NZ Sports Culture Changes Outgoing Breakers Coach

Published: Sat 25 May 2024 05:48 AM
New Zealand has left a lasting impression on Mody Maor.
The Israeli-American is leaving the New Zealand Breakers head coach role after two seasons to join a Japanese club in an effort to grow his coaching resume.
Maor describes departing the club he joined as an assistant in 2019, and the city he has grown to love, as "heartbreaking".
"I love everything that this organisation stands for and I was extremely excited about the things we were going to achieve in the next season.
"Leaving all of that behind saying goodbye to the place but also to the people is really hard, but part of being an adult and part of being the coach is making hard decisions, and the hard decisions are only those that you face when there's two good options ... and when you weigh everything together, the decision to leave is the right path for my family."
His family will always have ties to Aotearoa.
When Maor arrived in New Zealand he came with his wife Liat. They leave as a family of four with two daughters born in Auckland. Their eldest is named Amaia, which means halo around the moon in te reo Māori.
As Maor's nuclear family grew so did his connection to the Breakers family, of his colleagues and the fans, as well as New Zealand culture.
The All Blacks have intrigued Maor and last year, on the eve of the Breakers' first NBL finals series in seven seasons, he got the opportunity to pick the brain of Sir Wayne 'Buck' Shelford.
After reading about Shelford's player-led structure with the All Blacks it struck a chord with Maor and has influenced how he now approaches coaching.
"My background before and coaching experience was all European, and European is very coach-centric; the coach is like the emperor and everybody goes the way the emperor goes and New Zealand sports culture is very player-led.
"The nature of what a rugby pitch looks like and the way a coach can communicate with the players that are so far away has led to a culture where your team captains and where they stand and the voice that they have within the team is extremely significant.
"I've come to truly believe that a player-led team is much stronger than a coach-led team, and that's a massive philosophical transformation that I wouldn't have gotten any other place, and I'm extremely grateful to have been exposed to this in maybe the bedrock of this theory and philosophy.
"I laugh when you watch the NBA playoffs now and people are talking about this player empowerment movement that stems from different places, like contracts and things like this, but at the end of the day, it's really the same, you're seeing coaches becoming secondary to leaders on the court to players, who are leaders, and New Zealand has done this in the most beautiful way and in the most empowering way, and I've been lucky enough to have been thrown into it."
Maor said he did not aspire to coach in a certain location or league but rather to "master my craft".
"It doesn't matter if I coach here or in Japan or in the NBA or in college the goal is to master my craft, and when you go into a different environment, you meet different challenges and it definitely helps you become better, it stimulates you in different ways, and it's definitely part of the reason I am embarking on this [move]."
After five years with the Breakers, Maor hopes to have left the organisation in the better place than when he arrived and that he has contributed to the legacy of the club.
"Connection to the place, connection to the culture, the way we do things on the court and also off the court, the way we make decisions, the way we communicate, the way we analyse, I hope these things stay, I hope these things are lasting, and I think they will, because there is not a lot of people who come here because it's their job, there's a lot of people who come here because they care."
Maor realises the Breakers will keep moving without him.
"This is an opportunity for the organisation to grow, because nobody is perfect and everybody is replaceable, and I am sure that there's a lot of things I did wrong, and the next person who will come in and everybody else around will have an opportunity to look at that and see what are the few small things that we did when I was here that they want to keep and also what are the things that they want to change and do better and be bigger with."
The Breakers have not put a timeline on when the next coach will be appointed.
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