It’s been over 20 years since Natu Taufale last walked the sidelines as a head coach in the NZ NBL, but when the Property Brokers Manawatu Jets came calling for him to lead them into the next chapter he didn’t hesitate.
With new ownership, a fresh board and revamped coaching staff, the Jets enter year one of an accelerated development plan to get them back near the top of the Sal’s NBL ladder and Taufale is ecstatic that he’s been giving the keys to make that happen.
“I’ve had a massive journey since my first head coaching role with the Wellington Saints back in 2000. I’ve been immersed in the game with Basketball New Zealand for the past eight years and I’m really excited to take on this new opportunity,” said Taufale.
“I’m excited with where we’re at - we have new ownership, a new board, a new look team and a new coaching staff – and I’m excited about the direction we’re heading in the next few years.”
Taufale spent the past eight years with Basketball New Zealand as their National Director of Coach Development, and he’s already hit the ground running with the Jets looking to implement his values and get the team moving in the right direction.
“We’ve been working hard for the last six or seven weeks, trying to get to a point where we’re competitive this year. I don’t like to look back; I like to look forward.
“I’m really excited about the group we have here. It’s a young group, but it’s also refreshing to get a young group that is keen to compete.”
Taufale’s excitement for the team goes without saying, and whilst they’re shaping up to be one of the younger teams in the league this season, he believes they can use that to their advantage.
“We’ve lost a lot of key members from the past few seasons, but we’ve adapted and looked at players that fit our brand of basketball.
“I’ve always been a guy that’s focused on defence because at the end of the day, if you’re struggling on offence you need to be consistent defensively and that’s what will keep you in games. We’ll play up-tempo on offence, but we also want to play up-tempo defence. We’ve got a young group and we’ve got the personnel to be able to play that brand of basketball; they’re excited for the challenge.
“I’ve always been a competitive coach. Every game we play, we play to win regardless of the opponent,” said Taufale.
As the Jets continue to fill out their roster for 2022, Taufale highlighted character as one of the main factors when recruiting players.
“Part of our process in recruiting players was looking at their character. We not only look at their talent and their ability on the court, but they have to have the character and align with a lot of the team philosophies we have as an organisation.”
With the likes of big man Shane Temara locked in for next season, and promising guard Pafe Momoisea moving up from the Night n’ Day Otago Nuggets, the Jets already have themselves a solid foundation to work with and that will only solidify as more players are announced.
The Jets are hoping to find the form that got them to the 2020 Sal’s NBL Grand Final, and with a coach like Natu Taufale at the helm they may not be as far off as some think.