TORONTO – Steve Nash, two-time MVP and perennial National Basketball Association all-star, was named today to lead Canada’s charge toward the Olympic podium in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Nash will become General Manager of Canada’s senior men’s basketball team, providing the leadership and inspiration for a program that is blessed with a wealth of emerging talent.
“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,” said Wayne Parrish, President & CEO of Canada Basketball, in making the announcement at the media conference today.
“We believe this is our equivalent to the moment more than a decade ago when Wayne Gretzky took charge of our hockey fortunes leading up to the Salt Lake City Olympics. In a basketball context, this is one of the most important moments in the history of the sport in Canada since the day Dr. Naismith invented the game.”
Nash said he is looking forward to and committed to the challenge of leading Canada’s senior men’s team. “I’m thrilled to be able to take on this challenge, we have lots of work to do and I’m excited to get started” he said. “With the talent we are developing in this country, Canada has an opportunity to become one of the top basketball nations in the world. There is no reason why, if we nurture and support these great young players and give them the tools they need, that we can’t be a medal contender at the Olympics.”
The appointment of Nash is the result of Canada Basketball’s review of the senior men’s program that took place following the resignation in September of head coach Leo Rautins. Rautins had led the team for seven seasons, returning Canada to the FIBA World Championship in 2010, but the increased focus and funding placed on the international game by the U.S. and many European and South American countries, all blessed with myriad NBA players, in recent years has significantly heightened the challenge.
“We could have just gone out and hired a head coach – we’ve had overtures from a number of world-class candidates – but we really wanted to take the time to review our overall approach to the program,” explained Parrish. “In that process, we came to understand that in order to compete at the highest level internationally we needed to strengthen the entire structure, from both the personnel and financial perspectives.”
Nash’s role is a new position, as is that of Rowan Barrett, who will become Assistant General Manager/Executive Vice-President of the senior men’s program. Both will work closely with Maurizio Gherardini, who will continue in his role of Managing Director.
To support the new structure and approach, Canada Basketball will be relying on additional funds contributed by a private group of supporters, known as 6th Man and modeled along the lines of the B2ten group that provided funding to support many of the athletes that starred for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“It’s absolutely fair to say that without their passion and work behind the scenes, we could not have gotten to this point,” said Parrish. “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.”
Nash indicated that with no FIBA competition in the senior men’s calendar this summer, he will begin connecting with players as well as reviewing the possibilities with respect to team staff, including the appointment of a head coach.
“If all goes well, I’d like to get the group together for the first time late this summer,” said Nash. “We are looking for a long-term commitment, to Canada and to the program. Playing for the national team was a major element in my development into an elite player and I believe it can be for a lot of our guys today.”