By Concepcion M. Moreno
Montevideo, Jun 23 (EFE).- The head coach of the so-called Golden Generation of Argentine players who won Olympic men’s basketball gold and finished runner-up in the world championships nearly two decades ago, Ruben Magnano was rewarded this month with a place in the FIBA Hall of Fame.
But the Argentine-Italian said in an interview with Efe that he is focused on the present and future, particularly his role at the helm of Uruguay’s national team.
Magnano, part of a Hall of Fame Class of 2020 headed by Canadian great Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers), is preparing to travel to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria, Canada, where Uruguay will square off against Turkey and the Czech Republic in the round-robin stage starting June 29.
The head coach said his squad’s potential rivals in the Olympic qualifying, possibly including China, Canada and Greece if his team reaches the knockout stage, have an advantage in terms of their proximity to tournaments of the highest caliber.
“Our geographical location affects us, even penalizes us. We’re very far from everything, and even when an Uruguayan team is lucky enough to play two or three high-level international games, (other squads around the world) might play 30. And that undoubtedly creates a ceiling,” he said.
Now 66, Magnano was head coach of the Argentine national team during the years (2001-2004) when the so-called Golden Generation – including Manu Ginobili, an integral part of four San Antonio Spurs championships; and Fabricio Oberto, a key role player in the Spurs’s 2007 title run – took silver at the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, and then won gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens after stunning a powerhouse United States squad in the semifinals.
Asked about that group, he said it was a collection of “individuals with a lot of intelligent humility” that not only achieved personal and team success but also left behind a legacy that inspired a new generation of national squad players, including the group that finished runner-up to Spain at the 2019 FIBA National World Cup in China.
The coach of an Argentine squad that in 2002 inflicted the first-ever defeat on a US team made up entirely of NBA players, Magnano recalled that as an assistant coach a decade earlier – when the Dream Team of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and company romped to the Olympic title – he observed that most of the rival teams were there to “take photos.”
“Now they go to compete. And you see the results. (The US) also has to be cognizant. They have to get ready to go and compete and compete well. If not, they can be beaten again,” he said.
Magnano said his enshrinement into the FIBA Hall of Fame on June 18 filled him with “a lot of pride and gratitude” but that he refuses to rest on his laurels and is committed to growing every day.
He said Uruguay is blessed with a pair of talented young players with a bright future: 19-year-old Santiago Vescovi, a starting point guard at the collegiate level in the US; and Agustin Ubal, a 17-year-old point guard who is not playing for the national team on this occasion but is developing in FC Barcelona’s system.
Although the head coach acknowledges it will take time for a team to gel and compete well at the international level, securing a berth in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup is a “key objective” and a challenge he undoubtedly is eager to face. EFE