BAS keen to keep coach

The Republic's man-mountains may have missed out on what would have been a historic final appearance at the recent SEA Games, but the Basketball Association of Singapore (BAS) still wants to retain the services of coach Neo Beng Siang.

After his team edged out Thailand 54-49 to clinch the bronze for the second straight edition last month, the coach had said he would take a break from the game after being at the helm for seven years.

However, BAS president David Ong, who is also an MP for Jurong GRC, wants to rehire Neo, whose two-year contract ended after the biennial Games.

"Coach Neo has done well for Singapore... we should recognise that and embrace him," Mr Ong said on the sidelines of BAS' annual general meeting (AGM) at its Aljunied office yesterday.

"I believe he's got a few more years left in him to coach and contribute to the local basketball scene."

Neo, 47, is also the head coach of the Singapore Slingers in the ASEAN Basketball League, leading them to the play-off semi-finals last year.

The former national player told The Straits Times he has yet to hear officially from the BAS on a contract extension.

He said: "Mr Ong's comments are good news for me.

"I was emotional and tired after the SEA Games so I said I wanted to leave, but I will definitely consider staying if they make an offer.

"At the same time, I do not want to be seen holding back other aspiring local coaches. This is a decision for BAS to make."

National captain Desmond Oh - also considering his future as his wife is expecting in October - backed his long-time mentor to stay.

The 29-year-old guard, who shot to fame after a stunning half-court shot against Thailand, said: "Coach Neo knows the team so well and we have adapted to his playing style.

"We didn't meet our expectations at the SEA Games but there's been continual improvement under him.

"If he stays, I will lean towards staying too."

Before 2013, the men's team had won just a single bronze in 1979.

At the AGM, Mr Ong was re-elected to a third two-year term.

Charismatic businessman Pang Ching Keong was one of two new vice-presidents elected, while civil servant Ong Swee Teck took over as honorary secretary from Seah Liang Bing.

Pang - known for his generous monetary rewards to Singapore's athletes - also presented $25,000 to swimmer Tao Li for claiming four individual golds and one relay gold at the Games.

He had earlier pledged $20,000 per Games gold medal from the athletes' fourth gold onwards, and $5,000 for a relay gold. Swim king Joseph Schooling picked up $75,000 after winning all nine of his events (six individual, three relays).

Tao's mother Li Yan collected the cash on her behalf yesterday.

She said: "I thank Mr Pang for his wonderful gesture. The money will come in handy as my daughter begins her business course at SIM (Singapore Institute of Management)."

This article was first published on July 6, 2015.
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