New Zealand Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare is looking forward to coaching against Gilas Pilipinas mentor Tab Baldwin when the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament fires off next Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 37-year-old Henare said going up against Baldwin, his former coach in the national team and the Tall Blacks over 10 years ago, also evoked wonderful memories they shared together in the New Zealand national team.
“I’m really looking forward to it (coaching against Baldwin) and it goes back a long, long time with Tab personally and through basketball,” Henare told media men, moments after New Zealand wrapped up its brief basketball clinic with with Aeta kids Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The former Utah Valley standout said much of what he learned in the game, he acquired during his years playing under Baldwin.
“I played for Tab for many, many years, both in the New Zealand National League and the Tall Blacks form 2001 to 2006 so we’re very good friends,” he said.
“It’s a special moment when on an international level you get to coach or compete against somebody you are so close with.”
The Kiwi coach stressed that once on the court, he’ll have to set aside their friendship for a while and be “enemies” when the Tall Blacks take on Gilas next Wednesday.
“We’ll be friends leading up to and after the game, but on the day of the game we’ll be enemies,” he said with a smile.
The 6-foot Henare, a member of the Tall Blacks that bagged the silver medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, said they enjoyed the warm hospitality accorded to them when they arrived Friday night.
The New Zealand men’s team just concluded its European trip after playing practice games against Asian powerhouse Iran, Latvia and Lithuania in Riga.
The Tall Blacks bowed to the Iranians, 75-72, before getting bludgeoned by the Latvians, 84-55 and the Lithuanians, 88-58. – By Richard Dy
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