Things are going to be a lot different in Shanghai next season.
Last Friday, the Sharks held a press conference to announce a combination of decisions that will have a huge impact on the club’s short-term and long-term direction: the appointment of Wang Qun as head coach, and the re-signing of “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu.
Wang, who has had a long history with the Sharks and owner Yao Ming, will become the first official Chinese head coach since Yao took control over the club in 2009. He had been serving in an interim role after American Dan Pannagio was fired mid-season last year.
Immediately, Wang’s new job will become easier with Zhang being back on board. The 7’3 free-agent center had reportedly received two big money offers from the Beijing Ducks and the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, the latter of whom were prepared to offer 8 million RMB per year. However, the allure of staying in Shanghai, which Zhang called his “second home” in the press conference was a powerful force that ultimately lead him to refuse all other suitors.
“It’s been three years since I came back to China to play in the CBA and those three years have all been in Shanghai,” said Zhang. “The team has always had confidence in me. They’ve cultivated me and I’ve had definite improvement. Even though I’m not from here, the club, the fans and a lot of friends in Shanghai have helped me a lot. All of that has meant a lot to me. This is my second home.”
According to reports, Zhang’s contract is for five years.
Zhang’s return to Shanghai will give the team some roster stability going forward; the appointment of Wang hopes to bring the same amount of stability to the sideline. Respected for his ability to relate and communicate to the club’s Chinese roster, Wang comes with a reputation as a player’s coach who enjoys a particularly good relationship with star point guard, Liu Wei. Liu, who struggled at times adapting to Pannagio’s triangle offense, reportedly prefers operating under Wang where he is given the freedom to handle the ball and make decisions almost at will.
Another point worth mentioning: Wang will come at a considerably cheaper price tag than any foreign head coach, which is relevant given the Sharks’ financial situation.
With Wang on board, the Sharks will undergo big changes both in front of and behind the scenes. A major difference will be the departure of a system-based offense. Both of the Sharks previous head coaches, Bob Donewald Jr. and Pannagio, implemented specific offenses (Donewald, motion; Pannagio, triangle) that were brought to the club at the request of Yao, who felt a more rigid systematic style of play was needed to develop an overall philosophy and long-term development plan for the club. Beyond that, it’s likely there will be changes going on in other aspects, such as youth development and the overall process in scouting, game preparation and more. In short, the days of the Sharks trying to run things like an NBA-styled franchise are probably gone.
After making the playoffs under Pannagio in 2011-12, who also won NiuBBall Coach of the Year in the same season, the Sharks finished inin 14th place with a 10-22 record. As one of the worst five teams, they will be eligible for a third Asian import player next season.