“I can’t say enough about my players. I guess you had to have seen the game to understand what my players did. If you didn’t see the game you can’t appreciate everything they did today.”
WUHAN, China (26th FIBA Asia Championship): Trust coach Tab Baldwin to pull rabbits out of his coaching hat. The American-New Zealander’s stint with the New Zealand Tall Blacks in the early part of this century – when he took them to their first win in the 2001 FIBA Oceania Championship and subsequently to the semifinals of the 2002 FIBA World Championship – needs no elaboration.
Exactly ten years later, the 53-year-old almost pulled off a coup steering the Jordanian Al Nashama to an improbable victory over the might of the hosts China in the gold medal game of the 26th FIBA Asia Championship.
Just for the record, whenever Baldwin has been the coach of a team in FIBA Asia competitions, the team has invariably played the gold medal game – the triumph of the Lebanese NT in the 3rd FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup being the earlier instance.
In the case of the Lebanese, the Cedars at least began the 3rd FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup as the favorites and went on to justify it.
Here’s a collection of Baldwin’s thoughts after Jordan played their first ever FIBA Asia Championship gold medal game.
On the final game
China played another tough game again. Offensively as usual they were really good. They really broke our offensive system forcing us into a lot of one on one basketball.
Fortunately for us, Rasheim (Wright) had a very good day offensively.
Defensively, I thought we did a very good job. We made it really tough for China to get points around the rim. We forced them to shoot a lot from the outside. And they (China) did a good job.
I can’t say enough about my players. I guess you had to have seen the game to understand what my players did. If you didn’t see the game you can’t appreciate everything they did today.
From somebody who has coached a lot and seen a lot of basketball games, for me, it was an unbelievable effort by our team. May be nobody in the stadium, nobody who watched the game believed we could win that game.
But in my heart I did believe we could have won the game. That’s why I am a little heart sick now for my team, for my country, for all the people who have worked really hard for this.
His feelings after the defeat
Everybody has to stop in these situations and understand how much is at stake in a game like this. On an occasion like this.
Far too often not enough people stop and realize how important games like these are in people’s career, life. It’s a chance to go to the Olympics. It is big, really big. That’s why I am a little heart sick right now.
About the final offensive play with 8 seconds left
My offensive plan for that moment was probably destroyed earlier in the quarter when a couple of my players said: ‘Coach we need a time out.’ They were running out of gas.
I had to make the decision whether to save the the timeout for a situation just like that or take it to save energy. I felt we needed the energy to go down the last few minutes, so I took the time out and we had none left.
You have to credit China for forcing me to burning out my timeouts. They played great at the start of the second half.
When we called that play, we were a little confused and consequently lacked the space we needed.
So we took a real tough shot and then we thought we could get the rebound. We couldn’t.
You know even for a veteran team like us those situations are very taxing. You don’t get enough practice in those types of situations.
On the difference between the Second Round game Jordan lost by 33 points and the final
You know if we had lost another game by 33 points, you’d be asking me much tougher questions about our team and my coaching.
We learnt from things we did wrong. We had better effort today for sure.
We realized China was under a lot of pressure in this game. We wanted to try and pressure them, we wanted them to make tougher plays.
We tightened up those areas where we let them loose.
But still China were able to get just through hustle and effort. We can learn from that, but that’s for the future.
On his visit to China
I want to thank the people of Wuhan and China. You are good hosts.
During my visits here during the last 8 years… China seems to get better every time come. It’s been a real pleasure.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia