Q: What does it mean to you to be coaching an Irish team in a home tournament, the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries in Dublin?
“It’s a huge honour and privilege to have the opportunity to coach the Irish senior men’s team. The fact that the tournament is in Dublin adds another layer of enjoyment and excitement. It’s a pity we won’t have any fans present in the stands to cheer on the team, but the fact that we’ve been training in the National Basketball Arena since our return to play, this should help us immensely.”
Q: You’ve experienced success as captain of an Irish team, when Ireland won the Promotions Cup in 1994, also at the National Basketball Arena, what are your memories of that tournament?
“It was a great tournament and the Irish basketball fans really came out to support the team. The atmosphere in the Arena on final day was fantastic. It was our fourth attempt at trying to win the tournament and home court advantage was certainly a major factor in our success.
“(Assistant Coach) Adrian Fulton was also part of that team and still today we talk about the great memories we have of that week. The same will be the case for all the players playing in this tournament. They will talk about this tournament for the next 30 years also.”
Ireland Team - Winners, 1994 Promotions Cup
Q: Having chatted to a few of the players, they’ve said you’ve mentioned 1994 a few times! But in all seriousness, what will you take from that experience that will help you in terms of this FIBA European Championship for Small Countries?
“I basically want our guys to understand how after all these years we still have great thoughts and memories from 1994. I want them to embrace this team and this time together and playing at home as it will live with them for the rest of their lives.
“We certainly know from our experience that it’s not an easy tournament to win, so we want our guys fully focused and driven from day one of the tournament. Any team can beat any other team on a given night. We cannot look past Andorra, as we need to take one game at a time and be fully focused on that.”
Q: How important were those Slovakia games in July in terms of preparations for the tournament?
“These games were hugely important, as they have been our only practice games leading into this tournament. These were the first games in over a year for our home-based players due to Covid-19, so it was really important to get high quality International games under our belt.
“Of course we would have liked more games, but we do count ourselves lucky to have been able to get a quality side like Slovakia to come to Dublin. We hope this high level of competition will stand to us during the tournament.”
Mark Keenan and Jason Killeen
Q: You named your 12-man squad on July 21st, with Jason Killeen as captain, what are his attributes that led you to pick him as your team captain?
“Jason has been a great servant to Irish basketball over the past 16/17 years. I believe he has earned the right to lead his country at this time in his career. His experience and leadership will be valuable throughout the tournament.
“We also have several other great leaders within the group and we were really happy to name Kyle Hosford as vice-captain to Jason.”
Q: We’ll get a chance to see Will Hanley in an Irish jersey for the first time, he’s set to make his debut in the tournament. He’s a player you’ve been pursuing for a long time, tell us about that and what can we expect from him as a player as he’s someone that not many people will know about?
“Will has had a great professional career so far and yes he’s been on my radar since he graduated from college in 2012. He brings great experience and composure into the group and is a super teammate also.”
Q: And finally, how will you as a team deal with the expectations as hosts and being among the favourites to win the tournament?
“We are just going to take one game at a time and focus on that. Andorra is our focus for now and that’s all. We are not going to get ahead of ourselves because that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Jason Killeen, Sean Flood and john Carroll with Head Coach Mark Keenan (July 21, 2021)