END OF AN ERA FOR GB
- Updated: August 5, 2012
It was always going to end this way.
No, I’m not talking about GB’s Olympic campaign, which could have ended any number of ways had certain shots fallen or missed, or if certain refereeing decisions had been different.
I’m talking about the seven-year first era of GB basketball which began with the formation of the team in 2005.
Everything the programme did in that seven years was focused on first getting to the Olympics, and then achieving success there.
Well, the 2012 Olympics is over for Great Britain basketball. Now reaching Rio will be the new goal – but the next four years are going to look very different from the last seven. And that would’ve been true whether GB made the quarter-finals or not.
GB’s two figureheads were always likely to step down after the Games, and no-one can blame them for doing so, given the time and effort they’ve put in to building the GB programme.
Chris Finch will step up his work towards becoming an NBA head coach. GB have helped him get closer to that goal, but committing to another four years of European summers would not.
Luol Deng will rest his battered body, as other European NBA stars have done. Given his injury history and the fact his Chicago Bulls contract expires in 2014, it’s hard to imagine him stepping onto the court in Slovenia next year.
But Deng will not be the only loss from the squad. Robert Archibald announced earlier this year that he would retire after the Games, and Nate Reinking will almost certainly follow.
Drew Sullivan and Mike Lenzly, both in their early thirties, may also decide to step back from the national team.
That leaves whichever coach comes in with a considerable amount of rebuilding to do. To get to Rio GB must become one of the best sides in Europe. All the top teams in Europe have rotations almost entirely composed of NBA/Euroleague-calibre players.
GB currently have two of those guys, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Joel Freeland. It looks like Devon van Oostrum, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Ryan Richards are the British players with the talent to reach that level, but all – particularly Richards, who may not even want to play for GB – have a way to go before they get there. There are younger players with big potential coming through – most notably Mo Soluade, Kingsley Okoroh and Josh Ward-Hibbert – but it’s far too early to tell how any of them will pan out.
The reality is that the roster tasked with getting us through Eurobasket 2015 will be composed of a few top players – who will be heavily relied upon – and several more playing in mid-level European leagues. The chances of reaching the top six or seven in that tournament, as they’d need to do to be in with a chance of getting to Rio, are minimal.
Knowing that – and knowing they’ll be working with a much more limited budget, given that sports we didn’t come close to medalling in will be first in line for the inevitable cuts – isn’t it possible we could see an exodus of the GB backroom staff too?
Turning GB into a successful basketball nation was never going to happen overnight. We’ve moved on considerably in the past seven years. The players, coaches and staff who remain after the post-2012 upheaval will need to put in a massive amount of effort to move the programme forward and ensure the last seven years were not for nothing. It’s all about the long haul now.