FIBA Asia Cup winning head coach Toromon ready for career's biggest challenge with Indonesia

Photo :|09-Oct-2019 12:04

JAKARTA (Indonesia) - The path through the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers for Indonesia is expected to be an uphill journey. Grouped together with two teams that will be fresh from the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 along with a fierce rival, there will be no easy matches.

One thing Indonesia will be relying on is the experience of seasoned head coach Rajko Toroman to get them through to the next stage.

“Our group is tough,” Toroman admits. “We will play against two powerful Asian basketball countries in the Philippines and Korea. They are more that 50 places above us in the FIBA World Ranking presented by NIKE.”

The 31st ranked Philippines and 30th ranked Korea are exactly 57 and 58 spots above 88th ranked Indonesia, proving how well coach Toroman has his details locked down. Though he is focused on the possible fight for 3rd place against Thailand to advance towards the next round of qualifications, the 64-year-old coach is also looking ahead to the games on February 23, 2020 and February 18, 2021.

Both games, the first of which is to be played in Indonesia, will be against the Philippines, a team that Toroman has a rich history with.

“It will be a great and exciting times for me,” the experienced tactician said. “I spent 5 years in Philippines and we had special memories, but I will enjoy these games.”

Toroman took over as the head coach of the Philippines national team back in 2009 and helped turnaround the program to relative success. Despite a heartbreaking end to the 2011 Asia Cup against Korea, Toroman had succeeded in leading Gilas to their first Semi-finals appearance since 1987. Even though Toroman was no longer running the program after that, it had sparked two more consecutive trips to the Asia Cup finals and two more World Cup berths for the Philippines.

“Philippines players are the most talented and skill players,” he said. “They have 50 players of the same quality who can play for the national team, but sometimes because of that talent they miss on some tactical things.”

Toromon was even more famously known for coaching the Iran national team to their first ever Asia Cup title and World Cup appearance. Though he was once again only around for the start of the uprising, it turned out to be the beginning of a dynasty. Iran went on to win 3 championships in total and missed out on a podium finish only once in the span of a decade from 2007 to 2017.

“In my time, we had a new generation of talented players: Hamed Haddadi, Samad Nikkah Bahrami, Mehdi Kamrani, Hamed Afagh and Oshin Sahakian. They were dominant for over 10 years in Asia,” said Toroman.

Following his time in the Philippines, Toroman went on to coach another Asian powerhouse in Jordan. However, a run into host nation China and a strong Lebanon squad at Asia Cup 2015 resulted in a 9th place finish.

“Jordan had size but they didn't have enough players,” Toroman explained, also saying that the local league was then only 2 months short with only 6 teams. “Now they have Ahmad Al-Dwairi who plays for Fenerbahçe in Turkey.”

The Serbian head coach boasts a long and impressive resume, but his dedication is now with Indonesia. The Southeast Asian nation played in 4 straight Asia Cups from 2005 to 2011, but have missed out entirely on the past 3 tournaments. Toroman’s task – or at least one of his tasks – is to raise the level of the Indonesia national team, just as he had done for other countries in the past.

“It is a great pleasure but also a big responsibility to be the head coach of Indonesia. I think that this job is the biggest challenge in my coaching career,” Toroman admitted.

“The main focus will be on hard work. We have improved the system on both offense and defense.”

As Toroman mentioned, it will not be an easy task with Indonesia also shedding some talents towards a new generation. Still, it’s hard to doubt Toroman’s ability to lead Indonesia to success considering his track record with other nations in the past.