Scott Flemming interview: 'I want to put a basketball in the hands of more young kids in India'

Three and a half years ago in Wuhan, China, Scott Flemming was on the sidelines for one of the greatest moments in Indian basketball history.

The American basketball coach already spent over two decades in college basketball and the NBA’s Development League back home, but when he accepted the role of India’s senior men’s basketball coach in 2012, he was handed a challenge unlike anything he had ever experienced before. Flemming handled the opportunity with aplomb over the next three years, leaving a strong influence in India’s grassroots basketball development, training a golden generation of young players, and helping India to several important milestones, including a gold medal at the 2014 Lusofonia Games.

But his biggest moment came at the FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan later in 2014. Flemming’s Team India defied expectations to defeat hosts and Asian powerhouses China for the first time in history. It was a gritty victory that immediately infused India’s slow-moving basketball machinery with optimism. By the time Flemming left the coaching job in 2015 to return to college basketball in the US, he had left an indelible mark in India.

It turns out, India left an indelible mark on the coach, too: earlier this year, after two years as head coach of the Northwest Nazareth University back in the States, Flemming accepted another high-profile basketball job back in India. Flemming was hired by NBA India to be their Senior Director of Basketball Operations. Last month, Flemming returned to India to help oversee the league’s youth and elite basketball development initiatives in India, including the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program, the NBA Academy India and NBA Basketball School, and work with key stakeholders across the country to continue to grow basketball.

Firstpost caught up with Flemming for an interview wherein he spoke about the motivation to return to India and his goals to help the game develop over the next few years:

 Scott Flemming interview: I want to put a basketball in the hands of more young kids in India

Scott Flemming (RC), Senior Director of Basketball Operations for NBA India is looking to build a basketball culture in India. Image Courtesy: Twitter/@scottwflemming

FP: After spending a few years away, what motivated you to return to India and begin working in basketball development here again?

Flemming: I have a real heart for India and especially for Indian basketball. The opportunity to work with the NBA is very exciting and I am looking forward to this new journey.

FP: Now that you are here for the second stint with knowledge and experience, what do you think will be different about your approach about coaching in India?

Flemming: My role at the NBA will not be limited to coaching a team. I have the overall responsibility to ensure I help grow the game of basketball in every way possible through the youth and elite basketball development initiatives in India. My prior experience in India has made me aware of the needs of the players and coaches in this country. I have found them to be hungry to learn and improve. I am excited to continue what I started before.

FP: What is the next step for the Reliance Foundation program? Will it be expanding to more Indian cities outside the 'A' tier and in the North of the country?

Flemming: The plan is to continue to grow the game by expanding the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program, as well as the NBA Schools in other regions of India. We are focused on ensuring the wide reach and success of these programmes now.

FP: Have you had a chance to work with the talent at the NBA India Academy?

Flemming: I will be visiting the NBA Academy soon and I have already talked with the academy’s coaches who rave about the potential and the progress they witness every day. I am looking forward to meeting with all the young players and spending some time to understand their requirements to develop a customized plan of action for their growth.

FP: What was your most memorable moment as a coach with Team India?

Flemming: I had many memorable moments as a coach with Team India — if I had to mention a few, it would be the win over China in their home country or winning the gold medal in the Lusofonia Games in Goa. My most memorable moment was seeing our players in the hotel lobby, during the Asia Cup, holding their heads high and knowing that India rightfully belonged in the competition and were a team that no opponent could take lightly anymore.

FP: What did you miss most about India while you were away?

Flemming: Although I enjoy the food, especially butter chicken, it was the relationships I had with the players and coaches that I missed the most! We were working together towards a common goal and had become great friends while doing so.

FP: How would you like to see basketball in India grow as a whole during your stint with NBA Operations here?

Flemming: I want to build on the great work that has been initiated by my predecessors and those that are presently on our NBA staff. I would like to see us put a basketball in the hands of more kids and at a younger age. We want to continue to facilitate effective basketball training to the youth in all regions. The goal is to create a strong basketball culture in India, build strong fan support for the NBA, and improve the quality of play overall.

Updated Date: Nov 14, 2017 13:55:40 IST