If you take it in isolation then it was just a pensive moment. Dillon Boucher, a legend of both Breakers basketball and New Zealand basketball, a multiple championship winner whose jersey hangs in the rafters for this club, had resigned as general manager of the New Zealand Breakers. I won’t say it was a sad moment because DB’s got a life to live and people are allowed to change jobs if they want but definitely one to sit back and think about. A large chunk of history leaves the club with Dillon Boucher.
But of course this didn’t happen in isolation, did it? Dillon Boucher’s resignation comes just a month before the start of the new season and at a time when the club is going through immense change. Since the American ownership group came in less than two years ago the Breakers have lost two head coaches (plus an assistant) and a number of senior leaders in the playing group. Paul Henare walked after being unable to come to terms on a new contract under circumstances that remain a little murky. The likes of Mika Vukona, Alex Pledger, and Shea Ili have all departed the playing group… as well as being unable to retain foreign fellas like Shawn Long and Tai Wesley despite them staying in the league. Just like with Dillon Boucher, each of those situations make sense in isolation. Vukona was getting on as a player, Paul Henare was focussed on the Tall Blacks gig, Shea Ili had other point guards in his way, Shawn Long will probably be getting more cash at Melbourne. But when you look at the overall pattern it starts to paint a different picture.
Actually, let’s just get right to it: this stinks. It stinks in a number of pungent ways. Ever since the new owners came into town this club has steadily moved further and further away from their kiwi roots, community values, and franchise history. Like, this much change doesn’t happen accidentally. Surely nobody is that blind to the state of things as they inherit them to not realise what this looks like. Especially not in a business which is driven by fan support. Of course any new owners are entitled to reshape the club in the way they prefer and I’m probably just being paranoid but it feels a lot like basketball colonialism: sure, this plucky club in Aotearoa was doing some lovely things, how cute… but we clever Americans are here now to show you what this sport is supposed to be like.
I’ll spare the recap drama, if you’re reading this then you already know the journey we’ve been on here because you’ve been on the rollercoaster same as I have. What is sad about Dillon Boucher leaving is that it’s not even surprising. When was the last time you heard from Dillon Boucher in this job? He’s supposed to be calling the shots as general manager but the RJ Hampton thing was clearly a Matt Walsh ace-in-the-sleeve and minority owner Shawn Marion also played a big part in it too (while those barstool pisstakers got access to him before the kiwi media ever did). Terry Li… who bloody knows with that one. But the Breakers of old proooobably wouldn’t have used a rare development spot that could have otherwise gone to a kiwi up-and-comer on an extra import who might not even be ready for this level (and once he is he’ll still be classed as an import).
Of their kiwi signings, Rob Loe was already rumoured to want to return to Auckland so he kinda fell in their laps, while Tom Vodanovich was a development player last year so that’s cool. All the other NZers on the roster were already under contract. Meanwhile one of the imports played for Dan Shamir in Israel while one played against Dan Shamir in Israel. Pretty sure it wasn’t Dillon Boucher going to him with those suggestions. And then whenever there’s media availability that needs doing it’s Matt Walsh popping up to chat about this new signing or that new signing.
Dillon Boucher was the general manager but it feels suspiciously like he hadn’t had a lot of work to do in recent times. Naturally he offered a few words to TVNZ on the scoop but that was about that. Certainly nothing that explained why he’d taken this decision same as how Paul Henare laid low with the quotables himself when he left and obviously Kevin Braswell can’t really say anything about his ‘redundancy’ since there’s ongoing legal action. Nobody’s saying anything.
By the way, can we take a second to acknowledge that these dudes are literally being sued by their last coach? That’s not normal. We don’t know exactly what happened there either so it’s a bit of a chicken/egg situation: what came first, the lawsuit or the redundancy? Is the redundancy a way of covering their arses (probably should say ‘asses’, given the context) for not paying him out properly (hence the ridiculous Director of Basketball thing) or did they make him redundant in the first place to avoid paying him out properly? Either way KB’s just out there trying to get his money. And the fact that it took so long after the first leaks emerged that Braswell was for the chop for anyone to confirm it was at best overly cautious and at worst just plain arrogant. Dan Shamir was in the country for like a month before he was officially unveiled. I get that ongoing legalities are what they are but there’s a trend here of trying to dictate media coverage which isn’t exactly flattering to the club’s attitude towards their fans.
The Breakers did put a write-up about Boucher’s resignation on their website but as of 22-odd hours later they still haven’t bothered to share that write-up on any of their social media accounts. They’ve got no dramas about sharing every bit of positive coverage they get from every possible angle, which is great, but this happens so often with sports/businesses where they try sweep all the negative stuff under the rug and, message for all you corporate tweeters out there: it really just makes you look like muppets plus it’s treating your fans like absolute imbeciles. Dillon Boucher’s Breakers legacy deserves a whole lot more respect than this.
Of course Matt Walsh had some words to say in that TVNZ scoop. He also then had more words to say in that club website article and then even more on the radio talking about Boucher’s decision. Which was not his decision… so not sure why he gets to explain that Boucher felt “ready for a new challenge” or whatever. Walsh also suggested that they probably wouldn’t replace Boucher’s role in the short term, instead saying that they’d be “absorbing it within the organisation”. Some people might say they already did that ages ago.
Also weird: how hardly anybody seems to really be talking about this. The fan sentiment is there because I’ve written about the rank direction of the club a couple times already this offseason and we got vieeeeews on those suckers, mate. (Support us on Patreon if you like what we do, chur chur). But most (not all, in fairness) of the big media folks seem to be getting swept up in the manufactured hype around the club. Probably doesn’t help that Sky Sports are now the naming sponsor of the club as well given they also employ the most prominent basketball media personalities in the country.
Unfortunately that’s kinda been the trend these last two years. The Breakers have flirted with global headlines (from the LeBron billboard to the Walsh & Obama pic to the numerous and mostly preposterous rumoured signings to, at the best end of it, RJ Hampton) as meanwhile the enthusiasm around the local fanbase has sunk. Remember how they tried to spark up the gameday experience by making it more American last season and it got met with crickets? They reckon it’ll be better this time around but what works in the NBA is not what’s going to work in the NBL, that line of thinking shows yet another disconnect with the club’s existing fans.
Dillon Boucher had been groomed to succeed Richard Clarke as the club’s GM and then only lasted three years in the job. But then the Breakers three years ago and the Breakers today are very different things. While Paul Henare walked away pretty quickly after just a few months of the new regime, Boucher stayed and played ball with them… at least until he decided he couldn’t any longer. And even then that’s weird because here’s a dude with school-aged kids who just quit his job so you have to wonder how long he’d been considering this. Again, you can’t really blame him and it’s not exactly surprising.
What’ll be fascinating is how the gameday atmosphere goes when the new season tips of because the fact is that despite the erosion of the old culture at the club this is still one of the most exciting rosters the team has had in years. RJ Hampton obviously, even if the Breakers have kinda bent over backwards to accommodate him, but Scotty Hopson is going to be incredible here and look at the form that Corey Webster’s suddenly found himself in. That’s the ultimate test, right? If the Breakers can throw away all but the surface level (how very American) of the club and still retain their fans then sweet as, no worries. But if the fans lose interest because it’s all a bit meh then don’t say y’all weren’t warned.
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