The Canadian Senior Men's National Team took a huge step forward yesterday in giving themselves the best chance at success by securing Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse through the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Nurse, who has now been with the program since 2019, wasn't shy talking about what the program needs going forward to maximize the potential that Canadian basketball fans have been hearing about since Steve Nash coined this era as the golden age of hoops in the country way back in 2013.
It all comes down to commitment. And not just short-term commitment... long-term commitment. Nurse and the Canada Basketball front office are hoping to get players on board for the next three summers.
In a letter written by Nurse and posted on the Canada Basketball website, the NBA championship coach talked about a blueprint of success - one that starts with the President and General Manager, which trickles down to the coaching staff and ends with the players.
"As the head coach of this program, with Paris 2024 in front of us, my first and biggest task immediately at hand is to begin to build that kind of continuity in Canada," Nurse wrote.
"We believe that to get where we are going, we need to lay out a three-year commitment -- from today to Paris 2024 -- and players need to decide that yes, they are in.
"We need to lay out what's waiting on the other side, and how we'll invest in their journey. This is what we're truly after here, because this is one of the lessons we've learned time and again. I think everyone sees it clearly, including those of you reading these words now.
The last line rings true. Those who have followed this team closely have seen time and time again how a lack of commitment, a lack of continuity and sacrifice has led to roadblocks on the path to a podium finish. We can sit here and debate about what went wrong in the past - and those in the Canadian Basketball community have done that ad nauseam - but this is sports, and in sports, we always move forward.
Following the loss to the Czech Republic in Victoria, BC that ended Canada's Olympic hopes, President and CEO of Canada Basketball Glen Grunwald said it was "two steps forward and one step back." And he was right. The steps forward were securing a world-class head coach and a good amount of the talent the country has to offer. The step back was, of course, the loss.
There's been some debate around the job Grunwald and General Manager Rowan Barrett have done since they've been in power, but securing Nurse through the next Olympics is a win. It also signals to the rest of the community that there's a plan in place to achieve the ultimate goal. Now, they need to continue to relay that message to the players.
"North America is different from Europe. And FIBA is Eurocentric. We're NBA-centric here in North America," Grunwald told reporters in Victoria following the latest tournament failure.
"We'll be communicating with the players and their circle of influence and making sure they understand the importance of all of these tournaments.
"Rome wasn't built overnight, and the Canada Basketball program wasn't built overnight either.
"We know the future is bright for Canada Basketball and basketball in Canada."
For the longest time, the Senior Men's team has been operating as a team, not a program. Canada has been able to put together teams, but nothing resembling a program that has continuity from tournament to tournament.
The countries that win and see consistent success at the international level operate like a program, not a team.
Australia's program saw a core group of players grind and claw through multiple competitions before finally standing on the podium in Tokyo. France had the same thing, it's a large reason why they were also able to medal at the Olympics. Even a first-time Olympic team like Slovenia carried over much of their roster from the team that won Eurobasket in 2017 and the Czech Republic's core has been together since age-group basketball.
At this point in the golden era, a player like Cory Joseph, who has made every effort to help build a program, should be passing the torch to the next generation knowing full and well that they'll be able to carry it as well as he has, and hope that they would be able to complete the ultimate goal. Instead, Joseph is handing the torch off, hoping that someone picks it up.
Commitments to the national team in the past felt almost like favours. With this line in the sand drawn by Nurse and the Canada Basketball brass of a three-year involvement, it feels more like the buy-in needed to build a true program.
The talent has always been there, the infrastructure now seems in place to build a program, one that Canadians can truly be proud of.
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