Thursday was an extremely dark day for basketball in Canada.
The senior men failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics thanks to a devastating 91-89 loss to Panama, ranked five spots lower in the standings, but much farther apart talent-wise based on performances during the FIBA Americas tournament (Canada kept games close while Panama made getting blown out by 25 points or more a habit). Panama got a ridiculous performance from Denver Nuggets guard Gary Forbes. Sometimes that happens.
It’s a huge disappointment though. Not sure what else to say about it. While 2016 was the realistic goal, at least making the last-chance qualifier was huge for the program, since I have heard from various sources that Steve Nash was 50/50 to take part and Tristan Thompson and Matt Bonner likely would have been on-board as well.
It was also disappointing to see a man who, despite what his critics have said, has given his all for the program.
Leo Rautins was a dedicated and tireless worker for Canada Basketball. Like everyone he had his faults, but what he had going him constantly seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Being unable to work with Samuel Dalembert hurt the team even if the blame can be shared between both men. I have been told, however, that the absence of Syracuse star Kris Joseph wasn’t on Rautins.
In a perfect world, the idiotic move to dispatch Jay Triano in 2005 would never have been made and Rautins could have come on board as an assistant coach/backer of the program.
That would have kept Nash, the two-time NBA MVP on board and probably would have been enough to get young kids more interested in playing than they are now.
Canada Basketball has a tough challenge ahead of it. The young players must be convinced to buy into the program (since Canadian pride doesn’t seem to exist in the same way as it does for members of other countries) but they must not be coddled. It’s a fine line. They need to be made to commit to 2-3 years with the program. The program must also be more willing to take outside opinion than it has in recent years. Constructive criticism, while criticism, can be handled much better.
As Rautins said in his exit conference, the FIBA schedule makes things insanely difficult. Players need to sacrifice to play. Their time with family, their bodies, etc. Most, like most people, want to advance themselves and see playing in camps or other events as more beneficial than suiting up.
That needs to change.
Given the talent in the pipeline – Thompson, Khem Birch, Andrew Nicholson, Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk, Kyle Wiltjer, Kris Joseph, Andrew Wiggins, Justin Jackson, Andy Rautins, Jevohn Shepherd, Myck Kabongo, Cory Joseph, Kevin Pangos and more! there is no reason why Canada shouldn’t be not only in the 2016 Olympics, but a top 5 contender.
But they all need to be properly reached out to and they need to play.
Here are some of the words from the post-game press conference:
“Disappointing, we’ve all put a lot into this. These guys have worked their tails off. For some reason, different things catch up with us. Losing a few guys, we’re not good enough at this point to absorb that. A lot of good things have happened unless you’re close to this program you’re not going to see. To continue the things that need to be done, I’ve made a decision that this team needs a new voice in the locker room.
I think it’s time, I’ve gotten a great deal of support from within the organization, I think the players have given me everything I’ve asked. For the benefit of this program going forward, a new voice in the locker room will be the best thing.
I love this program. I didn’t take this job to enhance my reputation, to become an NBA coach, to use this as a launching pad, I took this job because I love the program and I want to see the program succeed. I know what this program can become.”
“I’ve got nothing but support from Wayne or Maurizio. I never felt any pressure, anything in any way from Wayne here.I went to Wayne and said this needs to be done.
In light of new occurrences where program had to spend a lot of time defending me, I didn’t want to put the program in that position anymore. Sometimes you just need a change. There will be a lot of speculation. Most important thing is the players. The young players the future, that’s all that matters to me. Right now this is the best, in my opinion.
We’re playing against the best in the world, we compete with what we have. I think the structure of FIBA has to change. You have players dropping like flies. In what technically is their offseason. It would be wonderful if we could put our best players on the floor. I’m never going to be critical of those who don’t Everybody’s got career, families, injuries that they’ll have to consider before playing.
Having said that, it’s a great opportunity that players should take advantage of.
We have to look as playing for the national team as an honour and something beneficial.
There’s two ways to represent your country, in war and in sports and I think this is a hell of a better way to do it.
I’d love to see all our players take part and I think it’s going to happen.
I had a lot of fun with this group. Nobody cared about who started, how many minutes, these guys just came out and played.
I was part of this program as a youngster where we were amongst the best in the world and that’s where I see this program.
What’s next for me is doing whatever part I can to make that happen. That’s priority for me.”
“Definitely not the place where we though we would be today. We fought all tournament and sometimes bounces don’t go your way. Every one of us put everything into it to try to get us in a position to qualify. Everyone’s pretty down right now.”
“There is a lot of work to be done.
Real focus and target is 2016 that hasn’t changed we’ve been able to build into the program elements and features that have gotten us along that trajectory.
We all hope that we would be positioned to be in the qualifier at least next summer, the fact that we aren’t doesn’t change the success that has been borne.
Need to become one of the teams that others are fearful of.
Leo has been for many many years the heart and soul of this program and I don’t think that is going to change. Know success this program is going to have in the future is going to be tied to what Leo has achieved to date and what he will continue to help achieve in the future.
Program isn’t about one person, but its built on some real key values and principles.
We’ll sort those things in the next few weeks, my focus is so we don’t lose any of that.
Discussions have been over the past hour or couple of hours.
Level of competition at this level, at this event is high. Anyone that has not been here, cannot fathom.
We came up short and we have to change that.”