DOHA, Qatar (4th FIBA Asia Cup): Tom Wisman seems the go-to man for all National Teams in FIBA Asia looking for a resurgence in their reputation and revival in rankings. Two years ago, the soft-spoken American took over the reins of a demoralized and debilitated Japanese National Team and put them on a course which not only brought back respectability, but also a revival in terms on rankings – the Japanese team under Wisman finished second to Lebanon at the 3rd FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup at Beirut (Lebanon) in 2010 and returned to a top eight finish at the 26th FIBA Asia Championship at Wuhan (China) in 2011.
Having put Japan back in its deserved position on the international basketball map, Wisman now is at the helm of the Qatar National Team for the 4th FIBA Asia Cup – to be played in Tokyo (Japan) from Sept 14-22 – doing a similar job with a similar role – to bring the reputation of the GCC giants back. Qatar, after all were the winners of this event in its inaugural edition when it was known as the FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup.
Qatar are drawn with Wisman’s old team and hosts Japan, twice former FIBA Asia champions Iran, tricky East Asian opponents Chinese Taipei and SABA champions India in Group B of the Prelim Round competition opening their campaign with a game against Japan on Sept 14.
The 62-year-old coach spoke to this website during Qatar’s training camp at Lithuania.
FIBA Asia: What is your quick and initial assessment of the Qatar team?
Wisman: This is an aging team so has to be managed accordingly. But there is a wealth of experience from which to draw. We are re-grouping after the rulings made in Wuhan but still hope to have a competitive team at the 4th FIBA Asia Cup. We have good overall size and length for Asia and with the work being done here, we should be ready for Tokyo next month. The Team has a good game mentality and I am enjoying working with the players and staff.
FIBA Asia: How different is the approach in coaching players from the Gulf as compared to the Japanese?
Wisman: It’s a totally different culture and therefore presents a different set of challenges. But to generalize, they need less structure and organization than the Japanese do and perform better when allowed to play with fewer rules. Also there is more size and power and less quickness and this will dictate a different approach in itself.
FIBA Asia: What will be your target at Tokyo?
Wisman: Getting better and using the experience to build a stronger platform for the 27th FIBA Asia Championship which is a qualifier for 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. And of course, winning as many games as we can.
FIBA Asia: What is the addition you have brought to the team in terms playing approach?
Wisman: Have been working on building a ‘Defense First’ mentality and also playing with good and improved spacing in offense.
FIBA Asia: How has the preparations been? Are you satisfied?
Wisman: Coaches are never satisfied (laughs). There is always something to improve or an area of the game that needs work with any team. Our preparations began last month in Doha and have continued here in Lithuania with a ten day camp where we are playing teams from Lithuania, Russia and the Ukraine. We will move to Philippines for a camp – for training and getting acclimatized before going to Japan.
FIBA Asia: Any other comments?
Wisman: Just that I have now been working nearly two months with the Qatar Federation and really appreciate the opportunity that they have given me. It is an honor to be their National Coach and I couldn’t ask for anything more than what they have provided in terms of their commitment to the Team. Everyone has been fantastic, a pleasure to work with and for.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia
Photo courtesy: Doha Stadium Plus