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Scott Flemming back to coaching national team: Here's what it means for Indian Basketball

Published at :May 8, 2024 at 5:59 PM
Modified at :May 8, 2024 at 5:59 PM
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(Courtesy : @sidbreakball/Instagram)

Kevin Somani

Scott Flemming returns as the head coach of the national team after almost 10 years.

After two devastating defeats of the Indian national basketball team at the FIBA Asia Cup 2025, then head coach Veselin Matic went on to blast players preferring to play national-level tournaments over international matches. It looked like some pent-up frustration. He wasn’t wrong though, a lot had happened in the last six months. There were seismic changes in the national basketball scene.

After a prolonged struggle between two factions, one led by former national president K. Govindraj and the other by Aadhav Arjuna, the national federation is now stabilizing under new leadership. As it navigates through a multitude of longstanding issues, the federation’s most significant challenge remains establishing a consistent winning streak for the cagers in basketball

After Scott left the national team five coaches have led the team at different points, former Indian basketball coach Sat Prakash Yadav (2015-2017) and former NBA assistant coach Phil Weber (2017) were some of the names who got a chance to guide the Cagers but none of them stayed for long. This was the same time when players like Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot Singh Gill, Amritpal Singh, and Satnam Singh Bhamara, to name a few were near the peak of their form.

Fast-forward to 2019, Veselin Matic nine months back handed India a defeat on their home turf in Bengaluru with Syria. This was the same time when a lot of drama was unfolding in the backroom. This signing looked like a ray of hope for the team. This appointment looked good but then came the COVID-19 lockdown which stopped everything even before the ball started rolling.

After spending a year inside the four walls in 2020, came the first big test in FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers. Where India did qualify but the margin of wins was a lot lesser than the losses. This was also the same time when Vishesh shot the famous buzzer-beater for India to qualify for the tournament, one of the greatest shots in Indian basketball history.

Matic also played a pivotal role in the 2022 U-16 Asian Championship’s historic fifth-place finish, but he wasn’t the only one who nurtured these kids. NBA Academy took them in and developed them under the tutelage of Scott Flemming, who after leaving the national team was, the technical director and head coach of the academy. The same kids are now entering into the senior national team where they will see a familiar face leading them.

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The bricks to his return to the national camp were already building up as the rumors started resurfacing for the NBA Academy shutting down after seven years for “a more scalable model…that allows talent to develop across the country.”

Flemming did not only contribute to things on the court, his vision was more than the team, it was to craft a system for the overall development of the game in the country. Taking everyone together at every step was a key philosophy for him from the outside. During his previous stint, the American’s key contributions were the Indian Basketball Coaches Network (IBCN) and basketball development videos with the help of BFI. He wanted to impart his learning from the US to everyone here because he believed.

This is something BFI would want to capitalize on again as they plan to start nationwide basketball academies. They might want to replicate what Flemming was able to do with NBA Academies talent scouting through ACG NBA Jump and use his expertise to help the Talent Research Wing identify the next upcoming stars for the team. With a better understanding of grassroots basketball in India and working in an organization like the NBA he is almost the perfect guy for the ambitious new leadership of BFI.

BFI first collaboration with Manipal University (Credits-BFI)

Scott’s influence on Indian basketball still existed, though he had left the national team, players still used to look up to him. They still used to look for his guidance, I often saw players talking with Scott on the sidelines or in the stands pre and post-game during my trips at the Senior Nationals in Chennai and Ludhiana.

Harsh Dagar, a rising star who trained under Flemming at the NBA Academy India for two years, also expressed his enthusiasm: “I’m very excited to train under coach Scott again as he is appointed as head coach for the Indian men’s basketball team because I have already played under his coaching in the NBA academy India for 2 years and most of the Indian team players have played with him and all of us have good chemistry with coach Scott. I think it is a great news for India basketball, let’s hope for the greatness”

Just from the way he used to talk with these players, the respect for the coach showed in the players’ attitude, the way they used to sit or stand and keenly listen to Flemming breaking down the game for the players everything is good. Joginder Singh, the Indian perimeter sniper, thanks Flemming for helping him develop the three-point game.

As Karan Madhok calls it, The ‘Wonder of Wuhan’, India’s victory over China in 2014 was not just a one-off but something which was building for a long time. The 2014 Asia Cup was one of the key highlights of Flemmings’ time, from fighting with the tournament organizers for allowing, now removed ruling, Amritpal and Amjyot to wear turbans during the game which wasn’t allowed by the organizers back then.

Both players played for the coach without it even though Scott was fine with them not playing. He fostered such strong team chemistry that it created a familial atmosphere, and as any baller knows, 100% chemistry is key to achieving success.

For anyone, who follows Indian basketball from the surface level knows who Satnam Singh is, the first Indian to be drafted in the NBA. Flemming in our exclusive interview shared how he helped Satnam to navigate through for him to be NBA-ready. Scott being in Ludhiana in December itself felt like pieces are moving to get him back at the camp.

Flemming’s previous stint with the national team speaks more than we need to explain how important he has been to the growth of Indian basketball. It’s not only him but his family who have a special relationship with the country. He comes in the same situation as he came before, a good crop young budding talent ready to be nurtured and stage an even bigger upset than ‘Wonder of Wuhan’ in 2014

For now the next immediate international fixture is the FIBA U18 Women’s Asia Cup in June then its the U18 Men’s Asia Cup in September and finally is the 2025 Asia Cup against Qatar and Kazakhstan in November. The question remains what will be the plan for the next four months? Are there more changes coming in the staff for the national team?

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