New national coach wants to improve standard of basketball in Singapore

Former Singapore Slingers coach Frank Arsego will take over the national men's basketball team next month.

He will also assume the role of technical director on a two-year contract, in what is the latest chapter of a 30-year-long coaching career that saw him take charge of teams such as Australian Institute of Sport, New Zealand Breakers and, most recently, the Belconnen Ramblers.

Over the last four years, Arsego has been running a business providing mental health and well-being programmes and services, counselling and support for athletes in Australia.

The New Paper spoke exclusively with the Australian after he landed at Changi Airport Terminal 1 last evening.

Before being whisked away for a welcome dinner by the Basketball Association of Singapore (BAS), Arsego said: "I would like to leave a legacy.

"I really enjoyed my relationship with (former national coach) Neo Beng Siang and the players while I was Slingers coach in 2009 and 2010 as the team made the transit into the ASEAN Basketball League.

"I love Singapore and really appreciate the effort everyone made, I wanted to stay, but I had to return to Australia for family reasons.

"I'm fortunate enough now to have this great opportunity to come back to Singapore to take over the national team as well as become the technical director.

"We would like to develop the pool of elite basketballers at all levels.

"We can improve the national team, improve the depth, and make people think it's great to be part of Singapore basketball."

The head coach position had been vacant since Neo stepped down last year, after 12 years at the helm.

Neo, who is the current Slingers coach, led the national men's team to back-to-back bronze medals at the 2013 and 2015 South-east Asia Games.

He had previously spoken fondly of his Slingers predecessors Gordon McLeod and Arsego, from whom he said he learnt "training methods and man-management skills".

The Singaporean also led the Slingers to a second-placed finish in both the ABL regular season and play-offs, their best finish since Arsego guided them to second place in the regular season and the play-offs semi-finals in 2010.

BAS honorary secretary Ong Swee Teck said that the national men's team will continue to work closely with the Slingers as part of the national development programme.

He said: "It has worked very well, so there will be no changes.

"What we want to do now is to build on what we have achieved and raise the overall standard of basketball in Singapore.

"As technical director, we want Frank to integrate all the national age-group programmes and help ­raise the standard of the ­local coaches."

Arsego will be tasked to win at least an unprecedented SEA Games silver medal next year in Malaysia.

At the Seaba Stankovic Cup in Thailand from May 22 to 27, assistant coach Neo Nam Kheng will lead the national cagers on the court, while Arsego will be in the stands to study teams like the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Asked if he is already feeling the heat, he said, with a laugh: "If I can get to where Neo got to, I would be really proud. There is a little rivalry there now, isn't it? Of course, it would be great to go one better.

"But it's never about pressure for me. It's all about doing a really good job.

"As the saying goes, if you find something you love to do, you'll never have to work a day in your life."

Meanwhile, the BAS earlier announced the return of a first Merlion Cup in 20 years.

The tournament will be held at the OCBC Arena from Sept 21 to 25, and will feature the Slingers and five other professional clubs from countries such as China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Australia.

It is understood that Chinese Basketball Association side Shanghai Sharks, whose club president is ­retired superstar Yao Ming, will take part.

This article was first published on May 19, 2016.
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