Looking at Team Thailand
By Rick Olivares
During the team photo session at the Emerald Room of the Crowne Plaza, Thailand team manager Charden Sangvichaipat said, “I think you should talk to the man with a vision for Thailand basketball…. He is the most handsome man in this room too.”
Laughter rang out amongst the Thai national basketball team that was waiting for their turn for their individual photos.
Tim Lewis, Thailand’s English head coach hails from the Dover area of England. The Englishman, who played cricket and rugby as a youngster, instead found himself falling in love with the game of basketball having studied and worked in and around the game of hoops in the United States. “When I went to secondary school and at the age of 13, I learned the game and it has escalated from there,” related Lewis. “I went to college in the States and I have been active in the game ever since. I had a varied journey having coached in Europe and Japan. I’ve been in an out of the States, it was only gonna be a summer for two tournaments in Thailand and then back to the Raptors. We did well saw some growth and I’m still here.”
The “Raptors” team that Lewis refers to is the NBA D-League affiliate team of the Toronto Raptors. He’s also been with the Bakersfield Jam, the affiliate team of the Phoenix Suns.
Thailand, like all countries in the Southeast Asian region, is football country. So putting a basketball program can be a daunting task. Lewis wears several hats aside from head coaching duties. He is also the performance and technical director. “My job is to filter the information down to the age groups. It hasn’t taken effect but hopefully after the Sea Games.”
“In Thailand, football is king. Volleyball is massively popular too. But now we’re seeing the inroads in basketball,” pointed out the Englishman. “There are a lot of untapped sources of talent over here. We have athletic players. It’s a long term identification program and developing a culture in the way you act and intercede in the game. We build on a style of play. But we have to be patient.”
“The Philippine team has several players who can get you 30 points on any given night,” noted Lewis. “We have no one who can do that. What we can try to do is work as a team and share that basketball offensively and work defensively. So we have no star players. We have to really perform as a team.”
“We know we aren’t the favored team but it’s all about giving it your best and learning.”