Jack Majewski speaks to GB Head Coach about the progress of Team GB and their preparations for 2012.
JM: Let’s start from Eurobasket in Lithuania. You have to teams which you were supposed to lose and also you beat teams which you were expected to beat. Does that mean that you were good, bad or simply indifferent? What is your assessment of GB’s performance in this tournament?
CF: I think it was a good showing by us and we accomplished our goals. We wanted to make progress in comparison with Eurobasket 2009 and we certainly achieved that. I also believe that the entire summer was very good for us. We played very well against some elite teams and we gave ourselves a chance to beat them. Of course there is another step of actually winning these games and we are not there yet. But we believe that achieving such a stage is a long process and we have made steps in the right direction. However in order to be successful next summer we will have to beat some of these teams.
JM: Do you really believe that in the short period of time left before the Olympic tournament you could make such drastic improvements, allowing you to beat other top World teams? Spain and USA seem to be outside of anyone’s reach.,but what about the rest?
CF: We don’t have a choice and we have to be ready. The key thing for us is to have all players healthy and ready to practice from the very first day of the training camp. We have to have really good preparation with everybody together to get a right rhythm and then to start the tournament in the right way.
JM: When you are saying that you need everybody together do you think that the current group of players is talented and good enough to be successful at the Olympics or do you envisage them needing some major reinforcements? The addition of Ben Gordon to the backcourt would probably make such a huge difference.
CF: Well I think that our current roster regardless of whether Ben is there or not is good enough to get a win which we need. We know that we are young and inexperienced especially at the backcourt. One of the most positive aspects of this summer was the introduction of very young guards to the national team. That is why we have taken so many guards to Lithuania to give them more experience of playing and operating on this level. They need to be accustomed to playing on this level and they need to prepare in their own minds for next summer. That was part of our strategic planning and we couldn’t delay that any longer.
JM: I really think that your concept of introducing such young guards is both brave and commendable. However Ogo Adeboye ,Devon van Oostrum and Andrew Lawrence will be playing in an environment which is so far from mainstream European basketball like Euroleague or Euro Cup that I really don’t see how they can be prepare to dominate on such a prominent stage like an Olympic tournament?
CF: I believe that they will be ready. I don’t believe in impossible. We are happy with their club situation, they will be settled there and what is most important is that they will be getting court time. They are so young that every year will make huge improvements to their game. Let’s look at Ogo, he will be playing in Cyprus learning the European way of basketball. I know that is not Euroleague or Euro Cup, but that is not Ogo’s fault. We as a GB can also help his and other young guard’s development by minimalizing their role and making them comfortable and capable of delivering what we ask them for. In that way they can concentrate on things which they are comfortable with.
JM: Could you give us an update on the current situation with Ben Gordon? How likely is it that he will play next summer for the GB team?
CF: Well I believe that all our guys, including Pops would .have played for us this summer if circumstances were on our side. It is far too early to say what will happen to these guys next summer, especially bearing in mind the current situation with the lockout in the NBA. What I can say for sure, is the fact that all of our players are very committed.
JM: The last decade and half was an amazing personal journey for you. I remember when you joined Sheffield Sharks as a player; then subsequently became a successful coach there. Then you moved to Germany to coach Giessen 46ers, followed by the move to Bree and Dexia Mons-Hainaut in Belgium to finally move back to US to coach Rio Grande Valley Vipers, of the NBA D-League. Now you are on coaching staff of Houston Rockets. On top of that you have been a head coach for GB team since its creation and you are very established on the European coaching scene. What are your personal goals as a coach and what is the ultimate goal for Team GB at the Olympic tournament?
CF: I have been very fortunate to be with GB since its creation, this job gives me so much motivation. I must say that this summer gave quite a lot of fulfilment, but ultimately we want even more. Maybe the timing is just right for us, when next year we will get these shocking results beating some true basketball powerhouses. When it comes to my own position on the coaching scene, I must say that I’m in a very fortunate position when I have a very varied coaching background. I’m very experienced in a lot of areas; I know the European game very well, and obviously now I’m translating it into the Northern American game. Bearing in mind the background of our players it is very important that we can blend both styles of basketball and create a successful environment for them. I think this summer we started to show our true style. Sometimes it wasn’t pretty, but maybe we won’t be a pretty team either. Generally I’m very happy with where I’m right now and very confident that I can take this team much further.
JM: I appreciate what you are saying about your varied coaching background, but don’t you worry that your relocation to America makes you more detached from mainstream European basketball and will therefore negatively affect your chances to successfully prepare the team for the Olympic tournament?
CF: Both in working with GB team and my everyday job our players are scattered all over the world. I keep close tabs on the European game and I have been in Europe for 17 years, so I can monitor this scene very well and I’m not hampered by not being in Europe. Perhaps if I was coaching a team like Russia where the majority of players are playing in the domestic league, it would be to my advantage to be in Europe and very closely monitor this league and work with my players on a more regular basis. In the UK we don’t have such a situation. Our younger and some key players are based in America, so it is very beneficial for me to work here.
Photographs courtesy of Mansoor Ahmed Photography