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Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare to face off with former club Breakers after joining Melbourne United as assistant

Former New Zealand Breakers player and coach and current Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare has officially returned to the NBL as an assistant at Melbourne United.

Henare was an assistant coach with the Breakers when they won the 2015 title and his latest move will see him team up again with the head coach from that championship-winning campaign as well - Dean Vickerman.

"I first came across Dean when he came and coached in New Zealand in the early 2000s," Henare said.

"He was coaching and I was playing and we really got to know each other when he joined the Breakers as an assistant coach. Since then, we've grown pretty close.

"Even as a coach/player relationship, we got pretty close and our wives are best friends as well and we've just always stayed in touch. Obviously, we had the three years working together when he was the head coach of the Breakers, so we have the benefit of having a good personal and working relationship."

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Henare took over from Vickerman at the Breakers for the 2016/17 season but departed at the end of the club's last campaign.

The opportunity to reconnect with Vickerman was the strongest factor in Henare accepting the new role with Melbourne.

"It's exciting," Henare said.

"To be honest - and nothing against all the other coaches I've worked with - but because it was Dean, I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to come and work with him and be a part of a great organisation like Melbourne United. It's just a really cool opportunity."

Henare also admitted getting to work with players he already knew such as Tall Blacks Alex Pledger and Tohi Smith-Milner was another reason to take the offer.

"They're two guys that I know really well and it's going to be a little bit different being in Melbourne, but I'm looking forward to it," he said.

"Even the other guys, I know Mitch McCarron from his time playing in the New Zealand league last year and I played against Barlow and Goulding."

The 39-year-old is also excited at helping Melbourne in their quest to win back-to-back titles.

"From the outside looking in, you can tell they've obviously made great progress in such a short time and winning the Championship, they've had some on-court success," he said.

"I think it's a really good situation for me to be able to come into. I caught up with Dean after the game on Sunday and I said, 'What do you want from me?' - it's my job to help him and make his job easier.

"For me - even though it's just across the Tasman - it's my first overseas coaching experience and I'm just going to soak it in as much as I can and try to learn as much as I can in the time that I have."

SKYCITY Breakers coach Paul Henare.
SKYCITY Breakers v Illawarra Hawks. ANBL Basketball League. Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand. 16 February 2018. © Copyright Image: Marc Shannon / www.photosport.nz.
Paul Henare has reportedly rejected a contract extension from the Breakers. Source: Photosport