Challenges Ahead For New Russia Coach

03 January 2013

EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013

When Lithuanian play-caller Alfredas Vainauskas was announced as the new head coach of the Russian national team before Christmas, his appointment came as something of a surprise to many.

13. Anna Petrakova (Dynamo Kursk)
Anna Petrakova is positive that Vainauskas' appointment is a good thing for the Russian national team

The frontrunner for the post had always been Anatoliy Myshkin, with the short-list for any potential foreigner appointment rumoured to start and end with Pokey Chatman.

But, the Dynamo Kursk coach emerged from the shadows and was given the green light for the next four years, meaning he must now meet the challenge of delivering during this new Olympic cycle.

His first major task will of course start in France this summer, when Russia will try to defend their EuroBasket Women title and secure a slot at the FIBA World Championship Women next year.

But, before he steps out with the team in Vannes for what will be a mouth-watering opening night match-up with Spain, he must convince the sceptics that he is the right man for the job and this will also involve making some potentially delicate and key decisions.

Whilst he has coached with Kursk in the Russian League and in EuroCup Women for several years, taking the head coaching reins from his fellow countryman and Lithuanian national team coach Algirdas Paulauskas last season, he is still a foreign coach.

And, that means convincing the likes of Maria Stepanova that he can, and will, understand the Russian mentality and spirit - something the legendary star insisted only a Russian national could successfully do.

He also has to at least consider the possibility of utilising Epiphanny Prince as a naturalised player, someone he currently has playing for him with great effect for Kursk, both domestically and in EuroCup Women. That could prove to be controversial in some quarters and won't help in convincing the traditionalists who craved a Russian at the helm.

Then, there is also the question of veteran players like Svetlana Abrosimova, someone who was left out in the cold by his predecessor Boris Sokolovsky and now he must decide whether he will welcome her back into the fold and utilise her vast experience.

He has at least received one particularly glowing endorsement from a current Russian national team player in the shape of UMMC Ekaterinburg forward Anna Petrakova, who won the EuroCup Women title with Vainauskas last season at Kursk.

Speaking to RIA News, Petrakova was full of praise for her former boss and hinted at a radical change in style when Russia step out at EuroBasket Women.

She explained, "I have a very positive attitude to this appointment. Alfredas is a wonderful person and a great coach, who has been working in Russia for a while, so he knows the Russian players and knows how to win big tournaments.

"He knows how to communicate with players from different generations and tries a different approach to everyone, trying to get the most out of them."

"He has drawn up plays, but he allows players to improvise. It's different form Boris Sokolovsky who demanded a strict execution of plays.

"Vainauskas has interesting practices, he loves fast and aggressive basketball, so our National Team will be able to relax at certain points of the game.

"Our game will be much faster" insisted Petrakova.

Vainauskas will work alongside a fellow EuroCup Women head coach and quarter-finalist after Dmitry Donskov of Chevakata was named as his assistant.

 


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