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But he has moved on from the image many have of a grafting top order batsman who carved out a solid domestic record for Canterbury and admirably filled in at international level when called upon.
He is a thoughtful, well-organised and innovative coach who led Canterbury to three Plunket Shield titles and a one-day crown during his six year stint.
Yesterday he was confirmed in the role after a week of speculation and it will not be long before Stead's real qualities shine through.
But like a good opener, he plans to assess the conditions first.
''I think I'll need a bit of time to get in a bit closer,'' Stead said.
''But clearly the team has been left in good shape and I want to continue using the things that have obviously been working and use that as the fabric.
''But I can skirt around the edges and say, 'well, where are the small gains we can make, because you can always make small gains'.
''You can always get better and we have to have that attitude.''
The 46-year-old has a 12-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter and said his appointment was ''a bit surreal for everybody at the moment''.
It is a time-consuming and demanding job which comes with the burden of public expectation and increased scrutiny.
New Zealand Cricket is aware of the challenges and a feature of Stead's two-year contract is the flexibility for him to co-opt additional coaching support to help ease the pressure and also to get the best out of the team.
''When you've got people like the Stephen Flemings, Daniel Vettoris, Shane Bonds and Mark O'Donnells ... for us to not tap into their expertise would be silly from my point of view.
''But it is also about the well-being of our support staff.''
Stead, who played five tests for New Zealand in 1999, will start in the role on September 3 and has been given a head start.
The test and limited-over squads for the series against Pakistan in the UAE in October and November were named late last month.
It seems a little odd New Zealand Cricket could not wait a couple of weeks for Stead to be part of that process, but the right-hander was happy with the teams he has inherited.
''It was about giving players some clarity beforehand but I don't think there was any massive surprises when I look through the teams.
''But I will touch base with Gavin Larsen and Hesson [national selectors] soon ... and just ensure I have an understanding of their thinking around those teams.''
Stead will bring plenty of experience to the role. He was a stalwart of a star-studded Canterbury side which dominated representative cricket during the 1990s.
He played 101 first-class matches and 103 one-dayers before retiring in 2006.
Before taking over as Canterbury head coach in September, 2012, he led the White Ferns to the final of the Women's 50-over and T20 World Cups.