GB’s new coach is back where he once belonged – and it’s not just for a quick visit.

On a much-needed holiday back to the UK, Nate Reinking’s phone buzzed with a number registered in deepest Sheffield.

Not a member of his wife’s family. Nor an old friend from his long and proud stint with Sheffield Sharks.

British Basketball Federation board member Toni Minchiello had been tasked with formally petitioning the former Great Britain international to ditch vacation plans and undertake an alternative journey.

With Alberto Lorenzo’s abrupt resignation a week past Saturday following a contractual stand-off lasting weeks, the 45-year-old had been identified as the Plan B.

He’d just spent three gruelling weeks in Utah and Las Vegas at NBA Summer League, part of his regular role within the Cleveland Cavaliers organisation and his gig as head coach of the NBA G-League’s Canton Charge.

Rest, recuperation, time with the kids, all in the diary.

Then this offer. “We talked about it and spent a few days throwing it around,” he admits. “It just came out of the blue.”

It was unlikely that Reinking would reject the chance to assume the role, despite the evident pitfalls. Ohio-born and raised he might be but 80 caps for GB which concluded at the London 2012 Olympics, plus a subsequent spell on Joe Prunty’s coaching staff, forged deep bonds that are supplemented by familial ties.

“It’s become part of my DNA,” he asserts. “Being part of the team for six years, making sure we reached the pinnacle of the Olympics and then joining the team as an assistant coach. Going through a couple of European Championships.

“It’s been a big part of my life, for eleven straight years. I’ve been away for a few years. But to get another opportunity and a chance to lead it… It’s one of those jobs you dream about.”

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It all meant a rapid assimilation to get up to speed. Who? What? When?

Training camp in Manchester was just four days after he was asked and accepted. His contract arrived later still. Now, with only a handful of sessions with his new charges, he takes the helm for the first time in tonight’s EuroBasket qualifier against Kosovo in Mitrovica (7.30pm), the opening leg of four games in 11 days in a three-team group which also includes Luxembourg.

24 have been whittled down to 12. For a few, he has barely just learnt their names. “I can hardly remember what day it is,” he laughs. Mornings, afternoons and nights, crammed with quick study.

In his pomp, which included stints in mainland Europe as well as the BBL, Reinking was diligence and nothing less. First in the gym, last out, never the most talented but determined to maximise all that he had and then show it out.

Qualities that have served him well in his transition to the sidelines.

He has returned, however, into a very different environment from the one he knew previously, with British Basketball hampered by a lack of funding, internal politicking and organisational evaporation.

A squad which was threatened with extinction earlier this summer before the unlikely saviour of Basketball England chief executive Stewart Kellett emerged to find a pot of finance while the BBF debated and then wrestled some more.

Having dropped into the last chance saloon round of qualification for EuroBasket 2021, this is the lowest ebb GB’s men have reached since the team was revived 13 years ago.

Knowing the issues, it would have been easy to fear this challenge. Did he worry?

“Nervousness?” he asks. “No.”

Instead, he sees opportunities. A bold ambition to reach the 2024 Olympics and be upwardly mobile again, building around the talent available and unearthing (or luring back) even more.

“My purpose in coaching is to help players fulfil their dreams,” he said. “In the G-League, my job is to help those guys get to where they want to be.

“If you’re going to be involved in the GB programme, and international basketball, getting to the Olympics is the pinnacle. I want these young men to experience that. If there is a way I can help, there is no personal ambition that drives me more.”

There will be some ebb and flow over the four impending dates. Kingsley Okoroh and Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye get their senior bows in the opener while Myles Hesson will captain the side with Dan Clark remaining in Manchester to recover from an injury that keeps him out for at least the first two games.

Gareth Murray – whose dual role as GB’s Under-18 coach at the European 3×3 Championships meant that he missed all of training camp after its start was delayed due to the uncertainty over who the head coach might be – has been omitted from the line-up for Kosovo. He might return for Saturday’s clash with the Luxembourgeois in Manchester.

Ovie Soko’s extensive post-Love Island commitments suggest he will miss this entire campaign. Who could blame him for cashing in? Reinking will utilise what he has, and adapt. No choice, really.

Fortunately, the G-League, where players can be signed on the day of a game or be despatched at short notice, is the perfect training for such chaotic change.

Improvisational skills have become a necessary forte. It can help him now.

“I go into 50-game season and I have 35 different line-ups,” he affirms. “That’s what I told these guys.

“If I make a decision right now that you are not involved now, that does not mean you might not be involved the next day. I’ve had guys show up on the day of a game and play 25 minutes.”

Reinking’s career included EuroBasket 2021 (Ahmedphotos)

One of his first calls when the idea of taking over was initially floated was to Prunty. His advice was sought. Well-wishes offered. Like Chris Finch, his coach at Sheffield and GB, there has been influences imprinted on their successor.

“I take a little bit of everything,” he admits. “I watched how Joe operated the programme those years. It was amazing to learn under him.

“It was me my first coaching job, seeing the guys he brought in … before that, playing for Chris and building that from day one all the way from 2012. I’ve been involved under two special coaches.

“You just take what you need, what you feel is going to be successful. You can’t change how you are. You be yourself. And take something from each guy and hopefully blend it together into your own style.”

And he does not envisage this as a three-week tour. Way beyond that, into the qualifiers proper, into shots at reaching major tournaments, at earning respectability once more.

He will reunite with his accommodating family when this project is all done and return to Canton. To work out an agreement with the Cavs that he might be available during international windows to complete a labour of love that re-starts now.

First, he admits, “We’ll have to micro-manage these four games. That’s all I’m focused on is winning the first one in Kosovo. That’s about it.” Then onward, Reinking hopes, to spearhead a call to arms.

“I just have to get through these four games,” he affirms, “and then see where the future lies.”


0                    Gabe Olaseni  (31 caps)
2                    Ashley Hamilton  (18)
3                    Conner Washingon (2)
5                    Teddy Okereafor (39)
6                    Luke Nelson  (15)
9                    Mo Soluade  (2)
14                   Robert Gilchrist (12)
15                   Kyle Johnson (79)
20                   Kingsley Okoroh  (0)
22                   Myles Hesson, capt. (35)
33                   Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye (0)
34                   Jamell Anderson (1)

Photo: Mansoor Ahmed

Listen to the latest MVP Cast with full interviews with Nate Reinking and Gabe Olaseni – for full details on how to download and subscribe, head to our Podcast page.


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