Tom Maher has already coached at two Olympic Games. So what would the coach of Great Britain’s women do if FIBA were to exclude the hosts from London 2012? “I think I’d walk away,” he proclaims. “I’d have to get another job.”

Many a true word has been spoken in jest and Maher quickly moves to reaffirm his commitment to guide the national team through this summer’s Eurobasket finals – and beyond.

However the Australian believes it is unthinkable that the sport’s governing body might decide on Sunday that Team UK is unworthy of an automatic place at her home Games.

For the men, at full-strength, there remains an awkward but realistic route to earn a spot through the formal qualification process. The women, despite the unheralded progress they have made in securing safe passage to Poland this summer, would face the longest of odds. Realistically, it is Lyon or bust.

Maher has long witnessed the machinations of FIBA. He knows the political plays which could derail the bid. A ticket for GB means an established power misses out. Still, he cannot imagine that the vote will be a thumbs down.

“I’d be gobsmacked,” he said. “What more could Britain do? It’s done everything. I can’t believe it wouldn’t be yes. British basketball over the last four years has taken bigger strides than I’ve ever seen. It’s been unbelievable.

“I’m not talking about the coaching. I’m talking about the administration, the ability to put a competitive programme together, the ability to put a classy sports science group together. They’ve gone from nothing to something in a big way. To deny GB a spot would be horribly wrong.”

Twice before, Maher has coached the hosts in their own Olympiad: in Sydney 2000 with his native land and in 2008 at the helm of China. It was part of the appeal of the role when he was approached three years ago to lend credence to Britain’s women.

Few expected that, eight months after being reprieved from relegation to Division B, his side would book their place in their first-ever major championships, in Poland this June.

That achievement, say FIBA sources, has given huge additional weight to the GB case. And it is an argument that Maher insists is wholly persuasive. Rejection? No way.

“I’d just be horrified,” he states. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Those people aren’t stupid. They’re smart people. They’ll make the right decision because it’s an obvious that Britain has earned its spot at the Olympics.”

Collins realistic on GB fate

Great Britain women’s captain Stef Collins concedes her mind will be tuned to matters in Lyon come Sunday.

No matter the outcome, she says, there is still much to do. Plans are already set for the preparations for Eurobasket and the rigours of a group which includes both the Czech Republic and Belarus, as well as Israel.

However, a trip to the 2012 Olympics, could unlock so much for the women’s game in the UK which, unlike its near neighbours, is devoid of a professional league.

“I like to stay optimistic but it’s tough because I’ve read a lot of what Patrick Baumann’s been saying about the need for a legacy,” notes Collins.

“The performance end of things has proven we can compete. But the other side is what is coming through from the home nations.

"That’s got to factor in as well.”

Positively, FIBA is unlikely to separate the cases of Britain’s men and women. It is a case of both or neither. For each, fingers are being crossed

“We’d be disappointed of course but you take it in your stride. Now, from where we’ve come from, we couldn’t be in a better position.”


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