Canada Basketball will have to find a new coach after a disappointing display at the FIBA Americas tournament in Argentina.
Leo Rautins, who replaced Jay Triano in 2005, resigned from his position after the team suffered a 91-89 loss against Panama on Thursday.
“I think personally at this point to continue the things that need to be done, I’ve made a decision that this team needs a new voice in the locker room,” Rautins said in an interview with the National Post.
The loss against Panama not only sees the departure of Rautins, but crushes Canada’s hopes of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics.
A win, combined with a Venezuela loss would have sent team Canada to a last-chance qualification tournament next summer. Canada has not qualified for the Olympic Games since 2000 in Sydney.
As Rautins pointed out in email to the Toronto Observer Wednesday, the team is still in the process of building and developing a program that can compete with other top-level countries on the international stage.
“We have to continue to be together and add other significant pieces to reach our goals,” he said. “Players in this country have to want to play, develop and represent Canada if we are to ever be among the best.”
The challenge for men’s national team is to get all of its players to come on board. There is no shortage of talent north of the border, yet it is still difficult to get commitments from Canadian athletes.
Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash and former all-star Jamaal Magloire are just two of the names that passed on the chance to don the red and white this year – although Nash has represented Canada in the past.
Still, the youth movement that has exploded in Canada gives hope for the program for the future. Myck Kabongo, Andrew Wiggins and Tristan Thompson are just a few of the bright stars in Canada Basketball’s radar.
Thompson, the fourth overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers this year, had summer school commitments, but had reportedly planned to join the team in 2012 had Canada qualified. His Texas teammate and recent San Antonio Spurs draft pick Cory Joseph did play this summer and Rautins sees great potential for the young Pickering, Ont., native.
“Cory is a tremendous young player but still lacks the experience to make an impact at this level,” Rautins told the Observer. “If he continues to work, he has a chance to be a special player.”
The chances of Canada qualifying for the 2012 Olympics were slim, according to those with knowledge about international basketball, but missing London doesn’t necessarily mean that hope should be lost.
The Canadian teams that were put on the floor for this tournament and the 2010 world championships proved to be exactly what many expected them to be – young and inexperienced.
Rautins’s impact on the team was not immediate but his work has created a very solid foundation for future Canadian teams.
Canada Basketball CEO Wayne Parrish understands the work that is essential in building a good program.
“We’ve been able to build into the program elements and features that have got us well along on that trajectory,” Parrish told the Toronto Star. “I know the success this program will have in the future will be tied in large part to what [Rautins] has achieved.”
Rautins remains optimistic about the future of the game in Canada and maintains his desire to see his country succeed.
“I would love to get to the point where we have all our guys and everybody available playing,” he told the Star. “I think it would be special for them and special for this country.”