IRAN admits it will be the favorite in the 27th Fiba-Asia men's championships, but its coaches insist eight other teams are capable of beating them on any given day.
“We’re okay, we know we’re the favorites, but I want to say some other teams are also very strong,” said Iran national coach Mehmed Becirovic during the press launch of the Manila showpiece on Tuesday.
“Eight other (Asian) teams are also teams to beat. We have very good competition this year. Lots of good teams and good coaches, so it’s gonna be exciting."
Becirovic said he has been spending time talking with Iran’s superstar center Hamed Haddadi about handling the pressure of leading the Iranians to a third Asian championship over the tournament's last four editions.
“He’s such a talented player, but he’s also immature, like a kid because every two days, I had to sit with him and talk,” explained the 52-year-old who previously handled the Slovenian national team in 2009-2010.
Becirovic added that the regular talks he’s had with the 7’2” Haddadi were meant to mentally prepare him since every Asian team would try to stop him from dominating the tournament.
“There’s no question with his talent, but it’s how he handles it,” he said.
“Again, all (teams in) Asia expect him to play good so it’s not an easy situation for him to handle. But he’s a good guy, he’s got a good personality, and an excellent player,” he added.
Haddadi has been Iran’s anchor in its run to the 2007 and 2009 Fiba-Asia championships. He was named tournament MVP in both editions.
The 28-year-old Iranian star, who has played for the Memphis Grizzlies and this past season with the Phoenix Suns, has led Iran to a seven-game sweep of the 2013 William Jones Cup early this month.