Andrew Gaze has backed the Boomers’ ambitious goal of aiming for gold at the Rio Olympics even though Team USA is considered a near certainty to sweep all before them.
The Australian men’s team has never won a medal but the Boomers have a chance to rewrite history next month when they head to Rio with the most talented team ever to wear the green and gold. Seven players have NBA experience, including five under contract, and the players are so confident they have openly stated their aim is to win gold.
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Mills: 2016 Boomers best
Boomers point guard Patty Mills believes the 2016 Australian basketball team is not only the best the country has seen but also the most exciting.
Is the top prize a far-fetched dream? Gaze, the five-time Olympian who recently began his tenure as Sydney Kings coach, has endorsed their attitude.
“One thing I learnt from my Olympic Games experience that you don’t win a gold medal by accident, you don’t fluke it,” Gaze said.
“There has got to be a belief and you got to have an understanding amongst the group … that it is a possibility and go in there with a mindset that we want to win a gold medal. If you don’t have that and you think you’re just going to randomly go up there and show up and it’ll happen by accident, my Olympic experience in basketball, and in any sport, is that that doesn’t happen.”
Gaze says a medal would not be a surprise to local and international players and fans. And if you told him 20 years ago the Boomers would be filled with NBA talent, he would have said “you’re kidding yourself”.
“You would have thought that you were stretching your imagination. Now the reality of it is we’ve got those players, and there is still more to come,” Gaze said.
He attributes the growing success of basketball in Australia to grassroots nurturing. “Junior development programs and the other programs have a big broad base and there is so much talent,” Gaze said. “Now we have other countries and college programs coming to Australia to see what our guys can do.”
The Opals have fared better than the men, finishing with medals at the past five Olympics and there is a very real real chance they could snag gold. “The question isn’t whether they will win a medal, but if they will win gold,” Gaze said. “That’s dangerous because it’s not easy [to win a medal].”
In his first official week at the helm of the Kings, Gaze has been focusing on identifying talent at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Though many players were not in their price range, he has a list of five to six possibilities for the import slots on their roster.
“It’s about their skill set, their personality, their character off the floor,” Gaze said. “It’s difficult but we feel in the next couple of weeks we can make an announcement on who the main imports are going to be.”
Gaze said international politics was making Australia a more attractive option for athletes.
“Right now there are a lot of agents who are very curious about Australia,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the climate out there … the instability in these countries that have traditionally paid significant money for international players. For whatever reason people see Australia as a very safe place. The calibre of the coaching, the teaching in Australia make an attractive environment even better.”
The 50-year-old has signed a three-year deal with Sydney and has already assembled a team that can erase the memories of their disastrous wooden-spoon campaign last season.