The final unravelling for Canada's men's basketball team probably typified the ill-starred Leo Rautins era and could probably be summed up in two words: — not enough.
There was not enough urgency, not enough coaching adjustments to shut down the opponent's No. 1 (only?) scoring option and not enough talent to avoid the 91-89 loss to Panama, at the FIBA Americas championship in Argentina that officially sank Canada's longer than long shot hopes of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics. They had no answer for Denver Nuggets forward Gary Forbes, who scored 39 points for Panama, including their final 15 of the game. As Eric Koreen explains:
Even if Canada did win, they would have needed Uruguay to upset Venezuela in order to take fifth-place and earn a berth in next summer's last-chance qualification tournament for a spot in the Olympics. Shockingly, they could not even put pressure on Venezuela. In the six previous games against teams that managed to qualify for the second round of the FIBA Americas, Panama's best result was a 16-point defeat to Uruguay.
This means Canada will play no meaningful games in the summer of 2012. It also throws Leo Rautins' status as coach of the team into serious question. (National Post)
It is honestly past the point of Tweeting Rautins should be a goner after his team woefully underperformed over the past two weeks. (Update: Rautins has resigned, so it was that obvious.) It is past pointing out that Canada was badly banged up by tourney's end, with New York Knicks guard Andy Rautins, Leo's son, playing hurt and power forwards Aaron Doornekamp and Levon Kendall unable to go today. It's also past grumbling about the talent that was unavailable due to either various personal agendas, the slow-grinding wheels of bureaucracy or the NBA lockout.At the heart of this, say whatever you want about the poorly designed format for the second round of the tournament, is realizing this hurts well beyond 2012 and perhaps even beyond the senior men's national team itself. The fact a lot of rank-and-file sports fans in Canada might barely notice, let alone care, might underline the desperation. Well before today's loss, Toronto Star hoops chronicler Doug Smith pointed out not even having an Olympic qualifier to prepare for in 2012 will have ramifications all the way through the next Olympic cycle, at least.
We know the future still looks brighter than it has in years if the talent develops as expected and the team continues to improve.
But missing out on a summer will be costly in sponsorships (and money is a huge issue, still), public perception and global significance.
I've always maintained it would be nearly impossible for Canada to qualify for the 2012 London Games but not even having a chance next summer will be almost crippling to an ascendant program. (Toronto Star, Sept. 5)
There needs to be much more than the typical Canadian "good effort" that's still dragged out for Summer Olympics sports and pointing out Canada's roster was compromised even prior to the tournament. Rautins has a year left on the two-year contract extension he signed in September 2010, but he and the rest of the brain trust of CEO Wayne Parrish, technical director Maurizio Gherardini and assistant coach Renato Pasquali have to be brought to account. They've tried to implement a more international style of play and it hasn't yielded the desired results, save for an appearance in the 2010 world championship.
The optics of doing little could send the exact wrong message to the high school- and college-age standouts in the pipeline who are weighing whether it is worthwhile to commit to a national body that doesn't have its act together. For instance, Canada's best high school prospect, Andrew Wiggins, as a dual citizen, could pull an Owen Hargreaves.
For those who do believe Canada should be able to earn an Olympic berth in a sport one of our own invented, this loss hurts. Meantime, those who want to see the maple leaf on the parquet in London can and should throw their hope behind the women's team, whose FIBA Americas qualifer begins Sept. 24 in Colombia; they should have a reasonable shot at a top-four finish which keeps their London dream alive.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: The Canadian Press).