Bill Cartwright was in contention become a Knicks assistant coach.
Instead, with New York turning elsewhere, he’s taking over another downtrodden team.
Cartwright will coach the Mexican national basketball team, which is trying to qualify for the 2016 Olympics and end its Olympic drought at 40 years.
Mexico last reached the Olympics in 1976 and has medaled only once in the sport, claiming bronze in 1936. Mexico went just 2-4 in the World Cup this year. The nation has produced just four NBA players – Jorge Gutierrez, Gustavo Ayon, Eduardo Najera and Horacio Llamas Grey. With Ayon headed to Real Madrid, only the Nets’ Gutierrez is currently in the league. (Correction: This post previously omitted Gutierrez.)
But there’s reason for hope, as outlined well here.
Mexico hosts the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, and the top two teams at that event will qualify for the 2016 Olympics. The upshot for Mexico? It’s the the top two teams that haven’t already qualified for the Olympics.
Because the United States already qualified for the Olympics by winning the World Cup and Brazil will likely qualify by hosting the Olympics, two heavyweights are out of the equation.
Mexico will have plenty of other competition – Argentina, Canada, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Venezuela and Panama – but, playing at home, the goal is achievable. If Mexico finishes third through fifth, it still reaches the global Olympic qualifying tournament, though gaining an Olympic berth through that route would be a real longshot for Mexico.
So, it’s on Cartwright – who went 51-100 as the Bulls’ head coach from 2001-03 – to deliver. His challenge is tough, but if he takes Mexico to the Olympics, NBA teams should notice.