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Jay Triano: Don’t call it a comeback



“I thought it was a breakfast meeting and it turned out to be a breakfast termination.”

That is how Jay Triano recalls his morning meeting with Canada Basketball officials on October 19th, 2004. It is A call to an execution. The national basketball team under his command had failed to qualify for the 2004 Olympics; but just four years earlier he had bossed them to a 5-2 finish in Australia at the Sydney Games, an underdog’s triumph. That team was led by superstar point guard Steve Nash, who doggedly led a group of unheralded players to seventh place in the quarter-final finish down under. The Canadians have not been back to the Olympics since.

Make no mistake that the “breakfast termination” helped fester nearly a decade’s worth of player no-shows, lack of direction and a fragile identity on and off the court. After that breakfast Nash – the greatest Canadian hoopster ever and loyal Triano soldier – never played for the program again. It was the breakfast that changed everything.

“Obviously I was disappointed but what it did was that it allowed me to focus on my NBA career,” says Triano over the phone from Caracas, Venezuela. “I don’t have any regrets and I’m not mad or angry at anybody. It’s just sometimes stuff happens and its not how you feel or anything, it’s how you deal with it. I got better.”

In many ways, the story of Triano’s life is a basketball journey filled with failures bent and flipped and twisted into success. As a youngster growing up in Niagara Falls, Triano chased the dream by traveling with the boys of St. Patrick’s church, past the U.S. border, in search of better competition. Years later, he traveled across the country to British Columbia and attended Simon Fraser University after the interest from U.S. colleges failed to yield a scholarship. Instead of lamenting, Triano made the best of his surroundings. As a student, he continued to cross the border to the States, spending weekends in Washington to improve his game.

“After my first year here I had a coach by the name of Stan Stuardson who was really tough,” explains Triano, who broke 11 school records in four years at SFU. “He made you mentally tough with how hard practices were (and) what he demanded of us everyday. I think that really helped me in my career, having that right away.

“It was the best of both worlds because I was getting a Canadian education and I was playing against American players everyday because we were in the NAIA. That kind of set the stage for what I could do.”

Triano made the national team after his 1977 freshman year and was later named team captain in 1981. The same year he was taken in the eighth round of the NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. He was cut during training camp, effectively killing his NBA chances. Still, he squeezed out three years of pro ball in Mexico and Turkey, experiencing more of the international grind.

“I went to Mexico and kept trying to play for as long as I could because playing for the national team was a dream, it’s what I liked to do,” says Triano. “To stay at that level you’ve got to find places to play so I would travel to wherever I had to go to play as long as I could and stay in shape so I could spend my summers playing for our national team.”
“Playing in those countries you learn how to play under adverse conditions and different situations. You travel and you’re playing the international game on a daily basis and practicing the international game on a daily basis and it was perfect because it helped me with my quest of representing Canada.”

In many ways, it has always been about Team Canada for Triano. It is why the kid from the Falls headed west to SFU (“I first went off to Simon Fraser because at the time they had three players playing on their team that played for the Canadian national team,” says Triano). It is why he stretched out a barely memorable pro career as long as he could. Fuel for the chase. Before his national team career ended in 1988, he had gotten them a gold medal at the 1983 University games, beating a U.S. squad featuring future hall-of-famers Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. There were two Olympic games appearances, and by the time he retired his next step had already been planted.

“When that all ended and I could see that my career was going to finish up after the ’88 Olympics – and the head coach who was my coach at Simon Fraser was stepping down – it was a natural fit for me to help him for a year and then take over the program,” says Triano.

Undeterred by his short playing career, Triano entered the coaching profession immediately and has never looked back. Ten years later he was named head coach of the national team. His firing came after being named a Toronto Raptors assistant coach – a first for a Canadian in the NBA – was even more confusing to those following the game.

Panicked perhaps by his ascension through the Raptors ranks, executives questioned his commitment to the program he had bled with for over 20 years. Still, there was always Sydney.

“It was huge,” says Triano of that out-of-nowhere run. “I don’t know if it was just the Olympics but people start to realize you can coach a little bit.”

After the Grizzlies moved out of Vancouver to Memphis in 2001, Triano found himself in Toronto as a media man covering the country’s surviving NBA franchise.

“I was doing TV and radio at the time in Vancouver then TV for TSN in Toronto,” Triano explains. “There’s an opening in Toronto for a fourth assistant and I get a chance. You kind of work your way up the bench, you become the third assistant, you become the second assistant and you just keep working. Then I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I got offered the head-coaching job there. Again, going back to the Olympics… if we don’t do well I probably don’t get an opportunity. We played well and we played as a team and we ran good stuff and we were successful. That probably opened some eyes somewhere.”

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One of those sets of eyes belonged to Duke University and team USA basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski. When the USA Basketball team fell to a bronze medal finish at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, their tumble from atop of the global hoops heap was absolute. The rest of the world was catching up talent-wise but the Americans had lost touch with the international game and it was a hard and intricate grasp for players who had never had to run it. Shortly after “the breakfast” Krzyzewski tapped Triano to fill the gap; his knowledge slowly began to rise to relevancy in basketball. Triano had lived it but more importantly, he could coach.

“As disappointed as I was, I focused more on my NBA career and stayed in touch with the international game,” says Triano of his firing. “Then Mike Krzyzewski asked me to help out with the U.S. team and I would never have had that opportunity if things had not gone sideways a little bit with Canada Basketball the first time.”

Triano’s role as an international specialist helped USA Basketball reclaim of the number one spot with a gold medal win at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but what struck him was the remodeled program under coach K. It was a win-at-all-costs approach that demanded a long-term commitment from players and coaches.

“Working with the U.S. team gave me a little bit of a different look as to how I would run the national program again,” admits Triano.

Later that year, he replaced Sam Mitchell as the Raptors’ head coach, another NBA first for a Canadian. After two and a half seasons and an 87-142 record Triano was fired by the club in 2011.

“Things didn’t work out there. I didn’t feel like I wasn’t a good coach. I felt like, ’OK, I need to move’,” he reveals. “I always thought that I needed to show what I could do somewhere else in the NBA. Then the opportunity came up with the national team. When I was approached again at the time I wasn’t working. I had interviews for a couple (of) jobs and all of a sudden I got the national team job and the Portland Trailblazers assistant coaching job at the same time. They both happened in a week.” It was the kind of pick-yourself-off the-mat skills that have come to define his career.

So when Nash was retained as Canada Basketball’s general manager in May of 2012, it came with the understanding that Triano was his head coach. Wayne Parrish, the journalist turned media man now running the business, agreed. Assistant GM Rowan Barrett, a key contributor to the Sydney run, was excited. Barrett had spent a year reconnecting the program with Canada’s exploding talent pool that features 2013 first overall pick Anthony Bennett, and projected 2014 first overall pick Andrew Wiggins. Seven other NBAers are in the pool including Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Nicholson. Triano was the final piece.

“It goes pretty deep (and) I think a lot of it is that group of players at the 2000 Olympics,” say Triano. “I remember them saying ‘When we’re done and we’re finished playing we’ve got to help make a difference, man’.

Any hope the reunion would result in an instant turnaround was dashed in Caracas at the FIBA Americas Championships when Canada failed to secure a berth to the 2014 World Cup. Without it, the team must wait until the 2015 qualifying tournament to fight for a seat at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

“This team is going to be arriving in 2020 and we can’t try to accelerate these guys because of who they are and where they play,” says Triano, clearly bothered by the hype machine. “To have that much pressure on them where we expect them to medal while we go to all these tournaments? We’ve got to learn how to play at these tournaments first.”

For Triano and crew the real trench work has just begun, but there are few basketball minds in the country better at resurrection.

“There are three things that can happen when you fail at your goals,” offers Triano. He’s back from Caracas now, his words crackling through his phone on the drive back home to Niagara Falls. “One, you can quit. Number two, you can do the same as you did. Three, you can work harder.”

Needless to say Triano has lived his life according to the third. His return to the national team program not only showed a willingness to bury the past but also acts as a signal to others who may have been turned off from the rocky history between the program and its players. Triano’s own history has become his best asset. Not only did it develop his coaching acumen, but it’s also the kind of scratch and claw testament that has built the man, and in turn builds men.

For Triano, the chase has always been now and as usual, when Canada Basketball has needed him, he has been prepared to answer the call.

Even if it’s for breakfast.


Three-point barrage helps Canada route Bahamas 113-67 FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers



Brady Heslip Three Pointer Canada Routes Bahamas FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

Team Canada picked up a convincing 113-67 win over Bahamas to improve to 3-1 in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers zone. Behind a three-point barrage and unselfish play the Canadians reached the century mark for the second straight game and secured a berth in the second-round of the qualifying tournament.

Brady Heslip once again led Canada in the scoring column with a game-high 19 points, on 5-of-9 shooting from the outside in just 24 minutes. The Burlington, Ontario native drilled three triples in the opening quarter to help ignite the Canadian offense that saw a total of six players hitting double figures all Canadians scoring at least 3 points. Melvin Ejim added 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, Thomas Scrubb continued to show his versatility with 10 points, 7 rebounds and a game-high 6 assists while Kyle Landry contributed well with 14 points and 8 rebounds.

Melvin Ejim Three Point Barrage Helps Canada Route Bahamas 113 67 Fiba Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers

Melvin Ejim Helps Canada Route Bahamas 113 67 Fiba Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers

Canada buried a total of 16 three-pointers on 34 attempts (44%),  dished out 26 assists and pounded the glass, beating the Bahamas 47-31.

Through four qualification games Canada is averaging 100 points per game while shooting 515 from the floor and 39% from threes. Brady Heslip currently ranks fifth in scoring with 18 points per game and leads everybody with 20 made triples.

The Road to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup continues for Canada as they will return back home for the third and final window of the first-round of qualification process.  The Canadians will look to avenge their only of of the competition when they to face Group D leaders and undefeated Dominican Republic (4-0) in Toronto on Friday, June 29 and the Virgin Islands (1-3) in the Nations Capital of Ottawa on  Monday, July 2nd 2018

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The top three teams in the four Americas Zone qualifiers groups advance to round 2 with the top 7 from the second-round advancing the 2019 World Cup in China.

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Canada blasts US Virgin Islands FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers



Canada Basketball Blasts Virgin Islands Fiba Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers

Led by a trio of veterans Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team (SMNT) blasted the Virgin Islands 118-89 in  FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers.

Veteran Canadian forward and former Iowa State Cyclones standout Melvin Ejim returned to the Canadian National lineup for the first time since the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament and poured in a game-high 28 points, 8 rebounds the 29 point route. Sharpshooter Brady Heslip continued his stellar play for Canada in Qualifying phase by adding 22 points including 5 rebound and 5 assists. Anthony Bennett also had a solid outing with 13 points on 5 rebounds.

The 118 points scored marks the most points scored by a Canada’s Senior men team since the Canadians hung a 112-92 victory over Puerto Rico in 2015.

With the win Canada avenges an embarrassing 83-71 to the Virgin Islands less than 12 months ago at the FIBA AmeriCup and improves the Canadians to 2-1 in Group D of the Americas World Cup qualifiers. Up next for the Canadians is another road test against the Bahamas (0-3).

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Young Canadian squad shapes FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers



Xavier Rathan Mayes Canada Vs Argentina

For the past twenty-plus (20) years starving Canadian basketball fans across the country have asked for more International sanctioned games on home soil.

Finally, it looks like those requests are materializing.

With the upcoming kick-off to the newly formatted road to the FIBA Basketball World Cup, the 2019 Americas Qualifiers taking place in Halifax, Nova Scotia will satisfy and quench the thirst of long-time East coast supporters of the National game.

A young, 25th-ranked Canadian squad will take on 59th ranked Bahamas, in a important Group D qualify game at the Scotiabank Centre.

Led by former number one pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett (Northern Arizona, G-League), the roster features a strong young crop of former Usports All-Canadians and NCAA Division I standouts. Additionally, a further testimony to the growth of Canadian University Basketball, Ryerson Rams head coach Roy Rana, headlines the coaching staff alongside Carleton Ravens coach Dave Smart.

Point guard duties will be handled by Olivier Hanlan, Phil Scrubb and Kaza Kajami-Keane. The latter two having won multiple Usports basketball championships under the tutelage of Smart. Three-point specialist Brady Heslip and along side confident Xavier Rathan-Mayes will look to fill it up for the outside. The front court will anchored by 6’8″ Anthony Bennett, Thomas Scrubb, (another Ravens All-Canadian) and former Acadia Axemen 6’10” Owen Klassen (Kingston, ON).

Overall the roster looks solid, given the lack of availability of Canada’s top talent due to changes in the qualifying format, and the NBA’s willingness to move aside and grant FIBA the release of its players, regardless of nationality for the World Cup qualifying periods.

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Placed in Group D alongside Virgin Islands, Bahamas and Dominican Republic. The young Canadians will play a home and away series against each team. After the Bahamas game, Canada will fly out to the Dominican Republic for a stern road test on November 28, 2017 to wrap up the opening qualifying window.  The second qualifier will take in late February with Canada once again hitting the road for games against the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. The third qualifying window will see Canada host two more games on home soil on June 29 and July 2, 2018.

Canada is coming off a mediocre performance at the FIBA Americup dropping games to Virgin Islands 83-71, Argentina 92-86 with its only win against a tough Venezuela 75-66 team that denied the Canadians an Olympics appearance in Rio 2016.

Joel Anthony



Montreal, QC Free Agent
Anthony Bennett



Toronto, ON Northern Arizona Suns (G-League)
Grandy Glaze



Toronto, ON St. John’s Edge (NBL Canada)
Olivier Hanlan



Aylmer, QC Austin Spurs (G-League)
Brady Heslip



Burlington, ON Trabzonspor (Turkey)
Kaza Kajami-Keane



Ajax, ON Raptors 905 (G-League)
Owen Klassen



Kingston, ON PAOK (Greece)
Dyshawn Pierre



Whitby, ON Banco di Srd (Italy)
Xavier Rathan-Mayes



Scarborough, ON Westchester Knicks (G-League)
Phil Scrubb



Richmond, B.C. Fraport SKY (Germany)
Thomas Scrubb



Richmond, B.C. Scandone AV (Italy)
Marc Trasolini



Vancouver, B.C. Hokkaido L. (Japan)
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