Holland coach Glenn Pinas is under no illusion as to the enormity of his task.
The Dutch go into next month’s Group E qualifying games for the 2005 European Championships without a single international victory in two years.
And Pinas’ plans have suffered two major setbacks in recent weeks with the news that experienced players Dan Gadzuric and Remon van der Hare will not play in the Championships.
Gadzuric, the 2.10m centre from the Milwaukee Bucks, has been ruled out because of a knee injury which requires rehabilitation work so he can start of the NBA season.
Gadzuric, who averaged 5.7 points and 4.6 rebounds a game in the NBA last season while coming off the bench, first hurt his knee in January then reinjured it while playing for the Bucks in the summer league.
Van der Hare is an even bigger disappointment for Pinas because the 220m Barcelona centre had promised by phone that he would make himself available for the qualifiers.
The 22-year-old, who the 2002-03 and 2003-04 Spanish National Championship with FC Barcelona recently had his NBA draft rights traded by Toronto Raptors to the Orlando Magic.
Pinas suspects that could have something to do with his non-appearance at Holland’s training camp.
“I spoke to him and sent all the paperwork for him to sign but that was the last I heard,” said Pinas.
“It’s very disappointing when a player does not even tell you he is not coming.”
But there is a flicker of good news for Holland and Pinas despite the gathering gloom.
Talented centre Francisco Elson, of the Denver Nuggets, is expected to join up with the national side on August 16.
The 213cm tall, 28-year-old has pledged his support to the Dutch cause but the Nuggets are applying pressure.
“They want him to take care between now and the start of the NBA season. They want him to rest,” said Pinas.
And US point guard Chris McGuthrie, 30, who played at St Mary’s College and has a Dutch passport after several seasons in the Holland top flight, is to join up with the team early next week.
Pinas admits Holland go into the European qualifiers against Estonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as distinct underdogs.
“We have a 20-30 per cent chance of winning through,” he said.
“That could increase to between 40-50 per cent if we play to our strengths.
“It is going to be very tough trying to qualify but our main aim is to stay on the A list.”
Holland will play its first practice matches, against the University of West Virginia, next Thursday and Friday before heading to Portugal for a tournament.
While Pinas is concentrating on the European qualifiers, he has had time to watch the US Olympic team in action against Germany - and he hasnot been impressed with what he has seen.
In fact, the Dutch coach is part of a growing band who believe the US do not have the firepower to win golden again in Athens.
“The days of the Dream Team may be over,” he said.
“I have serious doubts about their ability to win gold. I believe a European team, either Serbia & and Montenegro or Lithuania, will win. But don’t rule out Italy, they could be the surprise package.”
But any comparison between Holland and Italy is highly unlikely, and Pinas accepts it.
What must be annoying to him, however, is that Holland have the players to be competitive with most countries in the world - if he could only get them all together at the one time, in the one place.
World-class players such as Rik Smits, who played 12 seasons in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers before he retired in 2000, would add experience to the modern set-up.
But young talent is coming through. Two leading prospects are centre Robert Krabbendam, 18, and power forward Nick Oudendag, 17.
What will be interesting is just how much pride and passion they show in wearing the national colours.