WUHAN, China (26th FIBA Asia Championship): Bob Donewald Jr! There cannot be a more discussed name than this in the Chinese basketball – nay Chinese sport – these days.
As the coach of the Chinese National Team, the 41-year-old has to handle quite a few tasks – ranging from ensuring he has got his scouting right to whether none of his players need any more medical support – but the most important of them all being to win the gold medal at the 26th FIBA Asia Championship and clinch the automatic qualifying berth to the 2012 London Olympics.
Donewald spoke to this website on a variety of issues including Team China’s determination to regain the title.
FIBA Asia: You and your team have been media-shy for some time now. What is your message to the Chinese media?
Donewald: All summer long, we have been a team very open with the media here in China. We understand and respect that they have a job to do. However during this week we decided that we wanted to close down and just focus on the task at hand. So far, our focus and play has been good, and I hope the media can respect the fact that at this moment this is what is best for Team China.
FIBA Asia: How hot is the seat of the Head coach of the Chinese National Team?
Donewald: (Laughs). Yes I am aware of this. It is called the life of a coach!
I love it, a country like China deserves to see its team in the Olympics. So for our fans we are doing everything possible to make that happen. Injuries have not helped us, and other countries in Asia have gotten stronger- but the hot seat is where a coach lives.
FIBA Asia: This is your first FIBA Asia Championship. What is your assessment of the overall basketball standards in the competition?
Donewald: Asia basketball is at an all time high. I feel there are 5 or 6 teams that could win it.
I am not surprised. I’ve been studying all the teams in Asia for almost two years now. I know a lot of talk is about Iran and China but there are at least 5 teams that should be in the discussion.
FIBA Asia: If you were to pick a team that impressed you the most, which one? If you were to pick a team that disappointing to you, which one?
Donewald: I'm impressed w a few of them but won't mention names.
Most disappointed would be Qatar as I had them as a team that could contend for the title.
FIBA Asia: You came in the aftermath of a massive defeat at the hands of Iran in the previous FIBA Asia Championship. How did you bring the confidence back in the team?
Donewald: We focused on defense and not Iran. We built up a system of team basketball that has made us better. And we have tried to install a confidence from hard work.
FIBA Asia: Where and what do you think Asian teams lack in going to the next level. Like say, for example, what would it take for the Champions here to become a serious media contender in the London Olympics?
Donewald: I think teams in Asia are getting better and better and time itself is what is needed.
Here in China we have a young group that just needs to mature. Obviously, when a Yao comes along it gives a country hope to compete against the world’s best. But I see the overall level of Asian basketball getting stronger. Now a star needs to come along again and give a team a boost!
FIBA Asia: How difficult is it being Bob Donewald JUNIOR?
Donewald: My father is my idol. I am so lucky to have a dad that got me into basketball and taught me not only how to coach but to put value into loyalty, honesty, and old fashioned integrity. He also connected me to some great basketball minds along the way- from Willis Reed, Chuck Daly, Wayne Embry, and Pete Newell. The list goes on it was my father made me learn from them as well.
Again, I am very fortunate and I hope when he looks at my career he is proud.
FIBA Asia: What are the things you learnt from him and how much do you use them in your coaching?
Donewald: Everything in basketball I learned from him or the people he put me with. I think people that watch my teams play see a lot of similarities in his teams when they played. He was one of the best!
FIBA Asia: Given a chance to go back in time, would you want to undo the Brazil game?
Donewald: I think in life everything happens for a reason. And our lives are shaped and they grow with not only the good but with the bad as well.
FIBA Asia: What are your closing comments?
Donewald: This tournament is just about to start. Asia should be very proud at the level of play in this year’s Championship. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner – one ticket to London. It is our goal that that ticket goes to China!!
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia
Photo: Milad Payami / FIBA Asia