‘The future is exciting’: Tall Ferns seeking new coach after Guy Molloy resigns

After six years, two Olympic cycles and more than 40 games at the helm, Guy Molloy has decided to step away from his role as head coach of the Tall Ferns.

The decision comes less than a year after Molloy guided the Tall Ferns to a historic fourth-place finish at the 2023 FIBA Asia Cup in Sydney; it was the Tall Ferns best-ever finish in this competition, which included a memorable win over world number 11 Korea.

The Tall Ferns’ final placing at the Asia Cup also secured them a place at last month’s Olympic qualifiers in China, however, an understrength squad missed out on an Olympic berth in Paris.

Molloy will continue working with the Tall Ferns in a technical director role until the end of the year, as well as continuing with his coaching duties for both the Southland Sharks (Sal’s NBL) and Sydney Flames in the Australian WNBL.

The Australian first joined the Tall Ferns’ programme in 2017 as an assistant coach under Kennedy Kereama, before taking over the head coaching reins in 2018.

Inheriting a team ranked 42nd-best in the world, Molloy’s first challenge was to lead the Tall Ferns at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. New Zealand finished that tournament with a 5-1 record, earning bronze while also introducing the world to a future star in 16-year-old Charlisse Leger-Walker.

Later that year Molloy steered New Zealand to its first-ever William Jones Cup title, besting heavyweights Japan 85-74 in the final to claim the cup – despite being one of the lowest-ranked teams in the competition.

Tall Ferns head coach Guy Molloy during a training session.

Six years later, and under coach Molloy’s tenure, the Tall Ferns have registered a winning record overall, spanning three FIBA Asia Cups and a lengthy hiatus due to the Covid pandemic.

New Zealand currently sits in 26th place on the FIBA women’s world rankings – rising as high as 23rd place in 2023.

Molloy said although it was a tough call to make, he knew now was the right time to move on from the Tall Ferns.

“I think you always know in your heart when it’s the right time to leave a programme; and as difficult and emotional decision as it’s been for me to make, I feel that the timing is right,” he said.

“You’re only ever the steward of the Tall Ferns, it’s been a long time for me in this role and I’m nothing but proud of my time in this programme and what we’ve achieved.

“To compete amongst the top teams in the world, and with the young talent we’ve got emerging and the strides we’ve made collectively in the high performance space; I hope that I’ve left it in a better place, and that I’m able to pass the torch on and let the next person do the job their own way.”

Molloy said he would take away a lot of positive memories from his time with the Tall Ferns.

Charlisse Leger-Walker drives to the basket for the Tall Ferns.

“I’m proud of the fact that our world ranking has jumped by almost 20 places since I took over the team, and that we’re at the point where we’ve got a host of great young athletes emerging up the ranks – from Charlisse and Tera [Reed] to the newest generation of incredibly exciting young talent like Pahlyss Hokianga, Ritorya Tamilo and Lauren Whittaker, just to name a few.

“To have the opportunity to not only work with the best female athletes in the country, but also to have brought so many future Tall Ferns into the programme – is something I’ll cherish. It’s been a great ride over the past six years and the future of the Tall Ferns looks pretty good to me.”

Basketball New Zealand chief executive Dillon Boucher paid tribute to the positive mark that Molloy leaves behind on the Tall Ferns programme.

“His hard work has elevated the programme both from a basketball standpoint, and from a professionalism standpoint within the team,” Boucher said.

“BBNZ has made a conscious effort over the past few years to really elevate the women’s programme, and to support Guy in his endeavours to make this team truly competitive on the world stage – which he’s well and truly achieved.”

Tall Ferns Micaela Cocks.

Reflecting on his time at the helm, Molloy said it has been a rollercoaster ride.

“My initiation into the Tall Ferns was realising that the team was a mix of professionals, semi-professionals and flat-out, dedicated amateurs; a wide array of talent.

“That was new to me, so the very first team I selected – at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – was the start of me trying to find a game style would help bring out the best parts of what we had; a style of play that I believed was going to hold us in better stead internationally. It was a new direction for the programme which I felt we needed to be more successful.

“I remember struggling to find 12 athletes for that tournament, at one point we thought we’d only be able to take 11 players. But we worked the depth chart and funnily enough that signalled the emergence of Charlisse Leger-Walker – who really put herself on the map with this tournament. It was a great introduction to the Tall Ferns and what it was all about.”

Molloy coached during the pandemic years and the obstacles it provided for international teams.

“For almost two years there was zero women’s basketball being played at any serious level. The borders would open and close sporadically so we’d take whatever chances we could to hold camps, but 2020 and 2021 were both tough years; whatever momentum our programme had built in 2019 fell away as a result.

“I remember how tough it was to pick up the thread in 2021 and send a relatively unprepared team and untested team to the FIBA Asia Cup; leading up to the tournament we were having zooms with our players to learn team concepts, because we weren’t physically able to come together as a team.”

After the tough years Molloy decided to base himself in New Zealand and take on the Tall Ferns as almost a full-time job.

“I remember those painful early steps as the country came out of the shadow of Covid and started to get things back together, so 2022 was initially a bit rocky.

“But by 2023, things were moving again and then we had that wonderful FIBA Asia Cup campaign. It was a strange feeling at Asia Cup, as we’d lost a lot of experience due to athletes retiring over the Covid period and other players started families. We took a really young team to the tournament, and I think for me and the coaches – and a couple of the senior players – we knew how hard it’d be to progress in this tournament.

Ashley Taia and Mary Goulding.
New Zealand Tall Ferns v India, FIBA Women's Asia Cup in Amman, Jordan on 29th September 2021.

“When we beat Korea I remember that everyone in the team was happy, but some of the younger players couldn’t understand why the senior players and coaches were so ecstatic; I don’t think they realised just what that win meant to myself and the other veterans. And it was followed up with an amazing, pressured game against Philippines, which we hung on to win. It was pretty darn good.

“Then the Olympic Qualifier tournament earlier this year was just a heartbreaker, but certainly there were some great highlights for the Tall Ferns through the past couple of years. It’s been a long haul since 2018, and I think how far the programme has matured since that time – and where women’s basketball sits now compared to back then. The future is exciting.”

BBNZ will shortly begin advertising for candidates for the Tall Ferns interim head coach role.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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