Hoops hopes up

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

It is expected this will be the week the Canadian national men's basketball team finally gets a new head coach. According to sources, Canada Basketball is in the last stages of determining which of three remaining candidates will guide the national team into the future.

The original plan was for the decision to be made before Christmas, but indications are an announcement could come any day now.

Three finalists for the job have been identified:

- Gord Herbert, who is coaching a professional team in France.

- Kevin Hanson, the head coach at the University of British Columbia.

- Leo Rautins, a former NBAer and a regular analyst on Raptors broadcasts.

Clearly, Canada Basketball tried to reach into every corner of the hoops world during its weeding-out process, and each of the three finalists has close ties to a crucial area of the sport. Herbert currently represents the pro game in Europe, Hanson represents Canadian college ball, and Rautins the pro game in North America.

Rautins is the best-known of the three candidates. While he understands his lack of coaching experience might bother some people, he believes in-game strategy is only a tiny part of what the national-team program should be concerned about right now.

"To put it bluntly, you can't coach what you don't have," Rautins said. "We're at the point where we need to build and sell this program, to players, to sponsors, and to the sporting public overall.

"Obviously, if I were fortunate enough to get the job, I would surround myself with a coaching staff that would cover all the bases in terms of X's and O's. But sometimes simplicity is a key as well.

"In previous decades, sometimes the national team had 50 plays in its playbook, and for a variety of reasons, they weren't running any of them very well. Back when I was playing for the national team and Jack Donohue was coaching us, we had a grand total of four plays. But we ran the hell out of them. We killed people with our plays."

The men's national team has been without a head coach since last October, when Canada Basketball announced that Jay Triano's contract would not be renewed. Triano currently is in his third season as an NBA assistant coach with the Raptors.

Triano's top achievement as Canadian coach came in 2000 when he led the national team to a 5-2 record at the Sydney Olympics, including a massive upset over Yugoslavia. The Canadian team, led by star NBA guard Steve Nash, finished seventh after a heartbreaking quarter-final loss to France.

At the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis, Canada -- without any of its NBAers in uniform -- finished 13th in a 16-team field.

Canada did not qualify a men's team for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.


Videos

Photos