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HomeBusinessGreatest gathering of Canadian men’s hoops players to help send squad to Paris Olympics

Greatest gathering of Canadian men’s hoops players to help send squad to Paris Olympics

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Bob Mackin

How was this for passing the torch?

Members of Canada’s Los Angeles 1984 Olympics team, which finished fourth. (Canada Basketball)

Canada Basketball sent an all-points-bulletin in mid-June to players on men’s Olympic teams dating back to 1976. Four dozen of them paid their own way and showed up on Canada Day weekend in Toronto at the OVO Athletic Centre, where the Paris 2024 squad reported to training camp.  

Greg Wiltjer from the 1984 team and Steve Konchalski, assistant coach to the late Jack Donohue. (Canada Basketball)

“Unsure if Team Canada will ever assemble that much Canadian Olympic basketball talent ever again,” said West Vancouver’s Howard Kelsey, who played on the fourth-place squad at Los Angeles 1984, which lost in the bronze medal match to Yugoslavia.

Kelsey co-founded the Canadian National Basketball Teams Alumni Association and played a significant role in helping Canada Basketball president Michael Bartlett and general manager Rowan Barrett achieve the unprecedented reunion. 

“Several years ago, many of the players, and many of the Olympians, would not come together to support,” Kelsey said. “That’s a miraculous journey.”

Four of the teams were coached by the late Jack Donohue, whose assistant Steve Konchalski attended the reunion. Jay Triano, now an assistant coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, was there as coach of the Sydney 2000 team and member of the playing roster for the 1980 to 1988 squads.  Sydney 2000 star and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash was unable to attend due to previous commitments.

The doctor for all five teams did attend. Dr. Andrew Pipe was named recently to the Future of Sport in Canada Commission, headed by former Ontario Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve.

Howard Kelsey (left), Raptors’ broadcaster Paul Jones and Bill Wennington, from the 1984 team. (Canada Basketball)

The Montreal 1976 team finished fourth after losing to the Soviet Union in the bronze medal match. It was Canada’s best since silver at the Berlin 1936 Olympics. The Seoul 1988 and Sydney 2000 teams were sixth and seventh, respectively. The 1980 team did not make it to Moscow, due to the boycott over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

“So proud of these ‘kids,’ talented, humble and hungry to represent. Our ‘80 team hasn’t changed a bit,” Tweeted Leo Rautins, former national team coach. 

Canada is ranked seventh after the FIBA 2023 World Cup, where it upset the U.S. for the bronze medal last September in an overtime thriller.  Led by Dillon Brooks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and coached by Jordi Fernandez, it was a first for Canada on the world stage. 

In the opening round at Paris, Canada will face Greece July 27, Australia July 30 and Spain on Aug. 2. 

While Kelsey is counting the days to this year’s Olympic tournament, he is also looking ahead to L.A. 2028. Alumni from the 1984 team hope to return to the City of Angels to watch Canada’s best get on the podium there. 

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(Canada Basketball)

Members of Canada’s Paris 2024 basketball team and alumni from Montreal 1976 to Sydney 2000 at the Canada Day weekend reunion in Toronto. (Canada Basketball)

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