May 8, 2012
Nash named GM of men's team
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Captain Canada is back.
The greatest player to ever suit up for this country has rejoined the fold in a major way, becoming general manager of the senior men’s basketball program.
The two-time NBA MVP’s initial aim will be to return Canada to the Olympic field in Brazil in 2016 for the first time since he led a stirring run in Sydney back in 2000.
“With the talent we are developing in this country, Canada has an opportunity to become one of the top basketball nations in the world,” Nash said at a media conference at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.
“That’s the end goal. The journey’s great, we want to work every day to build a team, to build a program, to build a culture about our game — but ultimately, we want success.”
Nash played 10 years for the program, ending with a tournament MVP performance at Olympic qualifying in 2004, but said his wonky back prevented him from continuing since then.
But he was never ready to completely sever ties, he was just waiting for the right time to jump back in completely.
“I owe a lot of my development to the program and feel that the success I’ve had in my career is in large part due to my time with the national team,” he said.
“Playing for Canada at the Olympics was the greatest experience of my career, bar-none. It’s no secret what this country means to me and to be a part of Canada Basketball again is a huge honour and pleasure.”
Nash said it was the plethora of emerging talent that convinced him to take the reins now, even though he is still an all-star level NBA player. He had been interacting with some of the prospects extensively via Twitter over the past year.
Friend and former teammate Rowan Barrett becomes assistant general manager and executive vice president and will be tasked with much of the heavy lifting and day-to-day work, while Nash tends to his day job.
Canada Basketball president and CEO Wayne Parrish said he had been in talks with Nash since September. Parrish had told the Toronto Sun in November: “I would love to have him involved in this program in whatever way makes sense to him at whatever point makes sense to him. It would be a very significant step forward for the entire program.”
Everything has finally been worked out, much to Parrish’s delight.
“Steve’s passion, drive, thoughtfulness and profound basketball IQ give us an absolutely incredible opportunity to leverage the wealth of emerging talent to get back to the Olympics and make some real noise once we do,” he said.
“This is one of the most important moments in the history of the sport in Canada since the day Dr. Naismith invented the game.”
Crucially, the addition of Nash helped convince several private supporters — a group of six aptly dubbed “The 6th Man” to come together to provide considerable financial help.
Funding issues have hamstrung the program for years.
“They have been able to give Steve the confidence that the funding that is necessary to do this job in the right way will be available,” Parrish said of the unnamed benefactors.
Canada Basketball has been profitable the past four years but had been working off a $1.2-million deficit.
Still, while the Own the Podium program funded the women’s side of the organization from 2011-2013, the men weren’t funded. With the new support, Parrish said the program is halfway to its goal. The addition of Nash will be a boon in terms of raising the rest from the corporate realm.
“We’ve had tremendous support from our major sponsors, especially MLSE and Bell — but it became clear to me and to others that it was going to be difficult to get to the level that we needed to truly compete,” Parrish said.
“The funding that (the top countries) have available to them is exceptional. We felt we needed to address that. What we really needed to get all of those guys to come to the table was a single event, something to galvanize them and that in my mind was always the prospect of Steve taking on this role.”
Nash said his friend, Raptors executive and former Toronto and national team head coach Jay Triano would obviously be a strong candidate for the vacant head coaching position.
Parrish added that he believes Triano’s preference is to remain in coaching as opposed to joining Nash in an executive role and said: “I think we’re going to find (Triano) playing a more prominent role as the years go by.”
Triano must finish a commitment with USA Basketball this summer before becoming available.
The man who originally succeeded Triano as head coach, Leo Rautins, resigned in September.
The Canadian senior team does not have any games slated for this summer due to failing to make a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in Venezuela, but Nash said he hopes to get a group of players together this summer for an initial meeting.
Canada will field strong men’s junior and under-17 squads this summer and the most heralded prospect the country has ever produced — Toronto’s Andrew Wiggins — will take part.