The Taranaki Steelformers Airs collected the wooden spoon in 2021, but head coach Trent Adam isn’t letting the team’s 10th place finish take away from the strides they made as a unit.
The Airs deployed an all-New Zealand lineup last season after being unable to secure any import players, and Adam was thrilled with how the younger members of the team competed each game.
“Last year we were in a unique position where we were unable to bring imports in, so we had to deploy a New Zealand roster in an import league. We felt they did a really good job despite where we finished on the table,” said Adam.
“Five of our losses were within 10 points, so we were happy with how we competed and didn’t let games get away from us too often. All but two of our players played Under 23s last year too, so we were a very young team in a professional league.”
Adam first became head coach of the Airs in the mid-2000s. He returned for a second stint as head coach in 2016 and was at the helm for two seasons. Adam took some time away from the team in 2018, before eventually reuniting with the Airs again in 2021.
Adam is one of the most experienced coaches currently in the Sal’s NBL, and his journey to get to where he is today has been filled with numerous accolades and coaching at a high level. He said he knew pretty early on that coaching was the career for him.
“I played basketball through school, but I realised that I understood and viewed basketball a little bit differently to others I was playing with.
“I’m originally from Whanganui and moved to Palmerston North to spend some time with the Jets organization. I spent a lot of time working with Joe Frost at the Jets and picking his brain. I also coached at New Plymouth Girls High School for 10 years, and through that was able to work with some NZ age-group teams and really started to get into the coaching pathway,” said Adam.
Adam recently ventured to Manila with the Tall Blacks for their FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, working under Tall Blacks head coach Pero Cameron. The pair also work together with the Airs, and Adam had nothing but delightful things to say.
“I’ve known Pero for a long time now through the NBL, back when he was still playing and I was coaching, and now recently with the Tall Blacks. Pero has a great amount of respect not only in the New Zealand basketball community, but worldwide too,” he said.
“The way he interacts with players is what stands out to me. It’s not just about the technical side with Pero, he cares about the mental aspect as well. I want to continue working with Pero as much as possible and taking as many notes as I can from his experience. Just watching his interactions and how he operates, soaking up his knowledge of the game to help the franchise move forward.
“It’s not just the team on the floor, but the team behind the team and Pero has the ability to affect an entire franchise from top to bottom. I’m looking forward to continuing working with him across all levels.”
The Airs brought back a familiar face in Richie Rodger during free agency, after the 25-year-old spent two seasons playing for his hometown Night ‘n Day Otago Nuggets. Rodger recently made his debut for the Tall Blacks during their qualifying window, and Adam has been impressed with the young guard on and off the floor.
“Richie, I coached a few years ago down here in Taranaki and I was really impressed with him not only as a player, but as a person, and those are the kind of players that interest us,” said Adam.
“His defensive ability as a guard, his playmaking and his selfless attitude is something that we thought could help out the core group. We were able to spend a little bit of time together recently with the Tall Blacks, and a lot of same concepts that were used in that environment will also be used with the Airs.”
Adam is confident the Airs will be able to show that they’re much more than the 10th place finish last season.
“We want to continue improving as a unit and be the best possible team we can be. We felt we showed glimpses last year, but we’d like to show much more of that this season and show week in and week out that we’re capable of winning every game we play.
“We’ve been working here for a while now establishing the base of what success should look like, and then we want to put that into action when the season starts.”
You can catch Trent Adam and the Airs when they open their season against the Auckland Tuatara on April 30. The full schedule can be found HERE.