IT took one agonizing loss against Chinese-Taipei to finally spot the crack on the `Great Wall.’
A pall of gloom dawned on China’s more than a billion people a day after it was dethroned in the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship following Chinese-Taipei's shock 96-78 victory in their quarterfinal match Friday night.
Amid a massive celebration in the streets of Taipei shortly after the historic victory, a feeling of uncertainty reigned in Beijing as this marked only the second time in modern times that the Chinese team failed to make the semifinals of the tournament it had won 15 times in the past.
China also bombed out in the 2007 Fiba-Asia meet in Tokushima, Japan where it finished a lowly 10th, but the Asian powerhouse was then represented only by its team B after getting an outright berth to the 2008 Olympic Games as host of the quadrennial tournament.
“Darkest Day!,” screamed the headline in one of China’s daily newspapers.
Another story described the team "as the worst assembled in Chinese basketball history" despite the presence of three former NBA players in Yi Jianlian, Wang Zhizhi, and Sun Yue.
China is poised to finish no higher than fifth place – also its worst since the Tokushima experience six years ago.
“We played with a different mentality, with a different mood. It was a very difficult situation for us,” said forward Zhou Peng as the Chinese struggled in a 79-76 win over Jordan in a game that followed their loss to Chinese Taipei.
The setback also reinforces speculations Greek coach Panagiotis Giannakis is likely to get the boot after the tournament as players are reportedly not in favor of his handling of the team.
Giannakis, the legendary coach who steered Greece to a surprising runner-up finish to Spain during the 2006 Fiba-World Championship in Saitama, Japan, is barely months into a four-year contract, reported to be non-guaranteed, with the team.
But Giannakis appeared to be secure about his coaching job with China.
“We have to change the mentality of the team. And we need time to build that character,” he said.