Wayne Parrish, the CEO of Basketball Canada glanced over towards a media scrum that had consumed Steve Nash and would moments later do likewise for Jay Triano.
“You have to admit,” he smiled, “they make an intriguing combination.”
In his first meaningful act as General Manager of the Senior National Men’s Team, Nash repatriated Triano as the coach of the team, a job Triano held from 1998 to 2004.
The connection between the two men goes way further than that. Triano was coaching at Simon Fraser University when he spied Nash playing high school soccer.
“Since then we have shared our dreams, our goals, we’ve always had that connection, always kept in touch,” Triano said.
“I know that Jay was the right man for the job,” Nash said. “He is a confirmed and respected leader in the basketball community.”
There are connections everywhere here. Triano was a protégé of Jack Donohue, the founding father of the men’s program. Triano played 11 years on the National Team and represented Canada in three Olympics.
Triano’s performance behind the bench was an essential element of Nash’s ascendancy as a two-time NBA MVP. Nash led Canada to a seventh-place finish in Sydney in 2000 then soon found another gear as an NBA star.
“Without the national program I might not have been an NBA player,” Nash said. “Playing for the national team was far more valuable than any of the other stuff, the spotlight or exhibition games,” I played in.
The series of events initiated by Donohue saw Triano emerge as a star player then coach. Nash blossomed under Triano and when he was being courted as the men’s program manager, landing Triano was a condition of Nash’s employment.
Now Triano has been abundantly repaid. His job, to recruit and develop a team that regains its international footing with an impressive showing in next summer’s world championship qualifier in Venezuela is exponentially easier with Nash heading the men’s program.
“To have Steve Nash say the biggest experience of his life was playing in the Olympic Games, if that doesn’t resonate with players we’ve got to ask ourselves if we’ve got the right kids,” Triano said.
The 53-year-old Triano will be layering his national team duties on top of his new job as an assistant coach on the staff of Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts. Triano spent a year as a scout after the club declined to pick up his contract option going into last season.
The first Canadian coach in the NBA, Triano became a Raptors assistant coach in 2002 and coached the Raptors for three seasons before being succeeded by Dwane Casey.
Training camp for the Senior National Men’s Team opens Friday at the Adidas practice court at ACC. Six members of the team, Joel Anthony (forward, Miami Heat), point guard Cory Joseph (San Antonio Spurs), small forward Kris Joseph (Boston), Andrew Nicholson (power forward Orlando) , Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson and seven-foot Los Angeles Laker Robert Sacre have NBA connections.