Tag Archives: Li Qiuping

Cavs statement: Li Qiuping ‘is not part of our coaching staff’

October 7, 2010

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On October 1st, the day in which Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and the day which is currently celebrated as China’s National Day — the first day of Golden Week, a seven day holiday where the entire country is off work — Liu Qiuping announced he was headed to the Wine and Gold, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to become one of the team’s assistant coaches for the upcoming season.

Liu was supposed to become the first Chinese coach in NBA history.  He was so sure of it that he even went on Shanghai TV to tell it to his country himself.  In the coverage that followed, he was instantly labeled as yet another example of China moving up in the world; a Chinese basketball coach who was talented and experienced enough to get a job next to the some of best and brightest American basketball minds in the country.

People obviously ran with it.  Every news station reported it.  Sina published a whole feature on it the next day, even going so far as to speculate that the Cavs hired Qiu, who coached Yao Ming in Shanghai, in order to make a run at 2011 free-agent next summer.

Yet something didn’t feel right: No comment from the team, no news in the States and no mention of any kind from anything outside of China.

Indeed, something was off.  Later on October 2nd, QQ Sports followed up on the story and requested a statement from the Cavs to confirm the news.  What they got instead was a flat out denial of Qiu’s Cleveland prospective coaching gig.  Garin Narain, the team’s Basketball Communications Manager, stated nobody within the organization has “any idea about Liu Qiuping coming to coach” and that he thought “somebody messed up… the team hasn’t been in contact with him, neither presently nor in the past.”

Six days after the initial news, the Cavs finally came up with a public response.  This is what they wrote:

Coach Li Qiuping was invited as a guest to come observe Cavaliers practice and games during our training camp and preseason, and we’re honored and excited to have him do that. He is not a part of our coaching staff and that was never contemplated.

Media Contact:

Tad Carper, Vice President of Public Relations, Cleveland Cavaliers

All this ends a very bizarre and awkward string of events, at least in regards to the question of whether Li was going to Cleveland to act as an assistant coach.  But, so many questions have yet to be answered, the first and most important being: How did this happen? Who was talking with Li the whole time?  Certainly, it was somebody who he believed to be high up in the organization.  Remember, this wasn’t a rumor that came out in the paper one day — it was news delivered from the subject himself on a major television station.  That’s how sure he and his people were about all of this.

Coach said in the interview that Kenny Huang invited him to Cleveland and basically set the whole thing up.  Yet, how could Huang have arranged all this when he is no longer invested in the team?  It’s a question I wondered aloud to myself when I first read the report on the 1st, and now after the team’s statement has been released, I question as to what line of communication was used between Shanghai and Cleveland and who specifically was in communication with Li through all of this.

The Chinese word for losing face is 丢人 (diu ren), and the two characters can be seen in all over the comments sections and forums of China’s basketball internet community today. In a country where laughing at other people’s misfortunes is somewhat of a national hobby, Li’s reputation is sure to have taken a hit.  I just wonder whether it’s deserved.

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To understand them, you must learn from them

September 30, 2010

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Pretty big news coming out of Shanghai last night.  Former Shanghai Shark head coach, Li Qiuping, will be heading to Cleveland this year to learn the NBA way of doing things from Byron Scott’s next year as China’s first ever NBA assistant coach.

In a TV interview (some of which can be seen below), Li stated that Huang Jianhua’s (aka Kenny Huang) connection to the team had a large part to do with the Cavs’ invitation.  That strikes me as odd, since Huang pulled out of the proposed deal to buy a minority share in the club in late August.  Obviously, there’s still some kind of link between the two, yet in what capacity is unclear.

Li, who coached Yao Ming when he was with the Shanghai Sharks, will go to “strive to improve myself as a coach” and to learn “how they do things over there, how they manage the team, and how they practice.”

Li’s kind of a big deal in China: He was Yao Ming’s coach while he played in China for Shanghai. Moreover, Li not only coached Yao on the senior team, he also oversaw his entire development from the time Yao was but a wee 7 foot lad playing for the Sharks’ youth team in the 1990s.

Li coached the Sharks from 1994, the first year China established a national professional basketball league, until 2002 when Yao left to play in the NBA, making him the longest tenured head coach in Chinese professional basketball history.  Armed with Yao and Chinese national team point-guard, Liu Wei, Coach Li brought home two titles with Shanghai before retiring in 2002 to become a brand consultant for his newly-minted Houston Rocket center.  Due to his success with Shanghai and his relationship with Yao, Li has decided against coaching again in the CBA, instead opting to open up his own basketball academies and training camps.

Though this is the first time a Chinese will act as an NBA assistant coach, this isn’t the first time a CBA coach has gone to the NBA to learn.  In 2007-08, Guangdong’s Li Qunceng went to Milwaukee when Yi Jianlian was with the team.  John Calipari has worked to develop China-U.S. basketball relations since his days in Memphis, an undertaking he continues today while he coaches at Kentucky.  It’s paid off not only for the coaches who have participated in the basketball exchange program, it’s also done a lot for Calipari’s profile in China: After Americans, the most visitors to website, CoachCal.com are Chinese, and they apparently know that one of his German shepherds, Dash, is “nimble and quick.” (Though I wonder exactly how, since Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China…)

In Yao’s last season with Shanghai, the team went 17-1 in the regular season on their way to a championship.  17 wins… seems like a good over/under for the Cavs win total this year.  Like dude said, he’s in this for the experience and the opportunity to learn.  How to lose is one thing he’ll be guaranteed to learn.

Here’s a quick video where you Mandarin students/speakers can listen to Coach Li tell it to you straight. Watch it — besides being good for your Chinese, it’s also good for getting your nanfangren – southern Chinese — accent down pat, which can come in handy when you’re bargaining for stuff in places in southern China.  The trick is, move your lips; not your teeth.

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