MELBOURNE (EuroBasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Juan Antonio Orenga became the 17th head coach of Spain's men’s national team this week.
The Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB), unable to convince Sergio Scariolo to continue leading the side after a hugely successful four-year run, opted for continuity and promoted assistant national team coach Orenga.
The 46-year-old Orenga was not only an assistant on Scariolo’s teams that captured gold at EuroBaskets 2009 and 2011, and silver this past summer at the London Olympics, but he also served as head coach of Spain at three U20 European Championships dating back to 2007.
At one of them, last year in Bilbao, Orenga’s team won the title.
He is currently Down Under, sharing his coaching expertise at clinics in Australia.
That is where the FEB contacted him to offer him the head coaching job of Spain.
"This has been a surprise that has filled me with joy and responsibility,” Orenga said in remarks published on the FEB website.
"I am very thankful to President José Luis Sáez, to the Sporting Director Ángel Palmi, and to all the people who have put their trust in me and have helped me these years to grow as a professional and reach this point.
"I want to thank especially Sergio Scariolo for his dedication and help during these years.
“There has been a very good job done in the past and we have to continue on this line that has made us a European power, only surpassed by the United States at world level.”
Spain have been a leading nation in basketball for nearly decade.
At EuroBasket 2003, when Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro were blossoming into two of the finest players in international basketball, a Spain side led by Moncho Lopez reached the Final and lost to Lithuania.
The following year, under Mario Pesquera, Spain went unbeaten in the Preliminary Round of the Athens Olympics before falling 102-94 to the United States in the Quarter-Finals.
Following the appointment of Pepu Hernández in 2006, Spain won the world title in Japan and the next year silver at the EuroBasket in Madrid.
Spain may not have been a super power during Orenga’s days as a player with the national team, but they were nevertheless very good.
In his first tournament with the national side in Rome 21 years ago, Orenga helped the Spaniards claim a bronze medal.
That team was led by Antonio Díaz Miguel, a legendary coach in Spain who had guided the national side to its first Olympic silver medal at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
After two summers playing for Díaz Miguel, the second at the Barcelona Olympics, Orenga played for La Selección under Lolo Sainz, another of the great Spanish tacticians.
His last year with Spain as a player was 1999.
There are many questions about Spain heading into next year’s EuroBasket, where they will take on hosts Slovenia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia and Poland in Group C.
As Spain have already qualified for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, it remains to be see how many of the veteran players will make themselves available next year.
The temptation of snatching a third consecutive European title could entice some, or all, to take part.
A solid showing by Spain could also see Orenga retain the national team reins when Spain host the World Cup.