Kelly Olynyk knows Canada has a crucial coaching decision to make — and he hopes it comes soon.
“Hopefully they figure it out sooner rather than later so that we have a little time to get things rolling,” Olynyk said Sunday morning.
The Miami Heat forward and a cornerstone of Canada’s national basketball team was responding to a recent report that the search for a head coach for this summer’s World Cup is down to two candidates: Roy Rana, who guided Canada to gold at the U19 world championships in 2017, and Gord Herbert, who’s coached in Europe for the past 20 years.
Sportsnet reported that Ettore Messina, a longtime assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs who was believed to be the front-runner for the job, had recently withdrawn his name from consideration. Messina’s departure came shortly after longtime Canadian coach Jay Triano pulled out of the hiring process.
“I thought [Triano] did a great job,” Olynyk said ahead of Sunday’s game against the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena. “We came up short but it was nothing to do with him or who was there.
“We should have won when we lost against Venezuela.”
Olynyk was referring to Canada’s one-point loss in the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament that sent Venezuela to the 2016 Olympics. Canada eventually lost to France in a last-chance qualifying tournament.
The Canadians will make its first World Cup appearance since 2010 when the FIBA tournament tips off Aug. 31 in China.
Rowan Barrett, Canada Basketball’s general manager of the men’s team and father of Duke freshman star R.J. Barrett, plus the national organization’s CEO Glen Grunwald, are running the hiring process, and had planned to announce a new head coach by the end of March.
That deadline has come and gone, and Barrett reportedly wants to keep looking.
A Canada Basketball official told The Canadian Press that neither Barrett nor Grunwald would comment on the process until a head coach is hired.
Team hoping for 6-week pledge
Rana, Herbert and Triano all coached the team during a lengthy qualifying process that saw Canada finish 10-2 — Rana coached eight games, while Herbert and Triano coached two apiece.
The Canadian men’s team has been criticized in previous years for the players who have been unwilling to commit to the national program.
Canada Basketball will ask players to commit six weeks of this summer. The World Cup ends Sept. 15, a couple of weeks before NBA training camps open.
Can a coach make a difference in who wants to play and who doesn’t?
“You never know, it could, it couldn’t,” Olynyk said. “Guys will have their reasons for playing and for not playing and you have to respect them.
“I don’t think a coach is super influential on those reasons, but obviously guys want to play for some people, and other guys maybe other people aren’t as attractive a situation. I don’t know if it deters anybody, maybe it’s just not as attractive. You never know what’s going through guys’ heads.”
‘We have the talent’
What would the 27-year-old centre like to see in a coach? While knowledge of the international game is important, it’s more about the ability to create the right chemistry.
“We have a lot of good players so you need to be able to bring those guys together and get the most out of everyone’s talents,” Olynyk said.
“It’s a lot like an NBA team. A lot of teams have a lot of talent, but if you make the team greater than the sum of it’s parts then you’re going to be real good, and we have the talent, we have the people to fill those roles, we just need someone to bring us together and kind of guide and help us achieve our goals.”
Expectations will be huge on a Canadian team that should boast the best collection of talent to ever suit up for Canada. Featuring likely eight or so of the country’s top NBA players, plus players who bring a wealth of international talent, competition for spots on the team alone could be fierce.
The World Cup is also the main qualifier for the 2020 Olympics, with the top seven finishers punching their ticket to Tokyo.
The Canadian men haven’t played in the Olympics since Triano coached a squad led by Steve Nash to a 5-2 record and seventh-place finish in 2000 in Sydney.