|Dusan Gvozdic, Belarus head coach (photo: bbf.by)|
Dusan Gvozdic, who conducted on Thursday in Minsk his first practice session in charge of the Belarus national team, is poised to be the youngest head coach in the upcoming EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round.
The 36-year-old Serbian has replaced another young coach, 40-year-old Ruslan Baydakov, at the helm of Belarus.
Baydakov had coached both the U18 and U20 national teams before taking over the senior side prior to last year's EuroBasket 2015 1st Qualification Tournament, where Belarus fell in the semi-finals to eventual winners Estonia.
On his first day on the job, Gvozdic saw 18 players reporting for international duty at the start of training camp and stated he intends to trim his squad to 15 or maximum 16 players later in July.
The Belarus initial roster is almost identical to the one that participated in last summer's EuroBasket qualification campaign, with three notable exceptions.
Center Artsiom Parakhouski meanwhile will not see any action this summer as he is undergoing rehabilitation for an injury he sustained earlier in the season.
"I think there are plenty of talented players in Belarus, with great potential," Gvozdic commented upon his arrival in Minsk.
"My assistant (Goran Tadic) and I have come here to develop this potential and to show what these guys are actually capable of.
"We have very high standards and we arrive in Belarus filled with healthy optimism and a belief that everything will turn out fine.
"Of course we also need some luck but I'm determined to work hard.
"I believe in discipline and a well-organized process of preparation, so the first serious conclusions can be made after training with the team.
"What we want to achieve is to instil in the national team players belief in themselves and their strengths and to help them focus on games with a positive attitude."
The August qualifying campaign for EuroBasket 2015 will definitely mark a fresh start for Belarus, who will clash with Belgium, F.Y.R. of Macedonia and Denmark in Group D, and it could also represent a breakthrough in Gvozdic's career.
The Serbian turned to coaching at a very young age and has worked as an assistant to fellow Serbian coach Zeljko Lukajic on several occasions, the latest at Ukranian superleague club Politekhnika-Halychyna Lviv, from which they departed in December.
During the past decade, he has also worked in the coaching staff of Hemofarm (Serbia), Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania), Bosna Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), BC Mega Aqua Monta (Serbia), Universitet-Surgut (Russia), and the national team of Serbia that won gold in the 2009 Universiade.
"I am not scared at all, I am very excited," Gvozdic said on the challenge of jumping into the role of head coach.
"I have worked with very good coaches and they've always listened to my opinion, we've collaborated together.
"In Serbia it is very competitive because basketball is the number one sport, like ice hockey in Belarus.
"Either as head coach or as an assistant you always have to do your best, so the title for me is just a formality.
"The important thing for us is to create the correct basketball culture for the players.
"They need to think of it not just as a game but understand they are competing with the colours of their nation's flag, they represent the entire country.
"The players should have a clear understanding of the responsibilities of this mission they have been entrusted with.
"Despite the fact that we have strong opponents in this EuroBasket qualification campaign, we will in any case never be scared of anyone and we will enter each game believing we can get a good result."