HCM CITY — Sai Gon Heat, the first professional basketball team in Viet Nam, have been recovering recently after a poor start in the Asean Basketball League.
After a losing streak of seven matches, Englishman Robert Newson was replaced by American Jason Rabedeaux, a basketball coach for 20 years. Rabedeaux said it was exciting to be involved in basketball in Viet Nam because the game was being built from the ground up. He previously worked in the US, China, Japan and Bahrain.
Rabedeaux talked with Viet Nam News about the team and its fans.
The Sai Gon Heat have made a strong comeback recently, winning four out of the last six games. What is the reason?
The biggest thing for us is that defence has been very good. We also cut out our turnover and mistakes. We do not have a lot of depth, so we have to make the game short. And we have done a very good job with both of those things. We continue to make fewer mistakes. The other factor that has helped us is that we are more stable. Our foreign players now feel more comfortable and settled here in Viet Nam.
Some people said that Sai Gon Heat had not selected the best local players. They said they knew some local players who were better than those in your team. What's your opinion?
When this season finishes, we will have to look at everything. It is a privilege to play for Sai Gon Heat. You have to be not only a talented player but also a very hard worker. You have to be good teammate as well. When the season finishes, we will look at all players in Viet Nam and select the best ones for the next year's season.
What ranking do you expect your team to have by the end of the season?
We cannot predict that, as the team always takes it one day at a time. We have one practice and try to get better at practice. That's what we do. We cannot look ahead. So we just take one day at a time.
Every time Sai Gon Heat play at home, Tan Binh Gymnasium is packed with spectators. What do you think of basketball potential in Viet Nam and the fans here?
I think two things. The number one is Henry Nguyen and Connor Nguyen both have done an excellent job and their staff have made the game very entertaining. Basketball is very important, but the dance group and the music are all excellent, the best in the ASEAN Basketball League.
The fans are the best in ABL. They have great passion. They believe in Sai Gon Heat and are a great inspiration to us. They give us strength and courage because they cheer loudly. Many people come. As the head coach, I cannot personally thank all of our fans enough. The fans have all of our hearts.
Henry Nguyen and Connor Nguyen have tried to create an NBA type of atmosphere. Now as a basketball team, we have to do our part. We have to play very hard. We have to dive on the floor for loose balls. We have to take charge. We have to make the game enjoyable for basketball fans.
Are you going to work in Viet Nam for a long time?
I will work here as long as the general manager and the owner want me to be a coach. I love Viet Nam, the people are kind and generous. I love my fans and love coaching my team. I've been in many different places and have seen many different things. Viet Nam to me has been the best place I've been because the people here make it the best place. — VNS