(Toronto, ON)  Canada Basketball (CB) today announced a series of
initiatives the organization will adopt as part of a high performance
strategic plan designed to propel the country`s national teams back to
prominence in the world of international basketball. The most
significant of these is the creation of a Council of Excellence, a
nine-person advisory committee comprised of many of the best and
brightest basketball minds in the country, that will help guide the
fortunes of the elite men`s and women`s programs over the next
quadrennial and beyond.


The roster of the Council of Excellence reads like a who`s who of Canadian basketball, comprised of six distinguished members of the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, five decorated Canadian national team coaching alumni, an internationally renowned general manager, and the only two Canadians to earn Most Valuable Player status at the highest levels of global basketball – one of those being long-time Canadian national team star and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, who will be joining the council as an Honorary Member.

“We are extremely fortunate to be blessed in this country with individuals of this calibre whose passion for the sport and for returning Canada to the upper echelons has led to their taking this on,” said Wayne Parrish, Executive Director/CEO of Canada Basketball, the national governing body for the sport. “We hope to build a new culture of excellence in our elite programs, and the best place to begin that process is at the top.”

The nine members of the Council of Excellence include Toronto Raptors’ Senior Vice-President of Basketball Operations, Maurizio Gherardini, as well as the Raptors’ Interim Head Coach and former national team athlete and coach, Jay Triano. Legendary Canadian university and national basketball coaches Don McCrae and Kathy Shields bring a wealth of expertise to the Council from the elite women’s perspective, while Ken Shields and Steve Konchalski offer extensive knowledge of the men’s elite game.  Rounding out the group are Glen Grunwald, York Knicks’ Senior Vice President for Basketball Operations, Sylvia Sweeney, former Olympic athlete and celebrated film producer, and Nash. It was Sweeney who preceded Nash in the MVP circle, earning those honours at the 1979 FIBA World Championship for Women.

The principal role of the Council of Excellence will be to function as a group of ‘village elders’, providing strategic guidance and input into the high performance programs, focusing on the longer-term strategic imperatives and direction for the organization. The council will act as a sounding board for the basketball staff of the organization, but, perhaps most importantly, it will also function as an advisory and support group for the coaches and athletes of the various national teams. 

"The Council of Excellence is an exciting new concept for Canada. I am honoured to have been asked to be a member of such a distinguished group,” said Ken Shields, former national senior men’s coach who is one of the most sought-after global basketball consultants and has advised national teams from Australia to George and Japan to Britain. “Our charge is to assist in the development of a Basketball High Performance System which is unique to Canada. It is a thrilling challenge!"

In addition to the above responsibilities, two members of the council will provide specific oversight with respect to the senior men’s and senior women’s programs. In this context, Maurizio Gherardini will become Managing Director of the senior men’s program, which is similar to the role Jerry Colangelo has played with USA Basketball.

"I'm very excited about this opportunity to work with Canada Basketball and hope I can add a different perspective to the picture,” said Gherardini, who for 14 years prior to joining the Raptors built one of the greatest European basketball powerhouses at Benetton Treviso in Italy. “It’ll be challenging but we all know it's never easy and we need everybody's support.”

In the coming weeks, it is anticipated that another member of the Council will be identified to take on a similar role to Gherardini’s with the senior women’s team.

Coincidental with the formation of the Council and the creation of the Managing Director positions, CB also announced that it has extended the contract of senior men’s head coach Leo Rautins and senior women’s head coach Allison McNeill. Gherardini and Rautins will work closely together to continue the process of rejuvenating the men’s program; once the oversight person for the senior women’s program is in place, McNeill and that individual will work on the same basis.

"I am thrilled with the opportunity to continue to build our programs,” said Rautins. “It has been, and continues to be, a great honour for me to represent my country as the head coach of our senior men's team. To be a part of what we are trying to accomplish is very exciting - from developing our young players, to working with the new people on board that are united in overcoming the obstacles we face to build a world class program."

“I am really excited about moving forward,” said McNeill. “The opportunity to work with the members of the council is energizing...there’s such a wealth of experience and knowledge there, you can’t help but focus on the future...you believe this gives us a great chance to get to where we want to go.”

“With these moves, I believe we’ve made a major step forward,” said Parrish. “Of course, putting the Council in place is one thing. Now is where the real work begins. We are going to have to work diligently to find the best way to integrate all of their basketball know-how, experience and wisdom into everything that we do, to create a living, breathing culture of excellence.” 

Said Sweeney, who is president of International Performing Arts for All, whose objective is to return the arts to the Olympic movement, “The word Excellence often implies an objective that we demand of ourselves and of those who represent us. The word Olympic embodies that pursuit of excellence however the road to that lofty aspiration is demanding and requires sacrifices that few are willing to make.

“The Council of Excellence is an exciting and long-awaited support mechanism which can provide important frames of reference for athletes who aspire to achieve their personal bests. An invitation to sit on this council is more than the mere recognition that its members have made the pursuit of excellence a way of life. The acceptance to participate on this council demonstrates the willingness for each member to share their unique experiences in that pursuit. It is my personal hope that lessons learned and imparted can make the road to excellence one that these young athletes will no longer have to walk alone.”

In 2009, Canada Basketball’s Senior National Team will begin its journey to the world stage with the FIBA Americas Championships for men and women.  Placement in these events will guarantee a berth at the 2010 FIBA World Championships.  The Junior National Teams will both be competing in the 2009 U19 FIBA World Championships.  The men’s event takes place July 2-12, 2009 in Auckland, NZ, while the women’s tournament takes place on July 23 – August 2, 2008 in Bangkok, THA.

For more information please contact:


Tanya Phillipps                                                                                                                                       

Manager, Marketing & Communications                                

Canada Basketball                                                                                 

Tel:   416.614.8037 x 219                                        

Cell :  415.276.9329                                                                               

e-mail: tphillipps@basketball.ca                                                              

Website: www.basketball.ca

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