Nobody in Canada could have been happier than Jack Donohue when the
men's basketball team achieved its greatest victory in more than 60 years.
But the former Canadian coach wasn't exactly surprised, either.
"Jay Triano knows how to win," was Donohue's uncharacteristically brief
explanation when asked about Canada's come-from-behind, 83-75 win over
world-champion Yugoslavia early yesterday to win its pool in the Olympic
If the Canadians, now coached by Triano, beat France early Thursday in the
quarter-finals, they will be in a position to play for a basketball medal for
the first time since winning silver at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
Triano was the soul, conscience and inspiration for the national teams
Donohue coached from 1978 to 1988. As they travelled the world together and
took part in two Olympics, the pair formed a tight bond that still exists
With Triano in Australia for the Olympics, it was Donohue who introduced
Triano in absentia when the Niagara Falls native was inducted into Ontario's
Basketball Hall of Fame last week.
"I am often asked if I am surprised at what a great player Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar became," Donohue said, referring to the NBA superstar he coached
in high school in New York as Lew Alcindor.
"Now people ask me if I am surprised at the success Jay Triano is having as
a coach. As I said at the banquet, the answer to both questions is absolutely
"(Triano) is so organized and so intense he can do anything he sets his
On this side of the Pacific, Triano invoked Donohue's name to inspire his
players in his pre-game pep talk yesterday, recalling his former coach's
focused reaction to a loss to Puerto Rico in Uruguay about 20 years ago on a
wild, low-percentage, last-minute shot that somehow dropped in. After the game
yesterday, Triano was thinking about Donohue again.
"A lot of everything I do in basketball is because of Coach Donohue,"
Triano said. "He was my mentor and I try to be like him. I ask myself how he
might react to different situations."
Like everyone, Donohue has been most impressed with the play of point guard
Steve Nash, who earns his living during the winter with the Dallas Mavericks
of the NBA. But Canada's strength was that Triano was getting a lot out of all
its players, Donohue said, singling out forward Mike Meeks for special praise
for his outstanding shooting.
"Many Canadians won't realize what an upset it is to beat Yugoslavia,"
Donohue said from his home near Ottawa. "They were the class of the section
and their whole country would have been paying attention. I hope this success
starts to change the way Canadians think about basketball because we have a
very good team."