Last Monday, NiuBBall was live and direct at MasterCard Arena (formerly Wukesong, you know, the place where they played basketball during the 2008 Olympics?) to see the Duke Blue Devils play their last of three games against the Chinese U-23 Team, aka the Chinese Olympic Team aka the Chinese Junior National Team.
The game pretty much went the way we thought it would — China sort of stayed in the game because of their size and the refs, and Duke ended up winning by 15 points because their superior preparation, fundamentals and execution. Still, we think it was a great experience for the Chinese as we doubt they’ve ever faced a team who plays “the right way” quite like Duke, not do we believe they will again anytime soon.
Here are some of the people who caught our eye during the game and make sure to check out our pictures at the bottom, too.
Fan Bin (范斌): Fan was at his absolute best on Monday, showing the entire stadium and an international television audience why nobody in China likes playing for him. The current head coach of the Chinese U-19/U-18/U-17 , Fan, who coached the Chinese U-23 Olympic “B-Team” during the entire Duke series, had his players on a very tight leash on Monday and was not hesitant at all to yank someone from the game if they failed to execute up to his standards. Sitting four rows behind the Chinese bench, we were in perfect position to see and hear all of his famed yelling, swearing and sarcasm he used to openly insult and mock his players throughout the game. It’s too bad actually, because we’ve heard from a lot of people that he’s a great guy off the court.
If you’ll remember, Fan was at the center of a “blood letter” (it wasn’t actually blood, just red ink) signed and marked with the fingerprints of 13 members of the Chinese U-19 team in April. Fed up with Fan’s abusive coaching methods, the teamdemanded that he be removed from his post and replaced by someone who is more up to speed on modern day coaching methods. Fan ended up being suspended before being reinstated in May after he promised to be more sensitive to his players’ emotions.
Fan, like many coaches who played in China in the 1970s and 1980s, was raised by hightly traditional coaches who felt the only way to instill discipline and hard-work into the players was by being extremely tough and strict on them, and it was not uncommon at all for players to be verbally berated and physically beaten when they made mistakes or frustrated their coach in some way. As a product of the system, Fan coaches with a fiery temper that wears quickly on players who tire of being constantly chewed out and occasionally hit.
We’ve been around our fair share of Chinese basketball practices, and we wish we could say that Fan is an isolated case. A lot of older Chinese coaches subscribe to the belief that players must fear you if they’re to follow your orders. Players are rarely encouraged for their successes and almost always yelled at for their mistakes and sometimes even beaten, usually by means of a kick in the butt or a swift whack with a cone. That style of coaching is one of the main reasons why we think some teams here play so tight all the time (Xinjiang, anyone?).