After two years of a Malta men’s national team led by American coach Alan Walls, the Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) silver medalists will be following new leadership from next year, the Times of Malta can confirm.
Walls was appointed by the Malta Basketball Association (MBA) in 2022 ahead of the FIBA Small Countries Championships which took place on home soil. As the replacement for Italian coach Andrea Paccarie, the American mentor had big shoes to fill and when facing the likes of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Malta managed to finish with a silver medal.
This year, Malta repeated this with another second-place finish in the GSSE after losing the final against Luxembourg in June. However, it was commonly believed that the team’s ambition was much higher than two silver medals, particularly with the likes of Samuel Deguara, Falzon brothers Aaron and Tevin, and additions like Nelson Kahler, Joshua Tomasi and Eric Washington to mention just a few.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, MBA president Paul Sultana admitted they had higher expectations from Walls, this leading to them not extending his contract after post-GSSE discussions.
“With the team that (Walls)’s had, we felt he should have done better. After the experience we’ve had with Italian coaches, we felt that we haven’t gone forward, especially with the players we provided,” Sultana said.
“With the team we had, we could have won everything, but the way he operated was different than what we had in mind.”
Asked about the next steps following Walls’ departure, Sultana said the association would be discussing the possibility of appointing a local coach.
“We’re considering a local coach to take over the men’s team while for the women, the future depends on talks with current coach Angela Adamoli,” he explained.
“The women’s team is changing, we have a lot of young players fighting for their place in the national team and the veteran players are gradually retiring, so the majority now are around 21, 22 years old.
“We are building for a new era in the women’s team. The men’s team has already gone through this and we have a good team which gives us something to look forward to.”
One issue which has been a part of the national team is the fact that competition is limited to the FIBA and GSSE tournaments, and the coach as well as the foreign-based players are away until just weeks before play begins.
“This is a problem that all teams in the GSSE encounter as most of their players are still taking part in their club competitions so the coach not being here earlier was not entirely down to him,” Sultana said.
“In the FIBA Games, which take place in June or July, all of these club competitions are finished and players are available. However, bringing them very early is a financial strain on the association as well so all of that builds up.”
Following the appointment of a new coach, the first order of business will be setting up the national team roster for next summer’s FIBA Small Countries Games, taking place in Andorra between June 25-30.
While Malta had at their disposal new players Tomasi and Washington for their debut in national team colours, picking both will not be possible due to FIBA regulations. Kahler, who was part of the squad in the last edition last year is also not yet 100% eligible which means the new coach would be able to pick just one out of the three. However, the MBA has begun proceedings into fixing Australian-born forward Kahler’s eligibility.
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