British export Garbelotto rues home failures
Former England assistant coach Tony Garbelotto is looking down in British basketball .. literally. As the only UK coach plying his trade in Europe, Garbelotto - a former London Towers assistant - is starting his second year in change at Icelandic side KFI Isafjordur, leading the team to third place in that league last year.
Based in a remote northern town with a population of just 3,500, KFI regularly get crowds of over 1000, playing second fiddle only to the pair of sides which recently combined to sent Leopards packing from the Korac Cup.
From his now outside position, Garbelotto has been keeping a close eye on basketball in his home country and admits to a distinct dismay over the lack of progress in a nation of 55 million compared to one of just 275,000.
"People (must) realise what a poor state the game of basketball in Britain is in, and how over inflated peoples opinion of the British league is. Picture this, Iceland has a total population of 275,000 people, maybe half a London borough,
not only is basketball strong but also their football team has still a chance to qualify with teams like France, Russia, Ukraine in their pool.
"How is it that a little nation like this can succeed at basketball and we fail ? There are no secrets in basketball coaching, here players work extremely hard, but because of their lack of athletic ability they work harder on fundamental skills," he said.
More crucially, Garbelotto insists that Iceland's one foreign player rule encourages teams to develop home raised talent, a trend which he believes has raised the standard of the country's junior talent.
Taking a swipe at the attitudes of the BBL clubs , the ex-pat play caller issued a rallying cry for the future of the British game
"Sooner or later in Britain we are going to have to wake up and realise that the British league should be British, not the "Dairylea Dunkers League of Americans" - what can some of those players o that many young British kids can't? Not much more, I can tell you.
"I was recently in Hungary at Laszlo Nemeth's camp, where there were many talented Scottish players, Coached extremely well by John Grant. I asked one why he did not try to get on the bench at Edinburgh, his reply was " Well
Jim Brandon saw me and told me to come back in two years " . What kind of reply is that ? So the kid goes away, gives up because he isn't challenged and we lose another kid.
"Andre Alleyne, wins more games for Milton Keynes than they had in five years, asks for a small pay rise and is told no by the owners, how disrespectful is that? You have a genuine young English coach, who has done a solid job, and with more experience would have done even better, it does not make sense. I could go on for ever with examples."
It is not all doom and gloom on the horizon. Garbelotto foresees an improvement in the level of talent coming through the youth ranks. However, he concludes that there must be a structure in place to support the next generation.
"We are not a bad basketball nation, we have tremendous potential, and with players like Andrew Sullivan, Neil Fingleton and now Adu Deng we have a bright future," he adds.
"People can make a difference. It's not all about spectacular dunks, cheerleaders, it's about having a base - our own kids and naturalised players playing at the highest level, making those same spectacular plays, getting better because they have to make the big shots, if we don't do something soon, there won't be anything for these young players to aspire to.
"Trust me on that."
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