By David Hein
Belgium officials are left to ponder the future of women's basketball after Laurent Buffard coached his final game for the national team, leading the Belgians to seventh place at the 2007 EuroBasket Women after Sunday's 72-63 victory against France.
“My mission with the national team is over. I hope that the Belgian team will be able to qualify for the next EuroBasket,” said Buffard, who leaves Beglium after his arrival in February 2006.
The Ann Wauters-led Belgians collected four straight victories to start the tournament but suffered four consecutive defeats before ending their tournament on a high note.
|Wauters and Belgium started strong but were left scratching their heads.|
“It's hard to be motivated for this team so I'm happy of my players' performance, especially in the last quarter. It's a great thing we won against a team like France,” Buffard said after the game.
The 44-year-old Frenchman was brought in by the Belgian Basketball Federation with the sole goal of leading Belgium at least to the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament, which would have required fifth place in Chieti.
But Belgium failed when they lost to the defending champions Czech Republic in the 5th-8th classification round on Saturday.
The Buffard signing was a sensation in Belgium, where he replaced Claudia Van Hoorenbeek, who coached Belgium when they failed to qualify for the 2005 EuroBasket Women.
Buffard was the first foreigner to coach the Belgian women's national team and he arrived with a long track record at the club level, including six French championships, five French cups as well as the 2002 and 2004 EuroLeague Women titles during his eight-year reign at Valenciennes.
The Chemille native, who also coached the France Under-20 men's team from 1998-2000, now moves this season to Russian EuroLeague Women side UMMC Ekaterinburg
And that leaves Belgium to consider their future.
“I hope we can keep on building,” said Wauters.
“We have good talent and we have young talent coming up. I hope we will continue to work as we have done now.”