EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls head coach Morgan Maskell is the youngest head coach in the Sal’s NBL and he’s eager to make his mark on the league.
Maskell’s youth is easily overlooked when viewing his resume. He led Rangitoto College to back-to-back Junior Premierships in 2013 and 2014, and he’s been involved in three national championship-winning teams with Harbour Basketball.
Morgan played basketball as a kid, but he admits he wasn’t the most talented player in terms of abilities. He explained that he viewed the game from a unique perspective and enjoyed the mindset and confidence building that coaching provides.
“I played basketball as a kid, but I was a very average player in terms of my abilities. I learned the opposition's set plays as the game progressed - I wasn't even confident enough to understand that was something useful,” said Maskell.
“When my high school asked me to coach a team the year after I'd finished - I took the challenge. I didn't know much tactically, but really enjoyed the mindset and confidence building side. I decided I needed to learn more and was paired with Kenny Stone at Harbour Basketball, who became my first mentor.
“What I loved about coaching is developing people, helping people achieve their goals and dreams. That was number one. It's all about helping these guys who are serious about basketball achieve their dreams and goals. That's still what makes it special.”
Maskell has spent time under 2021 Sal’s NBL Coach of the Year Zico Coronel with the Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks in 2018, as well as with the New Zealand Under 16 team in 2017. He has also served as the head coach of the NZ U15 team, who claimed a famous victory over Australia at the FIBA Oceania Championship in 2018.
“To this day Zico continues to be an amazing friend and mentor. I wouldn't be in this position without him believing in me and his guidance - I'm forever grateful,” said Maskell.
The 29-year-old was the assistant coach under Jamie Reddish last season but was promoted to head coach during the offseason when Reddish announced he was stepping down to focus on regional basketball.
“This off-season I considered other roles within the league, but this franchise has a great off-court foundation to work from, a truly great community and fanbase, and really good people working in the management roles. Part of the attraction is recruiting local guys - South Auckland hasn't really had an NZ NBL franchise before – and I believe there’s a massive hotbed of talent here,” explained Maskell.
The Bulls have made several exciting additions to their 2022 roster during free agency, including Jayden Bezzant who recently made his debut appearance with the Tall Blacks at the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in February, and Maskell is amped about how they will fit into the culture.
“Jayden Bezzant, I believe it's the first of many Tall Blacks appearances and I'm looking forward to him showcasing his skills once again. Kane Bennett-Keil, Anzac Rissetto, Josh Leger, Isaac Davidson all fit in this category - young players that are hungry to continue learning, to continue getting better, and want to act like professionals and want to be professionals,” said Maskell.
“I think that vision of a collective culture that is going to help everyone, where everyone is looking out for each other, and is highly professional – it has led to a lot of very talented young players wanting to come aboard. We have a lot of guys with a lot of potential to be professional basketball players for the next decade of their lives.”
Maskell said the focus this season is helping everyone achieve their goals and assisting them in any way he can.
“This season we are focused on helping each other achieve our goals. Every day we are going to be working together to help one another get better, and to help each other get closer to their own goals. We want to be a group that is playing for each other, rather than for themselves,” he said.
“We also want to be highly professional in how we run our programme. I spent time talking to coaches in the Australian league during the 2021 lockdown to craft a schedule for our team similar to how it is over there. We’ve recruited Logan Botica, so our players will have the best conditioning programme, too.”
Maskell is a big believer in the journey creating the goal, and that’s why he’s placed emphasis on creating a sound culture on and off the court and bringing everyone together to make this a collective effort.
“The goal is the journey. Where we end up at the end will be a result of our journey. The goal is that every single day we exhibit the behaviours and traits that will help each other get better. Every day we need to exhibit winning behaviours, we need to show with our actions that we are doing it for each other.
“If we are complacent, we will fall short of anything we are striving for - so if I'm asked about the goal, it's not this target of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd - the goal is every single day we are behaving like a highly professional team of individuals from the health staff to the coaching staff to the management and the playing group. It's a collective effort,” concluded Maskell.
Morgan Maskell and the EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls tip-off their season against the Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks on May 1.