What did Chris Finch do to anger the gods? There were clearly neither black cats walking in his way nor lucky heather in his pocket last Sunday when the lottery balls of Eurobasket saw Great Britain earn a jackpot they might wished to have avoided.

Getting three semi-finalists in the first round group two years ago in Poland was a fate that surely couldn’t be repeated. Or so you’d think. A reunion with the defending champions, Spain, is a test in itself. Being joined by two medallists from last year’s world championship, Turkey and Lithuania, in pool from which only three will progress is enough to make anyone ponder their misfortune.

“Last time round, we had the toughest draw clearly and it’s safe to say this time, we do again,” Finch said.

”It’s done. I couldn’t control it before and I certainly can’t control it now. So what I want to do is focus on getting our best team together.

Ben Gordon is in line for a GB debut (Getty/NBA)

“If we get our best squad – Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Joel Freeland, Pops Mensah Bonsu, Robert Archibald and all those guys – committed and signed up for the whole programme, and have a really good preparation together, then we have a chance to do some nice things.

“If we don’t have our best talent, then any group will be tough at that level. It’s about elite talent. We have some of it. We just need to put it on display.”

Discussions are ongoing with each of that illustrious quintet, confirmed the reigning D-League Coach of the Year. It remains, however, too early to offer any guarantees that all, or none, will be on board when training camp opens in early August.

All have made the right noises. But Finch issues a cautionary note. “We’ve learnt not to count our chickens before they’re hatched because those are things you can’t control,” he confirms. Other than the recently retired Andy Betts, no-one has ruled himself out of the frame.

Other names might emerge. The talent identification process continues with British Basketball’s North American-based liaison, Ron Wuotila, maintaining his search for those who might be eligible to help the GB cause.

There are defined areas of need: Finch’s squad of last year lacked an experienced point guard and it remains an obvious deficiency, despite the progression of Ogo Adegboye at St. Bonaventure University.

“We’re working all the time to get new talent,” Finch confirmed. “Last year we had a lot of new guys. We have a few pull-outs but we also wanted to go back to some guys who had been there before and go with them to see if they could make it at this level. That was with one eye on this year and the Olympics. But with everything we do, whether it’s planning or playing, we try to put together a roster that gives us flexibility. “

Behind the scenes, there is other backroom work under way. Finch’s lieutenant at the Rio Grande Vipers, Paul Mokeski, is likely to join the senior staff after his stint as Tim Lewis’ number two with GB’s Under-20s.

“We like to cross-pollinate our staff,” Finch adds. “Paul was a key addition for us last year. He did a lot of good with Dan Clark, giving him a few pointers.”

Donewald is returning to London

Nick Nurse will likely remain as lead assistant, sparking a potentially intriguing encounter of the BBL’s most illustrious old boys when GB meet China – coached by Bob Donewald – in their Olympic Test event. “It is going to be like a little reunion,” laughs Finch.

The major cloud on the horizon is the possibility of a NBA lock-out, come July 1. Britain is not alone in contemplating the side-effects but if there is no labour deal across the Atlantic, it could leave British Basketball with a major quandary: pay the vast sums of money needed to insure Deng and Gordon – or leave them behind.

Their monetary value may rest on the outcome of FIBA’s decision on GB’s Olympic place. If qualification is already assured, they may be deemed expendable on the grounds of cost. With a requirement to earn a berth at London 2012, their services might be worth every penny.

Finch will not let such quandaries get him down. Over five summers in charge, the former Sheffield Sharks playcaller has become well-used to rolling with the punches.

“There are areas you can’t always control: insurance issues, injury issues, players’ family issues,” he confirms. “You can’t control them.

“Maybe this year the NBA lock-out will have an impact. You never know. But I’m not going to lose sleep about it because there’s nothing I can do. I’m sure powers that be, far greater than GB Basketball, will want to avoid it.

“Unfortunately GB isn’t going to be a priority in anyone’s thinking. We just to have to hope it’s resolved.”

Sooner or later, it must be Finch’s turn to get the lucky break.

(Main photo: wooller.com/GB)

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