Former NBA coach and current broadcaster Mike Fratello will coach the Ukrainian national team at this summer’s European championships in Lithuania, The Record reported Tuesday.
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The struggling Ukrainian team has never qualified for the Olympics, failed to qualify for the past two Euro championships and has never finished higher than 13th at the competition.
The 64-year-old, who works as an analyst for the YES Network on Nets broadcasts and for TNT, is looking to help the country make a name for itself on the hardwood.
"I was interested in something new that I’ve never done," said Fratello. "I just thought at this time in my life, having never had the chance for that opportunity, it was kind of a wonderful challenge to see what you can do.
"This program is trying to establish a base, a foundation to eventually [become a power]. They just haven’t had that. It’s been haphazard, hasn’t been run the right way. I think everybody wanted to make a commitment to do this thing the right way."
Fratello was recruited to the position by Alexander Volkov, who played for Fratello with the Atlanta Hawks and is now president of the Ukraine Basketball Federation. Although he wants to coach in the NBA again, Fratello said that is not the reason behind his decision.
"This isn’t being done because I’m hoping to get [an NBA] job," Fratello said. "People know whether I can coach in the NBA. The whole thing is a huge challenge. That’s why I really did it."
Fratello owns a record of 677-548 in 16 years as an NBA coach with Atlanta, Cleveland and Memphis. He interviewed for the vacant head coaching positions in Cleveland and New Orleans last year, and was also a candidate for the Clippers’ opening.