After leading his team past Gilas Pilipinas to win the Fiba-Asia gold medal, Iran national coach Mehmed Becirovic has one piece of advice for the Philippines for next year’s Fiba World Cup in Spain.
Get more big men.
The 52- year old Slovenian said there’s no doubt that Gilas Pilipinas has the speed and the talent to compete at a high level. But in order to make a dent in world basketball, the Philippine national team needs to upgrade its frontline to keep up with taller teams that are the norm in international play.
“Very good - Gilas is a very tough opponent, especially since the crowd really gave energy to the players,” Becirovic told Spin.ph after steering the Iran national squad to its third Fiba-Asia men’s championship on Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“(The Filipinos) are quicker and they keep fighting for 40 minutes," said the coach, known as 'Memi' in his native Slovenia where he also coached its national team from 2009-10.
"They are very, very difficult to play for such a team. They shoot three-point shots and are quick. But they need some big guys, for sure, yeah, some big guys, because they won’t have 20,000 people (at the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain) behind them.”
The lack of height and heft became more glaring for Gilas Pilipinas in the gold medal game as naturalized center Marcus Douthit was unable to play after he aggravated a a right calf injury, which he re-injured during the first half of the team’s semifinal match against South Korea.
Without the 6-10 Douthit patrolling the paint, Becirovic instructed Mahdi Kamrani, whom he claimed is the best Asian point guard today, to keep feeding the ball inside to 7-foot-2 veteran center Hamed Hadadi.
Iran’s gigantic slotman responded with his best game of the tournament where he poured in 18 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, along with 16 rebounds and two blocks in a dominant performance to lead the Iranians to an 85-71 title-clinching win.
Becirovic said they will take a break to savor the national team’s third championship in Fiba Asia's last four stagings, before resuming practice as they prepare early for the Fiba World Cup next year.
“I will take a break, probably, be in Iran. Then prepare for the world (championship). I hope to be ready, make some surprises there,” he vowed.
Becirovic will be coaching for the second time in the Fiba World Cup after guiding Slovenia to an eighth-place finish in the 2010 edition in Istanbul, Turkey which was won by the United States.