New coach aims for SEA Games final

Frank Arsego, who was formerly in charge of the Singapore Slingers, has signed a two-year deal to be the new national basketball coach. He will also hold the post of technical director and will be tasked with improving the youth teams as well as coac
Frank Arsego, who was formerly in charge of the Singapore Slingers, has signed a two-year deal to be the new national basketball coach. He will also hold the post of technical director and will be tasked with improving the youth teams as well as coaching standards in Singapore.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Arsego optimistic about basketball in S'pore after ABL, SEA Games progress in last 6 years

Wong Wei Long's game-winning shot in Game 4 of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals in March was, for Singapore's new basketball coach Frank Arsego, a defining moment in more ways than one.

The Slingers may have eventually lost the best-of-five series 2-3 to the Westports Malaysia Dragons, but that afternoon at the OCBC Arena was confirmation for Arsego, in the crowd cheering his former team, how big the sport had grown since his last stint here.

The 56-year-old Australian had coached the Slingers from 2009-2010 and has signed a two-year deal with the Basketball Association of Singapore (BAS).

At his official introduction yesterday, he said: "When Wei Long hit the buzzer beater in the packed stadium and everyone went nuts... (that was when) I knew basketball had arrived in Singapore.

"I realised something had changed over the last six years."

There are indicators that support his optimism. On the elite front, the men's team, under previous coach Neo Beng Siang, ended a 34-year medal drought to clinch back-to-back SEA Games bronzes in 2013 and 2015. Neo, who is also in charge of the Slingers, chose not to extend his contract with the national team when it ended in February.

A new domestic competition, the Pro-Am Singapore Basketball League, was formed in 2014 and concluded its third season in April.

DEFINING MOMENT

When Wei Long hit the buzzer beater in the packed stadium and everyone went nuts... (that was when) I knew basketball had arrived in Singapore.

FRANK ARSEGO, Singapore's new basketball coach, on how he was inspired to sign a two-year deal with the BAS.

TAKING THE NEXT STEP

Coach spoke to me before and it's nice that he remembers me. We can definitely catch up with the teams in the final and we will keep training hard to achieve our goal.

DELVIN GOH, Slingers and Singapore centre, on accepting Arsego's challenge for Singapore to reach the SEA Games final.

director, intends to capitalise on this wave to raise standards.

While he admitted that two years represent a short window for significant change, his focus will be to improve the men's and women's national teams, educate local coaches and accelerate the development of talented youngsters.

A former coach at the Australian Institute of Sport, Arsego said: "I'm committed to leave something here that would be sustainable... coaching education is important. That would be something that sits in right from the start."

In fact, despite starting work only on Monday, coaching manuals and diagrams of basketball systems already cover his desk at the OCBC Arena in neatly arranged stacks.

Arsego expects there would be some resistance to his changes but hopes stakeholders can see it as "an opportunity to learn more".

He also intends to maintain the arrangement between the BAS and the Slingers, whose roster is comprised mainly of national players.

There had been rumours that the partnership would be discontinued for the new ABL season.

Emphasising the importance of playing professionally, he added: "It's a great foundation for the national men's team and I'd love to see that relationship continuing."

Of his style, influenced by former Slingers coach Gordon McLeod and United States men's team coach Mike Krzyzewski, Arsego said: "Some coaches recruit to the system but I am governed by what my players bring. My job is to find their strengths and create a comfortable environment for them."

One player he tipped to have a big role to play is promising centre Delvin Goh. The 21-year-old, who plays for the Slingers and Singapore, has blossomed into a key member for both teams and was instrumental as the Republic clinched third place at last month's Seaba Stankovic Cup in Bangkok.

Arsego had travelled with the team to Thailand and was confident of the squad's potential. He has set a target of making next year's SEA Games final.

"My short-term goal is put together a team to maintain (bronze)," he said. "But, as we get closer, I'm going to try and put the things in place to reach the next level... (and) find some more guys who want that responsibility to take that next step."

Goh was happy to accept the challenge. He said: "Coach spoke to me before and it's nice that he remembers me. We can definitely catch up with the teams in the final and we will keep training hard to achieve our goal."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'New coach aims for SEA Games final'. Print Edition | Subscribe