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Garcia: First a dream come true, then great progress as new Argentina coach
BUENOS AIRES (Argentina) - Nestor Garcia could hardly be happier looking back at his first experience as the new Argentina national team head coach. First of all, one of his life-long dreams had finally come true. Then he guided the team to a great start in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers.
The 56-year-old could not hold back his emotions upon hearing the national anthem ahead of Argentina's first game in the Qualifiers against Paraguay.
"I knew this was going to be emotional for me. It's a dream. I went through a lot of places to get here. I very much wanted this moment: to be able to lead the National Team of my country," Garcia was quoted on an Instagram post by the country's federation CABB.
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Garcia has spent 33 years of his life coaching the game for 30 teams from nine countries. Those jobs included coaching the national teams of Venezuela, Uruguay and Dominican Republic. On September 13, 2021, the Bahia Blanca native was finally given the chance to lead his own country as he was hired to replace Sergio Hernandez.
"This is to fulfill a dream that I have been carrying or following my whole life. I arrived with a lot of eagerness to work and keep Argentina in the elite of the world," the coach said after getting the job.
"I am very grateful to the people of CABB, the Board of Directors, Andrés Pelussi and especially President Fabián Borro. For me it is a blessing to be in charge of the national team today. It is a great pride. I had feelings of nerves, anxiety, excitement, because it is a dream and I am living it to the fullest."
The Argentina team did not let Garcia down in the first window with him in charge, racing past Paraguay 93-67 and 82-43 in two comfortable wins in Group A.
"We have achieved the objectives we set for this first window. Perfection does not exist, but progress does and from day one we have progressed," the coach said of the games at the Estadio Obras Sanitarias in Buenos Aires.
"There was a spectacular atmosphere in the stadium. Being able to play in front of people was wonderful, after the pandemic, and above all doing it with the Argentine national team. People supported us and recognized the players' talents. It was very nice to be at home and with our people. That helps us a lot, more than people imagine."
Garcia came into the Argentina job with plenty of big game experience. He coached Venezuela to the title at the FIBA AmeriCup 2015 - beating Argentina in the Final - to reach the 2016 Olympics. He also coached Dominican Republic at the FIBA basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
Now at the helm of his homeland, Garcia used the first window in charge to get to know some of the younger players he has not followed as closely from not being in Argentina.
"After being outside the country for so long, I am now getting to know a lot of young talent that we saw in this window. There were young people who played very well in their debut," said Garcia, who had five players aged 23 or under with the team for the window in 23-year-old Lautaro Berra Fernandez, the 22-year-old trio of Agustin Barreiro, Franco Baralle and Matias Solanas and 19-year-old Juan Francisco Fernandez.
"We, the staff, the players and all the people of the federation, want to maintain the privileged place that Argentina has had in the world rankings. It is not easy, it is a new cycle, it is a change in many things, but we are focused on that and trying to play in the best way. There is a long way to go, but we are on the right track," Garcia added.
The coach was also happy that the fans stayed in the arena even though neither of the games against Paraguay were very competitive for long.
"One of the most beautiful things that I felt was that people permanently supported us and stayed until the end. Often when there is a large difference in points people start to leave earlier, but in this case they stayed until the end and applauded the players. So the outcome of the first window and the beginning of this dream could not be more favorable."
Nestor Garcia’s dream has only just begun.