An all too familiar scene is playing out for the Breakers.

The club and its new ownership group are being called into question again after the sudden departure of general manager and Breakers legend Dillon Boucher.

After three years in the role, Boucher resigned this week, becoming the latest Kiwi to exit the club.

Since the new ownership group took over 18 months ago, Kiwi basketball fans have seen local heroes such as Paul Henare, Mika Vukona and now Boucher leave the club, bringing into question the motives of those in charge of what was widely regarded as a family club.

Now, managing owner Matt Walsh has cleared the air on a number of departures in the hopes of giving fans some answers.


Speaking to Radio Sport's Jim Kayes, Walsh said his job was to do what was best for the club and, in the sporting world, the best solution for the club isn't always the most fan-friendly.

"I think a lot of times people think I don't understand the magnitude," Walsh said. "I'm a sportsman, and I totally understand, but situations arise and change happens. Maybe I'm jaded because I've been in sport for so long, but in sport it's very much on to the next one. You have to be.

"That's not being cold; that's the truth."

Speaking directly about the situation with Boucher, Walsh explained that Boucher came to him and said he wanted to step away and pursue something else. Since Walsh's group took over from former majority owners Paul and Liz Blackwell last February, the general manager role had seen a number of changes with less responsibility in both the commercial and basketball operations.

Dillon Boucher has left his role as NZ Breaker general manager. Photo / Photosport
Dillon Boucher has left his role as NZ Breaker general manager. Photo / Photosport

Walsh said there were no hard feelings between Boucher and the club, and praised the club stalwart for what he had given to the team both as a player and in a management capacity.

"When we took over, obviously we've got some people who have basketball minds, and we looked at the organisation and how they were doing financially and decided we needed to bring some more commercial help in here so his role changed," Walsh explained.

"For Dillon – I don't want to answer for him – but maybe he just looked around and said 'this isn't what it was to me anymore' and he's ready for a new challenge."

Former player and coach Paul Henare was the first to leave the club after the group took over. The head coach at the time the club changed hands, Henare wanted a multi-year contract to stay on.


However, with the club losing 15 of their last 20 games of the season and being swept out of the playoffs, Henare was only offered a one-year extension so the new owners could get a read on him before committing further.

Paul Henare left the NZ Breakers after the 2017-18 season. Photo / Photosport
Paul Henare left the NZ Breakers after the 2017-18 season. Photo / Photosport

With a lack of job security being offered, Henare decided to part ways with the team.

"I understood his perspective," Walsh said of the situation. "He wanted more security while we were saying 'hey we need to get to know you'. Paulie decided it wasn't for him and he walked away.

"From my side there are no hard feelings. Of course I understand Paulie's a legend here; of course people are going to say 'how does that happen?'; of course Paulie has hard feelings and he has poor feelings for us, I'm sure, because of that. But that's the reality of the situation."

Mika Vukona's departure from the club followed soon after Henare's, with the forward taking up an offer to join the Brisbane Bullets.

Walsh was quick to admit that he did not realise what Vukona meant to New Zealand basketball fans so early in his tenure with the club, chasing the signatures of Tom Abercrombie and Shea Ili before turning his attention to Vukona.

Mika Vukona joined the Brisbane Bullets for the 2018-19 ANBL season. Photo / Photosport
Mika Vukona joined the Brisbane Bullets for the 2018-19 ANBL season. Photo / Photosport

He suggested it worked out for the best for Vukona as the Breakers couldn't have matched the offer from Brisbane.

"I think there were some hurt feelings there again that we didn't try to approach Mika right away and try to get that done," Walsh said. "He ended up getting a deal in Brisbane that we were never going to match, and that's just the truth in terms of the money.

"Maybe I handled it wrong because I didn't approach him at the same time I approached Tom and Shea, because I didn't understand the dynamic and that's on me."

While a host of homegrown bodies have left the club in recent times, the feel of the organisation was a major reason behind Walsh and his business partners buying the team.

He said what the Blackwells had built was "special" and understood the magnitude of the changes they had made since taking over, but believed change needed to be made.

"I spoke to the Blackwells this week and the first thing Paul says to me is 'change breeds more change'. That's what he says to me every time. This is a natural thing. I understand from the outside you've got these guys who are heroes of the game here, but … our organisation is in a better place now than since I took over.

"I'd rather our fans be mad at me and care than nobody to care about us. We have such passionate fans and I'm always happy to answer questions about it and talk through things. Sometimes it's a little frustrating because people speculate that change means the sky is falling, but that's not the case – I assure you.

"It's hurtful to me when I know our staff is reading this 'sky is falling' stuff, because that's not the case. We work so hard that it bothers me when they have to go through that. We've got some amazing and positive things going for the season and it feels like sometimes speculation and uncertainty kind of drags us down.

"Just because we want to be commercially viable – which they never were before – doesn't mean we're not the culture club; but we need to be able to sustain this business."