Jay Triano named Canadian men's basketball coach

Former Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano was named the new head coach of the Canadian men's basketball team on Thursday. Triano also was the team's head coach from 1998 to 2004, leading the team to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Jay Triano was the first Canadian-born and Canadian-trained coach in the NBA. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

When Steve Nash was named general manager of the Canadian men's basketball team back in May, Jay Triano didn't lose much sleep wondering whether he would be named the squad's head coach.

Nash introduced his longtime friend on Thursday as the man who will lead the senior men's team, confirming a hiring that likely had only one candidate.

"That's why it's been one of the best kept secrets in three or four months," Nash joked. "It was somewhat required ... one of things we had to come to an agreement on before I signed on."

Being introduced at Air Canada Centre was familiar territory for Triano. He was the senior team's head coach from 1998 to 2004, leading the side to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and also served as head coach of the Toronto Raptors from 2008-09 to the end of the 2010-11 season.

The 53-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ont., was the first Canadian-born and Canadian-trained coach in the NBA when he joined the Raptors in 2002 as an assistant. He was recently hired as an assistant for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Triano's relationship with Nash dates back two decades when he convinced the young player from Victoria to move to the mainland and play for Simon Fraser University. Triano could see Nash was something special and urged the future two-time MVP to shoot bigger and play in the United States.

That belief was not lost on Nash.

"He was honest with me, he believed in me and told me I could go and do great things," recalled Nash, who signed with the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this summer. "Since that day, we've developed a close friendship."

The pair reunited in 1998 when Triano first became head coach of Canada's national team. He enlisted Nash and the men's team made its first appearance at the Summer Olympics since 1988, when Triano was captain of the squad.

Canada finished seventh in the Sydney Games, but hasn't been back since. That's something Triano plans to change as he looks towards the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

"Part of being here today is ... hopefully getting us back to an Olympics again, " said Triano. "With the dedication of Steve and the staff that we brought in, I'm really looking forward to developing those players, so that Canada doesn't get to the Olympics once in a while, but that it becomes something consistent and is expected. Something we accomplish on a regular basis."

Triano, who represented Canada as a player in three Olympics (1980, '84 and '88), says taking players like Nash to Sydney 12 years ago is a memory that inspired him to accept the position.

"Being on three Olympic teams was a great joy, but the greatest joy that I had was taking 12 players and letting them experience the same thing I did as an athlete and Steve was part of that group," said Triano.

"To help him become an Olympian was an even bigger honour than participating yourself."

For Nash, naming Triano meant installing someone who lives and breathes basketball. A "lifer" as Nash likes to call him.

"If you're walking down the hall, if you're in a elevator or having a beer, the conversation is usually about basketball and he's got a big smile on his face," said Nash. "He's completely engaged and it's beautiful thing when you see people passionate about what they do."

Triano's assistants will be Greg Francis, Kelvin Sampson and Dave Smart.

A Canada Basketball camp kicked off immediately after Triano's introduction. Canadian NBAers participating include Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cory Joseph of the San Antonio Spurs, Joel Anthony of the Miami Heat and newly drafted prospects Robert Sacre (L.A. Lakers), Andrew Nicholson (Orlando Magic), and Kris Joseph (Boston Celtics).