Together, they guided the Tall Blacks to their finest moments - now Tab Baldwin and Nenad Vucinic have joined forces again to take on the Chinese national basketball league.
Baldwin has signed to coach the Fujian Sturgeons in the CBA next season and one of his first moves was to secure the services of trusty sidekick Vucinic, the current New Zealand men's coach.
Vucinic's role is described as "consultant" and his stay at the Sturgeons depends on what other offers come his way over coming months. In the meantime, the duo has a chance to replicate the relationship that changed NZ hoops a decade ago.
"Not only is he the best coach I know, he's also my best friend," insists Baldwin. "There's a mutual respect there - he makes me a better coach and a better person."
Baldwin was head coach and Vucinic his assistant when the New Zealand men's team defeated Australia in a series for the first time to qualify for the 2002 FIBA World Championship. Once at Indianapolis, the Tall Blacks shocked the world and pulled off a string of upsets to reach the semifinals.
Two years later, they beat reigning world champions Serbia & Montenegro at the Athens Olympics and in 2006, lost to the Boomers in a thrilling Commonwealth Games final, securing silver medals as consolation.
By then, American-born Baldwin was already coaching abroad and when he stood down later that year to concentrate on his professional aspirations, Vucinic was the logical successor.
"In some ways, he's done a better job with the Tall Blacks than I did," admits Baldwin. "I had a group of players who had played together and reached their prime at the same time, but Nenad has had to manage a transition to new players."
This year, the Tall Blacks took the court without their two stars - veteran shooter Kirk Penney and high-flying forward Tom Abercrombie - and failed to qualify for the London Olympics.
"But the only reason they were even competitive was that Kiwi never-say-die attitude and Nenad's influence from the sideline."
China is the ninth stop in a career that has taken Baldwin through the US, New Zealand, Malaysia, Turkey, Romania, Greece, Lebanon and Jordan. He has kept in regular Skype contact with Vucinic and their paths have crossed a few times - they coached against each other at the 2010 world championships, where Baldwin's Lebanon outfit was in the same pool as the Kiwis.
During that time, Vucinic has also pursued his fortunes in Europe, but was left on a limb when his cash-strapped team finished bottom of the Italian second division. He arrived in Jinjiang City this week and his stay isn't expected to clash with Tall Black commitments.
"Being an avid fisherman, I'm excited to coach a team that is named after a fish," grins Baldwin. "I hope I get a chance to catch one."
"The Chinese league has been getting strong in recent years. It tends to be dominated by American imports and attracts NBA-type players."
Several established NBA players headed to China during last year's strike - the league's top scorer was guard JR Smith (34.4 points), who returned to the New York Knicks once the strike ended.
While Baldwin is still recruiting imports, he's yet to lay eyes on his top Chinese player - a seven-foot teenager on duty with the national junior team and billed as the next Yao Ming.
The Sturgeons finished eighth last season and were swept 3-0 by eventual finalists Guandong in the quarterfinals. Team management anticipate another playoff appearance, but after losing several veteran players, Baldwin is more cautious in his expectations.
"I tend to look at a team and what I think they're capable of, then try to get them to fulfil that potential. Whatever happens after that, we'll see."