By Jeff Taylor
The mood is very upbeat at all levels of Finnish basketball.
The country is making strides in the international game and doing so quickly.
Heading into 2007, six of seven Finland national teams, both at senior and junior levels, played in Division B of European Championships.
When various tournaments had finished this summer, Finland had four teams in Division A.
They are the senior men and women, the U18 men and the U16 women.
This is no small achievement, which was obvious after the Finns defeated Israel on July 31 at the U18 European Championship Division B this year to seal a top-two finish and earn a place in Division A in 2011.
Gordon Herbert, the coach of that under-18 Finnish side, said it was a "a moving feeling for me".
"When I got there, the kids wanted to learn and work hard," he said to Basketball World News.
"And when we beat Israel in Israel to qualify for the A group, I walked into the locker room and all the kids were crying out of joy.
"It really took me back.
"These kids had worked and they got better and better.
"For me, it was a great experience."
The Finnish Basketball Association is looking to keep the momentum going.
They have just announced the coaching staffs for all youth national teams for 2011.
The group of head coaches are highlighted by pair of tacticians from the Beko BBL in Germany.
Herbert, who is at the helm of Deutsche Bank Skyliners in Frankfurt, will continue with the under-18 side.
Anton Mirolybov, the assistant coach of Mitteldeutscher BC, will take over the women's U18 team. He will make a transfer from the men's U20 side, the team he had coached in 2008 and '09.
The long-time assistant coach of the Finnish senior men's national team, Pekka Salminen, will make a comeback as the head coach of the U20 men's team.
Salminen had coached that age group in 2007, when Finland finished third in Division B.
Now Salminen and his troops will be hoping for promotion with a group that includes players like natural-born-shooter Sasu Salin of Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia, late-bloomer Carl Lindbom of Deutsche Bank Skyliners and point guard Antto Nikkarinen of Kouvot.
Nikkarinen has averaged 12.9 points per contest in eight games this season in the Finnish league. He is shooting a red-hot 45.9% from behind the arc.
The U16 men are to be led by Jyri Lohikoski, who will make his head coaching debut next summer after graduating as valedictorian (top of the class) of the FIBA Europe Coaching Certificate program in 2009.
The U16 women will be guided by Harri Jokela, who coached them in 2008 when Finland won promotion to Division A.
"In order to be successful in sports, a long-time commitment is needed from athletes and everybody else involved," said Henrik Dettmann, the coach of the senior men's team who also holds the title of head coach of the Finnish Basketball Association.
"During the building process of our national team program, we have been very aware that the participation of our best coaches is essential to player development and for the development of the program.
"We are very pleased and happy about the fact that our coaches are fully committed in building a better future for Finnish basketball."