Examining the good, the bad and the ugly from the Australian Boomers' World Cup campaign
The result wasn't what anyone had hoped for, but what can the team learn from a difficult FIBA World Cup campaign?
Let’s not beat around the bush: this year’s FIBA World Cup was a seriously underwhelming one for the Australian Boomers.
They entered the tournament with “Gold Vibes Only”, chasing a first ever medal at a men’s World Cup and accepting no less; by the time the medal games rolled around, they were already long gone, sent packing in the second round after losses to Germany and Slovenia. A tenth-place finish was the team’s worst result at a major tournament since 2014, and with one of the most talented rosters in the program’s history, it was a real surprise.
Despite falling well short of their own expectations, those within the Boomers have stayed positive and preached patience in the aftermath. Coach Brian Goorjian has drawn plenty of criticism, as all coaches of underachieving teams do, but he refused to bow to that public opinion while saying he would “100%” be coaching the team at next year’s Paris Olympics. “I’m not embarrassed, I’m going to go back to Melbourne with my head held high… how I feel, how the group feels, is there’s an exciting day ahead,” he said following their final game against Georgia. That sentiment was backed by senior players Patty Mills and Joe Ingles, who both supported Goorjian while praising the progress made during the tournament.
So, was this the unrequited disaster that it appears to be on paper, or is this team exactly where they need to be ahead of Paris? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Some progress was made with a drastically revamped roster, but it wasn’t enough to take a very talented team beyond the group stages. While the World Cup is a much harder tournament to win than the Olympics, with twice as many teams and more of the talented European nations, the Boomers fell so far short that scrutiny is unavoidable.
In the aftermath of the tournament, Basketball Australia has walked a similar line down the middle. While CEO Matt Scriven has announced a full review “on every element of this campaign”, he has also guaranteed that Goorjian would remain as coach. “Brian is one of the country’s most respected and qualified coaches, he is contracted until Paris and our support of him is unwavering,” Scriven said. “We won’t shy away from making the changes necessary across the program where they’re needed.”
Again, that could be viewed one of two ways – a necessary vote of confidence for a coach that is under contract and a show of transparency to fans, or an avoidance of due process after a bad performance. With so many talking exclusively in black and white, it’s worth delving into the massive amount of grey in Australia’s World Cup campaign, assessing the good and the bad, and looking ahead to what needs to happen in Paris.
It was clear from the outset that the Boomers wouldn’t be returning their full squad from the Tokyo Olympics. Aron Baynes’ lengthy injury rehab saw him fall out of contention, as did Nathan Sobey’s underwhelming NBL form. While Matthew Dellavedova made the extended squad and attended training camp, his eventual cut felt inevitable. Throw in the last-minute injury to Jock Landale, and a good chunk of the team’s medal-winning core was removed.
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