime, the focus is moving onto the court after being locked on the books and in the office for too long.
"I can tell you it's not just me and the coaching staff, there's an unwavering belief in this team - everyone's excited to get out there and play."