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Sam Vincent aims to close global basketball gap

Charlotte Bobcats head coach Sam Vincent directs his

Charlotte Bobcats head coach Sam Vincent directs his team during the second half of their 108-103 win over the Los Angles Clippers in an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007. Photo Credit: AP / Chuck Burton

In 1986, Sam Vincent won an NBA title playing with the Boston Celtics. Last year, he coached the Al Manama Club team in Bahrain. While Bahrain may be half a world away from Boston Garden, the distance in basketball talent between those destinations is even further.

Vincent would like to close that gap.

The U.S. men’s basketball team won the Olympic gold medal in men’s basketball Sunday, defeating Serbia, 96-66. Yet, en route to the gold, team USA twice had margin of victories of just three points and another by six.

“I’ve watched the Olympics very closely,” said Vincent. “I see very good players on the U.S. team. But I don’t necessarily see that distance any more between the U.S. team and some of the foreign teams. Some of those countries are just getting better and more competitive. They are putting more resources into basketball.”

Vincent, 53, played seven years in the NBA and was a teammate of Michael Jordan on the Bulls in 1988-89. He was briefly the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats. Then his international odyssey began. His coaching destinations include, South Africa, Senegal, Jamaica, Netherlands, Greece, China and Bahrain. He also coached the Nigerian women’s national team in the 2004 Olympics.

“Basketball and sports is a big part of our culture, said Vincent. “I want to promote that. I want to promote basketball and have people understand our culture. I want to improve the level of basketball around the world and at the same time show everyone another side of America.”

To achieve that end, Vincent formed Global Coach five years ago. The objective of Global Coach is to introduce former NBA or college players to youth development, coaching clinics and diplomatic missions all over the world.

“I’d like to create more opportunities for guys who played and still want to be participate in the game,” said Vincent. “There are so many opportunities out there.”

Early this month in Manhattan, Vincent brought his Global Coach concept to a networking event hosted by Trout Sports, a business and advisory firm that aims to support current and retired professional athletes by working to build their long-term career goals.

“Trout Sports looks to help accelerate and expand Sam’s vision of Global Coach and the growth of basketball internationally which could have a great potential impact on communities,” said Trout Sports Managing Director, Cherie Greer Brown, a former all-American lacrosse player at Virginia and the daughter of NBA hall-of-famer Hal Greer. “It would be so rewarding and humbling for Trout Sports to touch so many lives outside of domestic sports.”

Given the ever-present threat of terrorism, Vincent fields a lot of questions about security. But last season, his club team from Bahrain traveled to Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai. He says the biggest problem is usually the language barrier.

“I’ve never sensed any anti-American sentiment,” said Vincent. “A lot of the concerns center around the Middle East. But I’ve found that to be very peaceful and I enjoyed my time there. I never encountered any problems. It’s usually just getting used to communicating in another language.”

Vincent returns to the Middle East in November for a basketball clinic in Saudi Arabia.

“The one thing I’ve learned,” said Vincent. “Is that everyone understands basketball. It’s a universal language.”

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