NEWCASTLE Hunters coach Darren Nichols has resigned six weeks before the start of the Waratah Basketball League season after a breakdown in his relationship with Newcastle Basketball general manager Ivan Spyrdz.
A Hunters player or coach for the past 30 years, 44-year-old Nichols tendered his resignation to Newcastle Basketball president Ross Lewis last Friday, confirmed in a media release issued by Spyrdz on behalf of the basketball association on Monday night.
The Newcastle Herald has been told assistant coach Larry Davidson and team manager Martin Anderson also stepped down in a show of support for Nichols, who has coached the Hunters for the past four seasons.
Nichols guided the Hunters to the play-offs in the past three seasons, including the 2011 grand final and 2012 minor premiership, and he was the Waratah men's coach of the year in 2010.
His other assistant, long-serving former Hunters player, coach and Hunter Pirates assistant coach Trevor Gallacher, has been appointed interim head coach.
The Herald has been told by several sources that the relationship between Nichols and Spyrdz had become increasingly strained in the past 18 months, mostly over matters pertaining to player recruitment and retention.
It is understood Nichols was concerned about the strength of the playing roster this season after being told there were insufficient funds to retain several players from last year's squad, including American guard Deion Sims, or sign any imports to replace him.
"It's a sad day for me after 30 years of involvement in the sport to walk away from the Hunters," Nichols told the Herald on Monday night.
"I, like other volunteers, love our club, but this year I found it increasingly more difficult to perform the duties that I was appointed to do.
"I don't wish to make any comment about my relationship with the general manager. I just believe that the decision that I have made is in the best interests of the club, and I leave the Hunters in the good, capable hands of Trevor Gallacher.
"I love our club and I love all our Hunters teams - seniors and juniors - and I wish them all the best of luck for this season and for the future."
Nichols said he had an offer to coach arch rivals Maitland this season "but in the end I couldn't do that because I bleed green".
Spyrdz said: "I'm not in a position to discuss internal club matters in a public forum, so you will need to speak to the president."
Lewis proffered a similar statement when the Herald tried to contact him on Monday night, but in the media release issued earlier he said Nichols left with the association's best wishes.
"Nicko has done a fantastic job with the Hunters over the past few seasons," Lewis said.
"On behalf of Newcastle Basketball we thank him for his time and efforts over the last four years, and value the integral part he played in assisting Newcastle Basketball and the Hunters in its recent successes.
"We wish Darren all the very best for the future, and we look forward to seeing him court-side at the Hunters' home games in a much more relaxed environment."
The Hunters begin their 2013 Waratah campaign at Penrith on March 16 and play their first home game against Manly on March 23.