Little seems to be working for the Malaysian team in its crucial Level II second match against a robust Lebanon in the Asian women’s basketball championship on Friday. Malaysia’s chief coach Tan See Wah remains calm as ever; hands akimbo one moment, folded hands the next.

When the team comes back for the break for the last quarter, Tan gets into his rhythm. Flashing a model basketball chart to the players, he explains what the next step should be even as the team listens with rapt attention.

Spectacular victory

Trailing till the third quarter, Malaysia in a wonderful display of ‘steals’ and shooting, races past a stunned Lebanon in the fourth to script a spectacular victory. “It’s a big relief for me now,” says Tan.

“After our loss to Philippines, this was a morale-booster for us. Lebanon is a strong team. Today, they relied too much on Chantelle (Denise Anderson). Once we blocked her, things became easy for us.”

One of the oldest coaches in Asia and perhaps the world, the 70-year-old is keen to get Malaysia back to Level I. “We want to finish among the top 2 in our level. It’s possible,” he says.

Pros and cons

Having been associated with Malaysian basketball in his post as (current) Secretary General of the Malaysian Basketball Association and coach for over 30 years, Tan knows the positives and drawbacks of the system in his country. “The players who play basketball in Malaysia are not huge (in numbers). We have a limited pool. We are doing our best with what we have,” he says.

Tan considers guiding Malaysia to nine gold medals in the South East Asian (SEA) Games as his biggest achievement. “SEA Games are very important for us as doing well there means that we get a lot of funding from the country for women’s basketball.”

He is concerned that there will be no basketball in the SEA Games to be held in Laos in December this year as there is no facility in Laos for the sport. “So I am not sure about the funding.”

A math teacher in Schung Hwa Wei Sin Secondary School and later in Ketari Secondary School, Tan uses his considerable math knowledge successfully in basketball. “As a teacher, I learnt to organise, co-ordinate and plan. Math involves a lot of exercises and if you keep working on it, you can solve them. The same applies for basketball, the more drills you do, the better you get,” he explains.

No plans to retire

For Tan, the question of retirement doesn’t arise at all. “I want to continue coaching as it’s my passion. Right from my childhood, I have been playing the game.”

He, however, intends to resign as the Secretary of the Malaysian Association on May 2010.

“That way, I can contribute more as a coach for the development of the sport,” says Malaysia’s most decorated basketball coach.

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