|New Poland Head Coach Mike Taylor|
Poland's decision this week to hand the reins of their senior national team to American coach Mike Taylor came as a relative surprise to many in the European basketball world.
The Polish Basketball Federation (PZKosz) announced in early January that the race was on for Dirk Bauermann's successor at the helm and invited interested coaches to apply for the job.
While the names of the applicants were not leaked to the media, it emerged that the list rose to a double-digit number of candidates, including several with prior experience of Polish basketball.
PZKosz however decided that Taylor, the current coach of NBA D-League club Maine Red Claws, fulfilled some highly important criteria, despite the fact he has never worked in Poland before.
The federation was seeking a tactician who had experience of working with young players and would assist with the entire structure of their national team program, including the youth teams.
PZKosz valued Taylor's vision to tap into the undeniable, but largely unfulfilled so far, potential of Polish basketball.
"I want to use the full potential of the Polish team and develop the next generation," said Taylor, explaining his plan in an interview with polskikosz.pl.
"I'm going to make the players believe in themselves through the introduction of a new system.
"I do not want to create a national team that will only play well, but something much more than that, I want to help Polish basketball in the long-term."
As for Taylor's motivation to apply for the role, the answer lies in the strong bond he developed with European basketball following his eight-season tenure at German club ratiopharm Ulm and his work as an assistant coach on the Czech Republic national for the past three summers, which enabled him to get a taste of EuroBasket.
"First of all, I have to say I love European basketball," the American coach said.
"Ever since EuroBasket in Slovenia, I wanted to continue to work around the international competition.
"I was impressed by the strength and potential of the Polish national team, I was excited about the competition and the ability to participate in it.
"[After hearing of the vacancy] I did not think about it even for a moment, I prepared my application with the help of a Polish agent and we filed all the appropriate documents.
"It is a great honour for me that PZKosz has chosen me."
|Taylor already has experience as an international coach, working with the likes of Jan Vesely as the Czech national team assistant coach|
The Czech Republic asked Taylor to join their coaching staff in the summer of 2010, when their national team was competing in Division B, and he assisted head coach Pavel Budinsky in bringing the side to the big stage, with an excellent showing in the First Round of EuroBasket 2013 last September.
"You could say that I was the right hand of coach Budinsky," Taylor said.
"I helped create both the defensive and offensive system, I had an important say on who was on the court and it was all the result of an excellent collaboration with Pavel.
"We tried to develop the young basketball players, because there so many on the Czech team."
"I suppose it was a very tough week for Polish basketball," commented Taylor, reflecting on the woes of his new team in September's big tournament.
"Poland had a very successful preparation for the championship, I have a lot of respect for Dirk Bauermann.
"But I think that after the defeat to Georgia (in the opener) the players were very disappointed, sometimes it's like that.
"You can play well during preparations, when there is no pressure and then a loss comes and problems start."
|Taylor is excited about young talents such as Przemyslaw Karnowski|
Poland lost four of their five games at EuroBasket, despite the fact that they had all of their big stars on board last summer, headlined by Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat and FC Barcelona forward/center Maciej Lampe.
Taylor is aware that he might be unable to reunite such a complete roster, but he says that his optimism for Poland's future will not be mired even if that is the case going forward.
"This is nothing new, every year the best players might have different plans or commitments," the coach said.
"Of course I want to have the benefits of working with the best of Polish basketball, but I understand that this might not happen every summer.
"This, however, opens the way for young players, so it might not prove as bad as it initially seems."
Taylor is also confident that he can keep perfect track of Polish players, young or veterans, despite the fact that he is working in the United States during the club season.
"Fortunately, nowadays you can easily watch any game of any league in the world," he said.
"Olek [Aleksander] Czyz, who definitely interests me in the context of the Polish national team, plays in the NBA D-League and there are also young players in the NCAA like Przemyslaw Karnowski and Thomas Gielo.
"I also want to take advantage of the existing materials of the previous coaching staff in order to best prepare to work with the Polish national team."
Poland are one of the nations whose summer plans will be decided at the weekend, since they have applied for a wild card for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
In case they are not awarded a wild card, the Polish national team will take part in the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round.