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06/09/2010
Bob Donewald (USA). Head Coach of China at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

ISTANBUL (2010 FIBA World Championship) - It's safe to say that Bob Donewald’s glad he accepted the offer to coach China's national team earlier this year.
 
There is a sparkle in his eye when he's asked about September 2, the day everything changed for the Chinese at the FIBA World Championship.
 
It was the last day of the Preliminary Round action, and China appeared to have a very small chance of advancing to the Eight-Finals.
 
However, Ivory Coast upset Puerto Rico, only not by enough points to give them the advantage in a goal differential tie-breaker with the Chinese and Puerto Ricans.
 
At the very end of that Ivory Coast game, Puerto Rico's David Huertas knocked down a three-pointer at the buzzer that left the Africans with an 88-79 victory.
 
Had the shot not gone in, Ivory Coast would have advanced to the knockout stages and not China.
 
“We were in the hotel room," Donewald said to FIBA.com.
 
"We knew the numbers and had them on a board in my room and knew exactly what needed to play out.
 
"We went through our Turkish preparation as normal on game day.
 
"I was in my room with my staff.
 
"I was on the third floor and my team was on the ninth floor and when the kid (Huertas) hits the basket at the buzzer to cut it to nine, I walked out my door to the elevator to go tell my team about it and I could hear the screaming on the ninth floor from my players."
 
What Donewald experienced next was one of the finest, most emotional moments of his career.
 
"I jumped on the elevator," Donewald said.
 
"When my elevator doors opened, there were my guys, laying on the floor, crying and hugging, jumping around.”
 
Donewald decided to rest his starters against Turkey in their game that night and instead played youngsters that are cutting their teeth at international level.
 
Turkey hammered the Chinese, 87-40.
 
"I had to sit my boys down," Donewald said.
 
"It was the right thing to do.
 
"We were emotionally done for the day.
 
"The young guys that played - they needed to see what these games are all about."
 
Even in the blowouts, there is something to learn for China.
 
It's okay to lose games, he says, as long as you lose the right way.
 
"Of course they're going to fail, but every time you try to go against the best, it becomes a little bit easier," he said.
 
"So I thought the experience against Turkey was a wonderful exercise for the young boys."
 
Basketball culture
 
No national team coaching job is easy, especially for a westerner that leads a team in Asia.
 
China’s job has presented numerous challenges for Donewald.
 
There is a language barrier to overcome.
 
There is also history.
 
China have not set the world alight in international basketball.
 
They made it to the Eight-Finals four years ago when a Wang Shipeng miracle three-pointer at the buzzer beat Slovenia and lifted China over Puerto Rico and into fourth place in their group.
 
The biggest challenge for Donewald has been to get his players to understand what he calls basketball culture.
 
"The culture is different than being in Brazil, being in Ukraine, being in America," Donewald said.
 
"Each culture is different.
 
"However, I'm a true believer that basketball culture remains the same and that's something that we've tried to teach these guys. In the past, these guys would get down eight to 10 points and they'd hang their heads. The next thing you know, they're down 20 points.
 
"We wanted to teach them basketball culture - that's it's okay to keep fighting, it's okay to keep trying.”
 
China suffered narrow defeats to Greece, Puerto Rico and Russia and errors did hurt them in each game.
 
Every team makes mistakes.
 
At no time in those defeats, though, did China stop playing hard.
 
"Mistakes are going to be made and it's how you deal with those mistakes that's important,” Donewald said.
 
“And they are coming around. My guys showed a lot of life and fight in all the pool games, the Group C games.
 
"I told my guys, 'You deserve to be here in the last 16. I couldn't be any prouder that they are learning, and fighting."
 
In the Eight-Finals on Tuesday, China will take on Lithuania, a team that has won all five of its games.
 
Yi's the man!
 
One reason that China have been good enough to advance has been the inspirational play of Yi Jianlian.
 
The seven-footer is the third leading scorer at the FIBA World Championship behind Luis Scola and Kirk Penney, and number one in rebounding.
 
Yi is pouring in 22.5 points per game and hauling in 9.8 boards per contest.
 
For Yi to be at his very best, must he believe this is his team, just as in the past China was Yao Ming's team?
 
"The one thing I'm doing is that I'm feeding Yi a lot of this,” Donewald said.
 
"I'm telling him, 'This is your team. This is your chance. There are 1.5 billion people (in China) looking at you to deliver' and man, he has been outstanding.
 
"He's playing with a lot of confidence. He's taking this responsibility and putting it on his shoulders. I just think right now he's playing as good as anybody in the tournament."
 
Yi is delivering when in the past, at least in the NBA, he’s barely caused a ripple.
 
After last season in America, the New Jersey Nets traded Yi to the Washington Wizards.
 
Donewald knows something about the NBA.
 
He served as an assistant coach to Paul Silas with the Charlotte Hornets and later the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Donewald worked on a daily basis with LeBron James at Cleveland during his rookie year.
 
Yi hasn't been a huge success in the NBA, but that, Donewald says, isn't a finished story.
 
"He was a top pick in the NBA Draft and he goes to one team, Milwaukee, then New Jersey," Donewald said.
 
"One thing I learned about the NBA is there's a lot of talent, great players not playing so it's got to be the right fit.
 
"The confidence has got to come around.
 
"I think now, he's in the right place.
 
"I know Washington's excited to have him.
 
"I think he's going to explode in the NBA this year. He's certainly exploding on the world of international basketball."
 
The confession
 
Donewald has coached a lot of places and one of those was England, from 1996-2001.
 
On a weekly basis, more than the wins and losses, Donewald was the big story.
 
He was hit with technical fouls, and he wore outrageous clothes.
 
Donewald also had teams that excited crowds, teams that got up and down the floor quick.
 
He had players that liked to dunk.
 
Donewald did not lack confidence in his own ability to coach, either, when he was with Leicester Riders, Derby Storm and London Leopards.
 
Several years on, after his days in the NBA and after stops in Brazil and Ukraine and now China, the coach looks back and laughs.
 
"It was a huge learning experience," he said of England.
 
"Back then, I thought I knew how to coach.
 
"Now I look back, I realize I was clueless. But I was learning and it gave me some confidence to lead."
 
Donewald caught the attention of the CBA, the governing body of basketball in China, after a fine first year in charge of Shanghai – a team owned by Houston Rockets center Yao Ming.
 
All of his energies are now being put into his job as coach of China.
 
"We said from the beginning, this is a period  of transition," he said.
 
"We understand that.
 
"Some of the older guys can't play anymore.
 
"Yao Ming is injured.
 
"I said let's regroup, bring in young guys, aim for London 2012."
 
With Donewald at the helm, this China team is worth watching.
 
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