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D-Fenders Eric Musselman Will Return To Coach Venezuela National Team

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Los Angeles D-Fenders head coach Eric Musselman will return to coach the Venezuela National Team this summer for a shot at the 2012 London Olympics.
Los Angeles D-Fenders head coach Eric Musselman will return to coach the Venezuela National Team this summer for a shot at the 2012 London Olympics.

Eric Musselman's offseason plans are officially booked.

Over the weekend the Los Angeles D-Fenders head coach completed a verbal contract to return to coach the Venezuela National Team for this summer, Musselman informed Ridiculous Upside.

"It's important for me to return because the players gave so much to the coaching staff last year," Musselman said via email.

"We pushed them hard with the preparation and felt no resistance from the players other than wanting to get better every day."

With Musselman on the sidelines last summer the Venezuela National Team finished fifth in the FIBA Americas Pre Olympic Tournament held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and advanced to the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, to be played in Caracas, Venezuela, this coming July (2nd-8th).

Venezuela finished the tournament 4-4.

Musselman also confirmed former Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Brad Greenberg will serve as an assistant coach.

"The expectation last summer was to develop some of their young players. And it was a changing of the guard as some of their older veteran players were left off of the team in favor of young players. We had one of the youngest starting lineups of any national team in the world. It was also the youngest starting lineup in the history of Venezuelan basketball," Musselman added.

With a roster that includes David Cubillan (Marquette), Gregory Echenique (Creighton), and Greivis Vasquez (New Orleans Hornets), Musselman hopes the three will be part of "the nucleus for Venezuelan basketball over the next 10 years".

"We created our identity and style of play as being a fast paced, up tempo team."

Venezuela led the FIBA Americas 2011 Olympic Qualifier in scoring averaging 94.8 points per game (10 points more than the second highest scoring team), and a large part of that was due to the leadership of Vasquez and the relationships forged last summer.

With London 2012 in mind, Musselman believes the team can grow together to reach their desired destination.

"We understand there are only three Olympic spots left. Many teams will be favored over us, but we are hoping we can continue with improvements off of last summer, as well as playing in front of some of the best basketball fans in the world. The most important factor is the lifetime relationships we develop, " explained Musselman, who was recently named Venezuela's 2011 Coach of the Year after his success with the national team.

"I love coaching FIBA basketball. It's a completely different game than the NBA or the NBA Development league. I have learned a ton from coaching against coaches from other parts of the world, and feel that it's helped my growth as a coach tremendously. Coaching a team in which half of the team doesn't speak English forces you as a coach to be a better teacher, and be more detail oriented. "

Musselman still has the rest of the D-League season to focus on first.

The D-Fenders are 17-10 and sit behind the Austin Toros in the West Conference, but after the season it's straight to work with the national team for a busy summer.

A trip to London just might be part of those plans.