British basketball journalist Dave Ryan looks back at GB's first seven summers back in the international game, with a certain amount of disappointment. With the dust now settled on the Olympics, there's time to look back on Great Britain's achievements in the basketball tournament.
I'll freely admit that I waited to write these words because I didn't want to mess up my gold medal ticket chances. That sounds paranoid, I know, but the reason I haven't worked for GB Basketball this summer is that I reported we stunk against Turkey at EuroBasket last summer. I actually quoted Chris Finch and Joel Freeland saying we stunk, and all hell was let loose. This isn't a rant about me not working for GB, while I could have used the money, I was actually relieved when they confirmed they wouldn't be using my services this summer because the level of grief would have ruined the tournament for me. I don't think their website has gained from the decision, much of the stuff over and above games reports - previews, reaction pieces and tournament round-ups (much of which I did for free) - has disappeared.
I wouldn't be arrogant enough to suggest that GB's non-employment of me is the biggest problem facing British basketball (if it is, there is no problem!) but some of what happened last summer shows how the bigger picture was ignored in favour of things that don't really matter. If the Performance Director needs to sit on the bench, he shouldn't be sending texts about what needs to appear in the game report - he really should have more important things to worry about rather than ranting about me using the word "trey" in a report. The last six years haven't been a disaster. Far from it. Three of the four GB teams have achieved a level of success that couldn't have been dreamed of before London got the Games. As Chris Finch said in his final press conference, we took on every challenge and succeeded but ultimately came up short at the Olympics. It's the lack of legacy that concerns many people.
The main focus of GB was always going to be the Olympics and doing well at them. It had to be, if we didn't get there - and certainly for the women is was far from guaranteed - the funding would've ended instantly. If we stunk at the Olympics the funding was likely to disappear. If they drastically cut the funding now, and don't give us a chance of build on what's been achieved over the last six years, that money really was wasted. But more really could have been done to build towards the future.
The "GB Futures" programme was pretty big in 2010 running in tandem with an England programme and gave the next generation a lot of international experience. But, with our place in London confirmed in March 2011, the last two summers have seen it shrink to the point that it barely seems worthwhile. It should be a big part of the GB set-up, running alongside the U-20 team, preferably with the same coaching staff. As it was, Finch did the job for a year, GB made a big deal about development, then appeared to forget all about it because hthey'd been given the berths. Still, that's better than the women's development programme, that consisted of playing in the World Student Games and then forgetting all about it. The England programme that was supposed to form part of it, never happened, either.
The under-20 men have been poor throughout the six years, they haven't really progressed from the hastily recruited team that Jeff Jones put together when England Basketball ran the programme in the first year. Tim Lewis was given far longer than a coach of one of the senior sides would have been allowed with such failure. It's as if they didn't really care.
And, without raking up the whole Devon van Oostrum saga (and there's definitely more to that than we've heard) , to not even name him on the reserve list when GB were so top heavy with big men, didn't exactly show any forward thinking.
There's been little in the way of coaching development. By this summer - the key point in the programme - all four teams are coached by foreign coaches, with their lead assistant a non-Brit as well. Whatever happened to Tony Garbelotto? Shouldn't there have been a British assistant coach for the men being groomed for the big job when Finch moved on? Damian Jennings is the obvious candidate for the women, but there's still every chance next year that (at least) three of the four head coaches will be non-Brits. Although I'm beginning to turn into John Amaechi, that's a pretty damning indictment after six years.
There's been a lot written about the money spent on training camps and hotels etc. it's hard to judge whether it was spent well without having been there. The camp in Houston this year seems like a lot of money to spend, but with EuroBasket qualifying not starting until next week, it was the only way of getting decent opposition at that stage of the summer. We could probably have done with longer together as a team before the Olympics anyway, but if we'd stayed in England, there wouldn't have been anyone worth playing. But the amount of money spent on non-coaching personnel really needs looking at. There are three people on the GB website listed a having "performance" in their title - and that's not counting Tim Lewis because his real title should be video co-ordinator - seriously what are they all doing? Warwick Cann provides a link between the England junior teams and GB, he does get out a lot and watches a lot of games, but it's arguable whether it's a full-time job in November or December. Ron Wutella (who I have a lot of time for) has seen his role shrink, he's now part-time and dealing with the players in America. I don't know what his terms and conditions are, but that doesn't seem like a very big job and in the days of modern communication it's not as if he needs to be the States.
And then there's the Performance Director - a man who's never played or coached basketball at any proper level. I've coached one EBL D1 game (I may have mentioned this in the past), that's one more than he'll ever do and I just can't see how someone with no background in basketball could be the best man for the job. Even if you ignore that, they appeared to have two and half men doing what is basically one job. He really can't be that busy if he's trying to write the game reports from the bench during games - and yes, there is obviously a bit of an issue between us, but that doesn't change the basic facts.
I could ignore the chronic waste of money but the farce about places in the Olympic Village and bench really tops it - and I'll admit to being seriously angry about this. After Poland 2009 there was serious consideration given to firing Finch and bringing someone else in. Maybe they couldn't get who they wanted or maybe they just didn't think they could justify it after what he'd done (and we had been placed in the group of death), but in the end the decision was made to stick with him and they appoint Paul Modeski as an assistant coach. He's good, I've talked to him and talked to people who've talked to him, and he knows his stuff. He's played and coached in the NBA and his role was much more than just being a big-man coach. So where was he during the Olympics? Staying in a hotel outside the Village and sitting ten rows back in the stand, rather than being on the bench.
Meanwhile, Damian Jennings was doing likewise for the women while Spice and Ron W sit on the bench. Unbelievable. I can just about understand Ron being there, he's coached at college level in the States and could conceivably bring something to a game situation - and the women had three coaches, even if they chose the wrong second assistant thanks to a Facebook campaign by people who think they should pick the team based on who wins the women's league. But to have only two coaches for the men, and leave arguably the most experienced of the three in the stand so a bloke who's never coached a game in his life beggars belief. The ego truly landed when it came to the crunch. The lack of interest in building a fan-base for OUR national was also clear. Whether it was the invitation-only games at Cobham when they should've been taking them to Guildford (or elsewhere). But it was just never there. I guess the money was irrelevant in the big scheme of things, and once again it comes back to the lack of any real wish to build a legacy. Let's be honest the GB Supporters' Club exists in spite rather than because of the efforts of GB Basketball. I'm not being unfair, here, look at the farce over tickets in Lithuania, it made their lack of interest in the fans pretty obvious. Which if you're going to grow the game - and get to a point where home game make money - is pretty short-sighted.
I'm not totally down on the whole GB programme. It's achieved a lot in its first seven summers. But if it's going to succeed it needs to be run by people who want to grow the game in the long-term. So much has been achieved, so much more could have been.
Four of the top six all secured victories on an action-packed Sunday in the BBL. Leicester Riders bounced back from their first loss in 17 on Friday with a 93-84 victory against Glasgow Rocks with Brandon Clark netting 23 points. The Rocks dropped to fourth as DBL Sharks Sheffield mounted a fourth-quarter charge to beat Surrey Scorchers 78-86 and move up a place. Meanwhile, Worcester Wolves continued their winning run as they defeated Cheshire Phoenix 91-103 in overtime with Maurice Wa... [read more]
Four of the top six all secured victories on an action-packed Sunday in the BBL.
Leicester Riders bounced back from their first loss in 17 on Friday with a 93-84 victory against Glasgow Rocks with Brandon Clark netting 23 points.
The Rocks dropped to fourth as DBL Sharks Sheffield mounted a fourth-quarter charge to beat Surrey Scorchers 78-86 and move up a place.
Meanwhile, Worcester Wolves continued their winning run as they defeated Cheshire Phoenix 91-103 in overtime with Maurice Walker scoring 22 points in the win.
London Lions were another team to split a weekend double-header as they recorded an 88-96 win away at Manchester Giants with Zaire Taylor (193-G-86, college: Missouri) and Rashad Hassan combining for 43 points. BBL Championship Leicester Riders 93 (23,45,75) (Clark 23, Hampton 22, King 16) Glasgow Rocks 84 (17,44,57) (Watson 24, Achara 23, Lescault 17)
Leicester Riders returned to winning ways with a 93-84 victory over Glasgow Rocks at Leicester Arena, on Sunday.
The Riders paraded their recent BBL Trophy title pre-game and have their sights firmly set on further adding to their trophy cabinet after restoring a four-point lead at the top of the table.
Brandon Clark made his first six shots from the field on his way to 23 points with Pierre Hampton and Taylor King adding 22 and 16 points respectively.
The home side set the tone with an 11-2 start, but the Rocks settled and closed the first with back-to-back triples. Glasgow took their first lead in the second as Neil Watson scored five straight points against his former side.
Drew Sullivan's three-point play edged the Riders back ahead at the half and they produced a dominant third period, outscoring their opponents 30-13 including a 14-0 run.
Glasgow started the fourth on an 8-0 run to close within 10, but the Riders held firm and closed out their 22nd league win of the season.
Watson had 24 points with Kieron Achara adding 23 points and 12 rebounds with the Rocks now dropping into fourth spot.
Worcester Wolves dominated the extra period to claim a 91-103 overtime success against Cheshire Phoenix in a battle between two of the most in-form teams in the league.
The game was tied at 88 at the end of regulation, but the visitors stepped up with six points from Trevor Setty to help his side record their eighth consecutive win.
Maurice Walker netted 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting, while Setty and Jermel Kennedy added 16 points apiece with seven players in total reaching double figures.
Both sides made strong starts, but it was a 10-0 run that saw Cheshire pull away in the opening period. The home side carried that into the second and went into half-time with a double-digit lead at 53-42.
Worcester tightened things up on the defensive end in the third as they held their opponents to 14 points and moved ahead off the back of a 13-3 spell before Cheshire edged back in front.
The lead changed hands throughout the fourth and Mike DiNunno had the chance of a second game-winner of the weekend but his 3-point attempt was swatted into the first row by Kennedy as overtime ensued.
Wolves made their move and a 15-1 run secured the victory as they close on the top four with their 15-12 record.
Earl Brown scored a game-high 25 points in vain for Phoenix as their win streak ends with the Play-Offs beginning to look out of reach.
BBL Championship Manchester Giants 88 (18,36,67) (Trobo 18, Toluwase/Jones 17) London Lions 96 (28,52,70) (Taylor 22, Hassan 21, Wells 12)
London Lions bounced back from Friday's agonising loss with an 88-96 win on the road away at Manchester Giants.
Zaire Taylor and Rashad Hassan combined for 43 points in the win as the Lions consolidated their place in the top eight with a 14-12 record.
The Lions also had three other players in double figures in a balanced attack with GB's Zak Wells going 6-of-7 from the field for 12 bench points.
The visitors set the tone with a 13-4 start to take early control and they led by 10 at the end of the first period. Yorick Williams fouled out in the second and saw his team go on to trail by 16 heading into half-time.
However, the Giants came out firing in the third and made six triples in the period including a trio from Harold Trobo as they closed the gap to a single point at 67-68.
Taylor scored the final points of the third and the Lions used an 11-2 run to restore their double-digit advantage and managed to keep Manchester at bay to secure the win.
Trobo had 18 for the Giants as their valiant fightback came up short and they now have a 4-24 record.
Scorchers take sixth league win in seven outings in front of a sell-out crowd in Bristol BBL Championship Bristol Flyers 74 (13,29,48) (Ali 20, Cosby 17, Edozie 12) Surrey Scorchers 85 (24,48,64) (Ogedengbe 26, Taylor 19, McCray 17) A blistering start by Surrey Scorchers paved the way for a successful south-west raid as they outpaced Bristol Flyers 74-85 in front of a full house at the WISE Arena. Having lost 24 hours earlier in the derby match-up at Plymouth Raiders on BBC Sport, Flye... [read more]
Scorchers take sixth league win in seven outings in front of a sell-out crowd in Bristol
A blistering start by Surrey Scorchers paved the way for a successful south-west raid as they outpaced Bristol Flyers 74-85 in front of a full house at the WISE Arena.
Having lost 24 hours earlier in the derby match-up at Plymouth Raiders on BBC Sport, Flyers were looking to bounce back, but were left stalling on the starting line as they failed to get in gear.
In stark contrast, Scorchers caught fire from the tip and posted the first 11 points of the game. Even when Flyers eventually came alive and threatened a renaissance, 14 points in 16 first-half minutes from Tayo Ogedengbe (198-F-87) kept the hosts at bay, as Surrey built a commanding 48-29 advantage at the interval.
Bristol tried to recover the situation when the action resumed, but it looked like the damage had already been done as Scorchers kept them at arms' length.
It was a different story during the last period, as Flyers set up a tense finale when they clicked offensively and a drive and score from Daniel Edozie briefly cut the gap to 76-72.
But, Scorchers were able to close out the win to continue their super form of late as Ogedengbe eventually finished with 26 points, while the defeat wrapped up a miserable weekend for the home side.
The history keeps on happening in the WBBL and it proved to be a landmark and dramatic Saturday as Caledonia Pride came back from a double-digit deficit to stun Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters 79-78 and take a first ever home floor victory. Natalie Bastian sunk the crucial free-throws at the death and also top-scored, but it was a pair of go-ahead triples from Scottish guard Hannah Robb heading into crunch time which made the difference. There was then drama at the unveiling of the... [read more]
The history keeps on happening in the WBBL and it proved to be a landmark and dramatic Saturday as Caledonia Pride came back from a double-digit deficit to stun Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters 79-78 and take a first ever home floor victory.
Natalie Bastian sunk the crucial free-throws at the death and also top-scored, but it was a pair of go-ahead triples from Scottish guard Hannah Robb heading into crunch time which made the difference.
There was then drama at the unveiling of the brand-new Archers Arena as Cardiff Met completed a memorable first outing with an absorbing 58-55 success against Team Northumbria as Judit Fritz (183-G/F-87, college: St.Francis, NY, agency: Interperformances) hit a last-gasp triple.
Finally, there was great heart and resilience shown by Manchester Mystics in the third game of the day which was also exhilarating. Great Britain guard Georgia Jones registered 24 points and 12 rebounds as the visitors took a magnificent 82-80 double overtime win at Barking Abbey Crusaders.
Caledonia Pride collected a historic first ever home success in the WBBL after coming from behind to take a famous 79-78 triumph against Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters.
Doubling their league win tally for the season, it was a huge scalp for the Scottish side, as rather fittingly, the game's top scorer Natalie Bastian calmly iced a pair of free-throws to complete a fantastic comeback.
Having trailed by 12 points with less than five minutes remaining on the game clock, it looked as if the Pride's elusive search for a first home win would continue a bit longer.
But, off the back of some very nice defence and a flurry of three-pointers, including a pair from Scottish star Hannah Robb, it put them back in contention.
As Hatters cracked down the stretch despite 22 points and 15 rebounds from the powerful Brittany Winborne, the locals celebrated a hugely exciting victory on home soil for the first time.
The first game at the impressive new Archers Arena will never be forgotten by those who were fortunate to attend after Judit Fritz nailed a dramatic late triple to hand the hosts a gripping 58-55 win against Team Northumbria.
With an eye-catching crowd on site for its first WBBL match-up, the supporters inside the Arena were rewarded for their attendance after a nail-biting but exhilarating conclusion - although it had looked like Northumbria might spoil the party.
They went into the locker rooms at the half holding a 32-24 advantage and having thrown a defensive blanket over Archers.
But after making some half-time adjustments, Cardiff got themselves back into the contest, with Sarah Wagstaff instrumental as she supported the game-winning effort of Fritz with 16-points in a dramatic final quarter.
Claudia Baraut posted a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds in defeat.
A brilliant team performance underpinned by 24 points and 12 rebounds from Great Britain guard Georgia Jones facilitated a wonderful 82-80 double overtime triumph for Manchester Mystics at a crestfallen Barking Abbey Crusaders.
The home side had been on the front foot for almost all of the game and looked like a lock to take victory, but Mystics would not go away and a late rescue mission saw them come back from 10 points behind with less than five minutes of regulation remaining.
Some great play from Rheanne Bailey including a big three-pointer put them on the path to recovery and as Amy Browne sunk two free-throws, the first period of overtime arrived at 65-65.
It again looked like Barking would finish the job but Jones had other ideas as she made an off-balance three-pointer to save her team again and force another five minutes of action.
Manchester then finally got the edge and were able to finish the job - despite the home team benefitting from double-doubles from Savannah Wilkinson and Abigail Johnson.
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