Bob Donewald Jr. is a rolling stone, in basketball coaching terms. After getting a start as a student assistant at Western Michigan, Donewald has been an assistant at Morehead State, a head coach and general manager in the British Basketball League, working with three separate teams, a scout and assistant GM for the New Jersey Nets, an NBA assistant coach under Paul Silas with the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers, a head coach of a couple professional teams in Brazil, an assistant coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, a coach in the ABA, a coach in the Ukraine, coach of the Shanghai Sharks and now, he’s the head coach of China’s national basketball team. What, you thought the ‘journeyman’ tag just applied to players?
After winning once and losing four times in group play, China is very lucky to be in the round of sixteen at the FIBA 2010 World Tournament. If you want to get technical, had it not been for a David Huertas last second three-pointer when his team, Puerto Rico, lost to the Ivory Coast, it would have been the African nation of 20 million instead of the Chinese country of 1.3 billion advancing to the knock-out stage. But China makes no apologies as they move on to face heavily-favored Lithuania on Tuesday. Donewald is now in the most recognizable position he’s ever been throughout his travels as a coach and the basketball-crazed millions in China have taken notice.
The coach inherited a young, inexperienced team, also coming off a sour loss to Iran in the China-hosted Asia Games in August 2009 — Hamad Haddadi and the Iranians gave the Chinese a beat down in the championship game, winning 70-52; Yi could only muster 11 points on 5-17 shooting. And to put himself even more behind the eight-ball, Donewald accepted the job in April 2010 fully knowing that Yao Ming would not be available for the FIBA Worlds, if not completely retired from international play.
But Donewald has taken the reigns and whipped new culture and fresh blood into the Chinese program, and it has shown with their competitiveness. In arguably the toughest group, Group C, China has lost by less than double digits in all games except against Turkey, when Yi and two other starters didn’t play. By the way, under Donewald, Yi and China got revenge on Iran with an 86-64 late-July win over them in the Stankovic Cup, a tune-up for the FIBA Worlds.