The versatility of playoff qualifiers tends to make some coaches go beyond the boundaries of conventional basketball thought.

Not, it seems, for Taylor Corporation Hawks coach Zico Coronel who already has impressed the need to keep refining the process until it comes as close to the finished article as it possibly can.

The comings and goings of the regular season have gone as the Final Four of the Sal's Pizza Basketball National League beckons the Hawke's Bay franchise team in Wellington on August 4-5.

But there's the more immediate matter of taking care of the two remaining games of the season for the Hawks — a double header this week.


How do the Hawks lift themselves for the 7pm tip off against the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams in Christchurch tomorrow before reloading against the Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs in Napier the following night at the same time?

After a brutal start to their season, the Hawks have had a more docile finish to their campaign with opponents outside the playoffs equation.

For argument's sake, the Mark Dickel-mentored Rams were the ideal elixir until they lost 88-79 to SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks last Friday.

The Hawks pummelled Go Media Manawatu Jets 103-70 last Sunday and won't play a playoffs qualifier at all until they run on to the TSB Arena in the capital city in a fortnight.

No disrespect to the Mountainairs, who beat the Hawks 90-84 in extra time at the Pettigrew-Green Arena in Taradale last month, but playing for pride may not be enough to prepare the Hawks for the bigger battles.

Conversely, defending champions Cigna Wellington Saints host fellow playoff qualifiers Mike Pero Nelson Giants tonight and the other NBL crown contenders, the Sharks, will face off against the Giants on Sunday.

The minor premiership bragging rights aside — frankly, most teams will forgo that to cut the nets off the hoops at the end of a the final — who is better prepared to test and tweak their systems?

Is having a stroll, as it were, across the courts towards the book-end of a regular season beneficial to a team or detrimental?


From a health perspective it is an opportune time to rest weary limbs but from the context of mental fortitude and battle hardiness it can be a liability. The travel factor and back-to-back games will add value to the Final Four preparations.

No doubt, Coronel, in his rookie NBL season as a head coach, appears to harbour a Machiavellian approach to his campaign and only time will tell how effective that will be.

2 Cheap Cars Supercity Rangers coach Jeff Green didn't mince words when asked two Thursdays ago what he thought the Hawks' chances were in the Final Four.

Yes, Green said they are worthy of the playoffs but they weren't good enough to win the title.

How the Jarrod Kenny-skippered Hawks would like to prove the wily veteran eat his words.

But somehow you get the impression the Hawks are preoccupied with preening their own feathers rather than worrying about getting caught in the fire of the duck-shooting season.

Winning is a habit and that's an attribute no team want to lose entering the playoffs zone, something Hawks player Hyrum Harris affirms.

"Obviously we want to get the two games out of the way and, hopefully, we'll come out with two wins and then go to the Final Four," Hyrum said last night.

Hyrum Harris isn't one to shy away when the physicality stakes are raised in the NBL arena, as he shows in this game against Taranaki in Napier. Photo / Warren Buckland
Hyrum Harris isn't one to shy away when the physicality stakes are raised in the NBL arena, as he shows in this game against Taranaki in Napier. Photo / Warren Buckland

The swingman went as far as to clarify the Hawks weren't fussed about who they would end up playing first up in the playoffs.

"We don't mind who we play as long as we make it when we play. We'll play all three of them and have no preferences."

Perennial qualifiers once, the Hawks have got into the business end for the first time since former Tall Blacks coach Tab Baldwin did in 2014. It was explicitly Coronel's goal at the start of the season.

Veteran shooting guard Everard Bartlett is the only member left from the Hawks side that won the franchise's only NBL crown in 2006. Bay-born Bartlett is playing his 13th NBL season and 11th with the Hawks. Tomorrow will be his 200th NBL cap.

"They are two games that we'll treat as normal games. We'll feel the same way and play the same way," Harris said.

The fifth-placed Rams, having lost twice to the Hawks, will play their final game at Cowles Stadium home.

A last hurrah for the Rams faithful and, yes, they'll be smarting a little when the hosts take the floor.

"They will give us as good a game as Taranaki will."

Harris said his selection to the New Zealand Select team, with teammates Ethan Rusbatch and Mitchell Newton, had lent credence to his decision to move to the Bay.

"I'm glad I made this team but I'm just going to keep playing how I play and, hopefully, that keeps me there forever," says the 21-year-old from Hamilton in his rookie NBL season.

"It was good making the [NZ] Select team but that's not what I'm focusing on at the moment."

While he wasn't expecting his call up he was, nonetheless, happy.