If you follow Steve Nash on Twitter, you've noticed over the past year that he has paid close attention to young Canadian basketball talent like Myck Kabongo and Andrew Wiggins.
And apparently some time last fall, former national teammate Rowan Barrett approached Nash with the intent of convincing him to join Canada Basketball in a lead role. Many of us expected that if this were going to happen, it would be after Nash's Springfield-bound NBA career came to an end.
But that idea took a turn Tuesday with the naming of Nash as senior men's team general manager
and Barrett as executive vice-president and assistant GM.
It's a gigantic step in the climb back to credibility from a national program that has struggled to take steps at all in the past decade. While it could be met with skepticism seeing as he's not about to retire from his NBA career just yet, the optics alone are huge. Placing the reins in the hands of a uniting force in Canadian basketball is a good decision whether or not Nash is playing point guard in Miami, New York or even (doubtfully) Toronto for the next three years.
Barrett will be there to cross the t's and dot the i's, but Nash's input will leave a big mark on the squad that must make the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
And the reason he's doing it is because he knows we are standing at the brink of a watershed moment in Canadian basketball history. Many people -- some of the puckhead variety, others just unaware -- don't comprehend the level of talent and its depth that is about to mushroom from this country. Tristan Thompson? Cory Joseph? Tip of the iceberg.
"Now's the time to capitalize," Nash said at Tuesday's press conference in Toronto when asked whether it was the said young talent that convinced him to take the job he won't be paid for.
You could talk all day (and judging by the attendance of games over the years involving the national basketball team in Canada, few want to) about the on- and off-court failures of the national program. But as I've said before, this is an unprecedented time. Canada Basketball has to do this right. Yet perhaps bigger than the Nash hiring was the announcement of a funding model known as the "6th Man" group -- a partnership of corporate and private sector financing that has been direly needed for decades. Massive job ahead
It's easy to draw parallels between bringing Nash aboard and Hockey Canada hiring Wayne Gretzky ahead of the 2002 Olympics. But it's not even close. Our success in international basketball is essentially limited to beating the U.S. at the 1983 Universiade. Nash, Barrett and Maurizio Gherardini have a massive job ahead of them, limited not only to ensuring our bumper crop of youngsters are willing to play for their country. There's a gulf between the AAU youth programs in Canada and the national system that must be closed. There's a coach that must be hired.
Whether that coach is Jay Triano remains to be seen. With all due respect to Leo Rautins, Triano never should have been fired in the first place. But that goes back to those failures of the past decade. Triano would have to finish off his commitment to USA Basketball first, and while
there are whispers he won't be brought back as the bench boss, Nash made no secret of his closeness with Triano Tuesday, calling him an "important candidate" for the job.
For the first time in a long time, Canada Basketball did something positive and exciting Tuesday. There may be reason for hope after all. It's about building a system, and they just planted the right seeds.
"Excellence doesn't happen from time to time," Barrett said.Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett update:
The blue-chip forward from Toronto eliminated both Kentucky and Florida from his list over the weekend, and will now choose between UNLV and Oregon. Having played high school ball at Findlay prep in suburban Vegas, most are expecting him to stay local and choose UNLV.
Back to accessibility links