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Pashutin waits in the wings

One of the big basketball stories of the summer was written by Russia men’s team.

Under the leadership of coach David Blatt since 2006, Russia have moved from strength to strength.

Since taking the helm of the national team after Russia’s disappointing show at EuroBasket 2005, Blatt has steered the team to EuroBasket 2007  gold medal, EuroBasket 2011  bronze and 2012 Olympic bronze.

The American-born Israeli, who is a successful coach with European powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv, has enormous respect in Russia for the job he has done and is without question the man that the federation wants to lead the team at next summer’s EuroBasket in Slovenia and the following summer at the FIBA Basketball World Cup  in Spain.

One man that may be considered for the post should Blatt not sign a new contract is former national team point guard Evgeny Pashutin, the playmaker who pulled the strings when Russia competed at the 2000 Olympics  in Sydney.

Pashutin served as an assistant to Ettore Messina at CSKA Moscow and then did a good job with the Russian giants when he was promoted to the head coaching position following Messina’s departure to Real Madrid.

He has since been at the helm of UNICS Kazan and played to rave reviews with that club.

Pashutin is entering his third season as coach of UNICS, who are competing in the Euroleague Qualifying Round.

The 43-year-old was recently asked if he would like to coach the national team if the opportunity were to arise.

“You must ask the federation,” Pashutin said.

“I think that if the team has done well with Blatt – why do we need a change?

“For me the most important thing is that our national team played well (in London).

“Well, if for some reason, David will not be able to continue to work in our team and I am asked to lead it … Well, I’m always ready.”

Most important for Pashutin is that Russia keep the momentum going.

After going unbeaten at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT)  in Caracas, Venezuela, to claim one of three spots still available for the London Games, Russia won their first four Preliminary Round games in Britain to clinch first place in their group before falling to Australia when Pat Mills hit a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Russia rebounded by defeating Lithuania in the Quarter-Finals .

After throwing a scare into Spain before losing that contest, Blatt and Co beat  Argentina in a thrilling Bronze Medal Game,81-77.

Since taking over a team that didn’t make it to the 2006 FIBA World Championship, Blatt has turned Russia into a power.

They are now sixth in the FIBA Ranking Men and closing fast on Argentina (third), Greece (fourth) and Lithuania (fifth).

Speaking to the sport-express newspaper, Pashutin said: “I think our team has a great future.

“In the coming years, we expect high places in European and world championships.

“A special thanks should go to David Blatt for the huge contribution he has made to the development of Russian basketball.

“He is one of the most powerful professionals in the world, and yet also one of the most cunning.

“How many opponents did he outsmart in the end? I lost count.

“(But) We must not be complacent and continue to work in the same direction.

“Our team is quite capable of becoming one of the dominant forces in the European and global arenas.”

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