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People's Daily Online>>Sports

Foreign basketball coaches face trying times

By Dusty Lane (China Daily)

10:14, March 21, 2012

Coaching basketball is hard enough, but try moving from the US and plying your trade in China to see just how tough it can be.

Foreign coaches are up against a language barrier, a new culture, different rules and norms, players who are, at times, suspicious of the newcomer and poorly trained, and quick-tempered management. It's a high mountain to climb.

"I'm telling people, 'I've got a head full of grey hair', " said Jim Cleamons, head coach of the Zhejiang Lions in the Chinese Basketball Association.

The CBA season began in November with Cleamons and three other US coaches in place: Brian Goorjian at the Dongguan Leopards, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers' Bob Donewald and Dan Panaggio of the Shanghai Sharks.

All but Donewald remain, but considering the challenges they faced, one out of four is pretty good.

Can we talk?

The first problem new coaches face is the most obvious: the language. Most of the players speak Chinese. Most foreign coaches don't. Enter a third party, and a whole new challenge. A knowledgeable, conscientious interpreter is as crucial as he is hard to find.

With two years at the team's helm, and three in total with the organization, 58-year-old Goorjian is the dean of CBA coaches from the US. He says his team's interpreter is so good, he considers him not just a colleague, but a friend.

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