Behind the Looking Glass

After all the initial brewhaha and speculation had died down after the Senior Men's disappointing finish at the FIBA Americas Championship earlier this month, the question still remains as to who will be named as the new head coach.  Can Ball Ray takes a look at less obvious aspect of the whole head coach scenario and what it could mean to the National Program's in the mind of public ...

 

After the debacle of the last two summers, the Senior Men’s National Team seems to be in a bit of a pickle.  With the last two summers really not going Canada’s way at all, the team failed to make the cut for the Olympic qualifying tournament happening next summer and this has prompted coach Leo Rautins to step down. 

To put it in another way:  since the loss to Panama to September 8th the marquee team of the national basketball program is now without someone to lead the team into the next phase of qualification for the next major FIBA event, the 2014 World Basketball Championships. 

This would need to be rectified at some point over the course of the next few months, likely sometime around late spring of 2012, but the big question would remain:  who should Canada Basketball bring in?

I know that a few people have already mentioned or wrote or talked about who they think should/could/would be the best candidate to lead the Senior Men in the near future and really I have no problems with who they have mentioned. 

My big concern is will the name be enough for the players to respect him while also garnering the support of the basketball loving Canadian.

Respect from the players will be given for the most part.  These players are professionals at this level, even if they’re in college, and that is what you do if you’re a professional just like in any other workplace.  Obviously the concern on this side of the respect coin, for myself personally, is if the players that have been out of the program for a little time (think Tristan Thompson, Samuel Dalembert, Kris Joseph, Myck Kabongo, Rob Sacre, et al.) will respect the coach enough to make a commitment.  There should be a perception that the direction the program is going in is upward, not lateral, and this new guy should personify that step.  Selling the program will likely fall into this guy’s hands and with enough clout behind him he could coax some players back.  This in itself will be an issue talked about I’m sure more when the candidate is actually named. 

My bigger, and more pressing, concern will be with regards to the public.  Canada has been on an upward slope since 2008 at the Senior Men’s level.  Steady improvements over the summers had led to a spot in the World Championships as well as a bevy of young talent making waves at both the high school and college level were  a huge step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, making those steps also heightened expectations and with the situation that befell the team during the Worlds, where injuries decimated the lineup after they had handily disposed of China and France twice on home soil, the end results were damaging to the perception of the program to the public.  The talent that Canada had wasn’t deep enough to withstand any loss of bodies and for it to happen during the event  they had pushed to qualify for just deflated a lot the new support that was mustered. 

The same was true for this past FIBA Americas Championship.  Taking any hits to the lineup, which Canada did again thanks to injuries, just deep-sixed the overall machine and with it the chances to a) compete at the team’s highest level and b) finish in a place needed to qualify not only for the Olympic tournament before London but to qualify as worthy of support and faith by the public who were not soured by the results of the Worlds. 

The public never really sees these behind the scenes things and judging by the reactions of many it didn’t really matter.  The person at the head of the ship is the head coach and he takes the blame 99% of the time, or at least the brunt of it. 

This then returns to my point:  with not current head coach in place, will the next one for Senior Men’s National Team be able to gain the respect of the public?

The next candidate in my mind is going to have to.  I can only speculate as to who that person, or persons, will be but I think that Canada Basketball will need to bring in a big gun.  Someone with a lot of instant name recognition and who is a step outside of the immediate CB family will be the best candidate in my opinion.  I would think that an experienced professional coach is an ideal person at this point. 

There have been some names that have been thrown into the hat for this spot early on and the most prominent one was Dave Smart.  He’s got a winning pedigree and he’s Canadian but despite the success he’s had at Carleton, I don’t know if that would be enough.  He's expressed interest in possibly taking the head coaching position in a published article a few weeks back and I think he’s more than capable but will the public be able to see Smart, a great CIS coach with a dominant team that produces very good players, as leading a team of professional players at the highest international stage? 

I'm not so sure right now. 

Even names of coaches that have been attached to the various National Programs for years are seeming like 50/50 guesses as to how the public would react to their coming on board this ship, regardless of their past successes.  That is the climate that the new head coach would have to tread in. 

As always I’m trying to temper my expectations with those of the reality of the situation.  The expecation is that the Senior Men’s Team will have a head coach that can put the team in a position to qualify for the next major international basketball event almost immediately.  The reality is that it’s a high pressure position requiring someone to basically create an elite level team with a limited pool of talent and with an even more limited pool of funds.   

Can Canada Basketball find someone to fill that role under these circumstances?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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