Basketball: Dickel the man for a challenge

Carl Dickel, Mark's father, in 1997, his last season as Nuggets coach.
Carl Dickel, Mark's father, in 1997, his last season as Nuggets coach.
Mark Dickel is going to a busy man this year.

The former Tall Blacks point guard has been appointed player-coach of the Otago Nuggets, replacing Alf Arlidge, who stepped down from the role just before Christmas.

Dickel barely needs an introduction. The 37-year-old made his debut for the franchise as a 16-year-old, he led college basketball in assists during his senior year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and he played for the Tall Blacks for more than a decade.

He rejoined the Nuggets two years ago and his return helped spark a dramatic turnaround in the franchise's fortunes.

The Nuggets made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1997, when Carl Dickel, Mark's father, still had the reins.

Carl also coached the New Zealand women's team, while Mark's older brother, Richard, was the foundation coach of the Southland Sharks and is coaching the Adelaide Lightning in the Australian women's league.

The Dickels are Otago basketball royalty and the pressure to build on the Nuggets' recent success means Mark will arguably start the role shouldering more expectation than anyone before him.

''You want to say that you go into everything with your eyes open and you hope that things will go 100% the way you want them to go,'' he said.

''That is kind of the way I'm viewing it. But you also know it is not going to be as easy as you want it to be, either.''

Mark Dickel glides to the hoop during a Nuggets-Sharks game in the 2012 season. Photo by Peter...
Mark Dickel glides to the hoop during a Nuggets-Sharks game in the 2012 season. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The Nuggets have perhaps lost some momentum since last season. The late appointment of a coach means the franchise is trailing the pack when it comes to recruitment. Dickel's first priority is to get the playing roster together.

''Definitely, within the next couple of weeks, we would like to have gone a long way towards finalising our roster, like pretty much all the other teams have.''

So far, the Nuggets have four players on the books. Dickel and Brendon Polyblank will be joined by Fijian international Marques Whippy, and forward Sam King is also returning after a year off.

''It is going to come down to how we play in the games,'' Dickel responded when asked if the Nuggets were disadvantaged.

''If we do a good job of building the same type of chemistry we were able to early on in the season last year, I think we'll be fine.''

Dickel will continue in his role as director of development at Basketball Otago, and knows he will need a lot of help from the sidelines coaching the side.

He has spoken to Gavin Briggs about continuing as assistant coach and Otago women's coach Todd Marshall, the former long-serving Nuggets coach, will also support Dickel in his new role.

It will take some fine-tuning, but Dickel is confident he can make it work on the court.

''Obviously a lot of my work is going to be done before the games and at practice and getting us ready to play. We would have a game plan which we would try and stick to, and as long as the game is going well, you can stick to the plan.''

If Dickel ever needs further advice, he can always turn to his father. Carl guided the Nuggets to three playoff appearances during a four-year stint from 1994 to 1997 and is the franchise's most successful coach with a record of 59 wins and 38 losses.

Carl told his son he felt it would be a big challenge balancing so many different roles within the franchise. But if there is one thing Mark Dickel loves, it is a challenge. He is keen to prove he is up to it and equally determined to continue to have a big influence on the court, despite his increased workload.

However, he will be handing over the captaincy reins, probably to Polyblank.

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