Triumphant Gehrke Has One Eye On Sweden

19.04.2005

By Steve Douglas, PA International

Torbjorn Gehrke has set his sights on coaching the Swedish national team just days after leading his club side, Sodertalje Kings, to their first ever Grundserien title.

Ambition is one thing 37-year-old Gehrke cannot be accused of lacking.

A Kings' player just two years ago, he has developed into one of the country's best young managers and turned his side from nearly men to Swedish champions when they sealed a 4-2 series final win over Sundvall Dragons on Sunday.

Having spent a distinguished career playing for teams throughout Europe, including Spanish giants Tau Ceramica and French pair Toulouse and PSG, Gehrke has clearly been guided by some talented coaches in his time.

And although he recognises it is far too early for him to take over the reins of his country's basketball team, he has revealed that, in time, he will become Sweden coach.

"Of course, sooner or later I know I will," he told PA International.

"Obviously not yet because I have not got the experience. But once I have it, it will happen.

"I have a long coaching career ahead of me - maybe 30 years. Being around all my former coaches has been an education and I have learned a lot from them."

Sweden have had a lean time of it in recent years. With the creation of independent states in what was Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, there is now intense competition throughout the sport in Europe and the Swedes have been pushed way down the continent's pecking order.

The country hosted Eurobasket 2003, but they are unlikely to make it to this summer's European Championships because of their tough route in qualification and the sport is hardly booming back home.

"We are struggling," Gehrke added. "We get no television time and little media coverage. It's hard to get revenue to finance anything as a result so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"We had a good run around 1993 to 1995. But we are missing qualification by narrow margins and now it's going to be tough.

"The competition is so great at the moment."

Gehrke still retains some hope that his country can drag themselves out of the doldrums.

In the US, there are a couple of promising collegiate players in Christian Maraker, who played at Eurobasket 2003, and Jasko Korajkic.

Both are forwards are the University of Pacific and recently helped the Tigers make it to the last 32 of the NCAA Tournament.

Sweden are also hoping that Benetton Treviso guard Olivier Ilunga will eventually make an impact.

Ilunga was signed by the Italian giants last summer but has seen very little playing time.

Gehrke says his country's strength is in its perimeter play.

"We have some very good, quick guards," he said. "They are good shooters and can run all day.

"We don't have the big players so we should play five men who can run up and down and cause other teams problems. I think we just need to play according to our strengths.

"One thing we are missing is a top class centre. We have a few good forwards but when we come up against 7ft 2in and 7ft 3in centres, it's very difficult for us."


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