Doug Leichner Named GB U20 Head Coach

University of Maine’s Doug Leichner has been named the Great Britain Under-20 coach for their upcoming Division B European Championship campaign.

Leichner, who’s been on the coaching staff at Maine for eight years, will look to lead the 1993 born generation to a much-desired promotion to Division A after a history of close-but-not-quite performances.

“I am privileged and humbled to have the opportunity to coach the Great Britain under-20 men’s team with the ultimate goal of winning a European Championship,” said Leichner. “I would like to thank British Basketball for this honoured appointment and look forward to leading a great group of young men at the European Championships.”

Leichner is perhaps more familiar with European basketball than many other American coaches, having spent extensive time on the continent scouting and recruiting players as he has helped Maine become known for their international roster. It was Leichner who recruited Maine star Ali Fraser, a GB U20 last year.

James Vear, who has just spent a season in Canada as a season with the University of Dalhousie after being the head coach at Medway Park for a number of years, has been announced as the assistant coach. Long time incumbent Mark Lloyd will be the manager. Five of last year’s team are eligible to return this season, led by the talented Devon van Oostrum.

The Division B European Championship takes place in Romania from the 11-21 July 2013.


  • Charlie

    He hasn’t coached a game in 4 yrs, 25 -30 games coached in the last 8 yrs, 1 yr head coach experience !!! No knowledge of British players or European Basketball!

    He is primarily a recruiter at Maine !!!

  • Dpeti
  • Adam

    And an assistant Coach that has decided to flee the next and coach abroard!! Sam wrote a great article a while back about us losing some of our best young coaches to overseas – this isn’t exactly the answer……. This is great for Coach Vear and his CV but don’t we want to have a Brittish Coach that is working in the UK as the assistant who can use this experience to then help develop the Brittish game – not someone who will be back for the summer then heading off overseas again, taking all of this experience with him?!

    • To criticise James Vear for “fleeing the nest” is plain ignorant.

      For any coach to develop, they need to work with a variety of different coaches and experience different styles – it is clear that in the UK coach development is pretty much non-existent, and James did the smart thing and went somewhere he could continue to improve and learn.

      I’m all for supporting the UK but that doesn’t go as far as to blindly say that anyone leaving should be condemned and not be allowed to work with the national teams. Like for many players here, the best option in many situations for a young coach is to head abroad for a period of time – British coaches developing and getting as good as they possibly can, whether here, or abroad, is what is best for them and the game, not for them to be stuck here in a potentially stagnant situation that doesn’t allow them to improve just to be seen as a patriotic.

      Just because a coach goes abroad or is working abroad, does not mean that their experiences do not benefit the UK. Coaches will be back during the summer where they will work with players/coaches, not to mention that they stay in touch with many other coaches via email and skype during the season to share experiences.

      Vear being the assistant, imo, is a fine choice and one that *will* benefit the UK.

      • Roy

        It is, arguably (!!), a fact that no one can become a coach on a par with European coaches just by remaining in England; for several reasons.

        To learn and develop as a coach, as opposed to being a teacher of the fundamentals (which is also very poor) , one has to go abroad.

        The overall coaching set-up in England is so non-existent if almost defies belief that nothing significant has been done to improve it.

        Coach Vear has done what he has to do to develop himself as a coach, and this will be of immense benefit to English basketball when (if?) he returns to England.

  • Ron

    Which kids are likely to be involved with this team?

    • It’s the ’93 born generation so I’d imagine a lot of the guys here would be involved:

      I’m hearing a couple of the guys might not be able to play due to college commitments and other stuff, which could be a blow. I think Sheffield’s Nick Lewis, who got his British passport in October, will also likely get a call up.

      If it’s all the best guys, it should be a fairly strong team.

  • Roy

    What does surprise me is that we have at least one extremely good coach who is more than able to coach the U20 team – should he want to. He has already helped out with the previous U20 team and it bwas quite obvious as to his ability to coach the players.

    I would like to know who was on the short list of possible appointments to this head coaching position. I am quite sure that this does not need to be kept a secret.

    • Who are you referring to, Roy?

      • I’m guessing he is referring to Jimmie Guymon (?)

  • Rob

    My question would be, is this guy better than who we had last year, or any coach we have had previously? The reason I ask this is because surely we are aiming to improve as a nation and therefore based on previous results, we need someone better not worse. Now I might be missing something here, but on paper this guy is obviously no where near the calibre of last years coach (who just won another national championship in Canada). This new guy apparently is an ‘associate’ Head Coach (whatever that means) of a team that to be honest doesn’t seam anything special or particularly competitive.

    I really feel that we could have got someone equally as good, if not better, who was actually British, or at least based here. I can think of 4 or 5 EBL Div 1 coaches or BBL coaches who would probably offer as much as this guy and are at least based in our system. Sure, if we were going to go for a top NCAA coach or NBA/European guy with lots of experience then I could understand, but this just confuses me. Perhaps we got him because we were uncertain of funding and so got him cheap?

  • JohnB

    The previous incumbent may have been a good coach in Canada, but it is essential that any coach respects, and has the respect of, his players. This person most certainly did not have this.

    To be fair to the BPB they are in the middle of a double argument. Do they appoint a coach that can win whatever tournament they need to win, or do they appoint a coach that will in some way be of benefit to English (?) basketball. Are the two mutually exclusive or not?

    Coach Vear was coaching a Kent team but has now had a season in Canada. Has this short experience qualified him to be an assistant national coach?

    Roy has suggested there is at least one coach in England who could do the job of head coach and Rob suggests there are a number of BBL coaches (I am not convinced re EBL coaches) who would be suitable.

    I guess that at the end of the day, the eventual results will determine right from wrong.

  • Adam

    It’s not ‘plain ignorant’ to suggest that we need a Brittish, UK based coach who is currently active here involved in this team in some capacity.

    James Vear is great and a good appointment – I didn’t say it wasnt. But surely having someone who is working day in day out in the UK that can pass on what they are learning day in day out would be of MORE benefit to the sport.

    Maybe I wasn’t clear with my point but the fact remains – we have a head coach and an assistant that are not UK based. I just want to see someone over here get a chance. We have some potentially excellent coaches her who’s circumstances mean that they are not in a position to move abroard because of work or family commitments, who still the to develop……

  • JohnB

    I would tend to agree with Sam that the suggestion Coach Vear had decided to flee the nest is not the most intelligent of phrases to use since he went to improve himself and, hopefully and eventually English basketball when he returns. It was not referring to British coaches, that came in a later sentence.

    We may have some ,potentially, excellent coaches here, but if they do not go abroad they will never develop this potential. This is an almost impossibility in England due to the poor overall structure and standard of the sport. It is unfortunate if they can not go abroad because of family commitments since that will stop any significant improvement.

    I can not think of one coach from England for the past 30 or more years, that can be compared to the senior European coaches.

    So much for our coaching development.

  • Adam

    Ok, I take your point – I used the worry wording, I applaud James for going abroard. I just feel that UK based coaches that are doing an admirable job with limited access to CPD need to also be given opportunities…. Guys like Lloyd Gardner, Nick Drain, Simon Fisher, Jesse Sazant to name a few are helping bring on some decent kids but have young families and need to be given opportunities to get better that don’t involve moving abroard!

    Like I say – I’m big enough to say I used the wrong wording regarding James Vear. Clearly doing whatever it takes to develop and good on him!

  • Steve

    Its a sad indictment of UK basketball that we have to go abroad for any national team coach. However, the pool of head coaches here, with the right experience, is very shallow. I respect Coach Vear for having the good sense and commitment to go abroad to increase his experience, We actually need to find a way (and funds) to help other young coaches to follow this path to get the experience our country needs to improve its game.
    For the Head Coach appointment, IMO we should have tried to attract a ‘european’ coach, one that understands the european ‘systems’ of play. From what I have read, this guy doesnt look even close to being qualified for the job. But to get a proven one from the US you have to pay big bucks, with college coaches earning anywhere between $1m – $9m a year.
    The big question though is can this guy take the talent that we have, gain their respect and help them improve their game to the extent that we can compete on the world money is on No, and I think that many will feel its better to stay in their colleges/teams rather than pull on a GB vest.

  • JohnB

    My apologies Adam, as I was not trying to be offensive and now realize what you actually meant.

    However, there is absolutely no way, whatsoever, that any potentially good coach can develop his or her experience and knowledge here in England.

    Over the years, the EB have just played the Ostrich game and put its head in the sand thinking everything will improve all by itself.

    As I previously said, there has not been one English coach, from more than the past 30 years, that can be compared to any senior European coach. In 30 years !!! Is that not in itself an indication of the performance of our Administration?

    I know of one person who comments on Hoopsfix who is extremely critical of the EB and the coaching set-up, and, of course, he is absolutely correct.

    Until we have a fully committed Coaching Association, well funded and with the necessary resources to help develop our coaches we might as well all give up.

    It would certainly be interesting to know the answer to Roy’s question as to who was on a(any) short list for appointment to the head coaching position.

    I do not think we should be too critical of the new appointment however. Now it has been made, let’s give him a chance and see what happens.

  • Adam

    No need to apologise, it was my poor use of the English language that caused the confusion.

    Are we actually saying that if a promising young UK based coach settles down with a wife and family here in the UK they can kiss goodbye to any kind of decent coaching career? Or at least kiss goodbye to developing themselves……..?

  • Dpeti

    With the present coaching setup in England, the answer is, unfortunately, Yes.

  • joe

    Are we actually saying that if a promising young UK based coach settles down with a wife and family here in the UK they can kiss goodbye to any kind of decent coaching career? Or at least kiss goodbye to developing themselves……..?

    yes adam, yes we are…

  • BB

    Does it rearly matter if the coach is from USA, Europe, GB (not just England as comments seem to imply). Is there any likely hood of a coach getting players to play how he wants them to in the time given. Is 2-3 months, on and off, long enough.
    I would imagine that this year , same as last ?, the initial training camp will be the first time the coach would have seen the players. I doubt if the coach has picked any of the players but been “given ” a squad by GB. Who at GB decides on the content of the squad. This must be a very strange way for a USA college coach to work, their college squads would be hand picked to play certain roles in the way the coach likes his team to play. Are GB asking the coach to play their way or his way, perhaps this is why last years coach had so much trouble.
    The uncertainty over funding might be given as a excuse ,although all the GB performance coaches etc are still the same, but why is the coach not given a longer period to choose / train his squad. Does anyone know how long do the coaches of the top european teams have in the post
    A GB based coach who is given at least a couple of years in the post can scout players and see them playing in games rather than what a coach says about them or from a video. He will also have time to run camps to see if players fit with his style/method of coaching/ running teams.
    Being given the “top” 20 or so players to work with cannot be a easy job, i would imagine at U20 there’s a fair few ego’s about the court. The four/five players in the team last year , surely Devon will be playing for the Seniors, will no doubt be expecting to be in the team again this year. You can already hear the outpourings if some players are not included. Again will the coach be “advised” who to choose or will he be given a free reign. I am sure if a player is coming back from USA/ Europe they have probably already been given the nod.
    After all the calls for transparency , yes it would be good to know who was on the Short list for the coaches job. Perhaps there was no interest from GB based coaches , did a assistant coach from a USA college actually apply for the post or was he approached. It would also be nice to know who is likely to be in the initial camps, who is coming back or being allowed back from abroad . When are the camps starting , according to a quote in a local paper a 94 player was unavailable for his NL team over Easter as he was away with GB U20’s ?- anyone have any info – is this incorrect reporting, a camp for a few selected players etc . Releasing this information will no doubt result in lots of comments but whats wrong with that. GB must realise that there are lots of people who are actually interested in all the GB teams, not just U20 mens, and giving out as much information as possible can only show them in a better light .

    Alot of the people commenting on this string appear to be experienced coaches and have been around a few years. I would be interested to know if any of you believe GB can produce a U20 team to challenge the best in Europe under the present systems. How many of our top players that go abroad are prevented form playing at U20 level by their teams and colleges. How long should a coach be appointed for. Should GB have squads training together from earlier age groups.
    Will the restructuring of GB basketball mean GB teams will be playing together at earlier age groups.

  • BW

    Whilst I totally agree that a top European coach would be the ideal candidate, we need to earn the right to approach them. I think that Leichner might actually be a good pick-up in the current situation.

    Every single year, the Maine coaching staff go to the Euro U18 and U20 “Bs” (may go to “As” as well – not sure?) to scout players. In their NCAA squad they currently have 1 British guy (Ali Fraser), 1 Finn, 2 Serbs and 2 Germans. Last season they also had a graduating Bulgarian.

    It may not be perfect but Leichner definitely understands the unique qualities necessary in a 2 week, 8-9 game European style tournament. Lets also remember that even the best European coaches may not have experience of a European championships.

    Instead of always complaining about the new coaches (although if the Cavs Assistant gets the Senior Mens job then questions must be asked?!) lets use them to our advantage. Part of the contract should be 3 or 4 coaching clinics around the country. Lets get some home games that are advertised with decent crowds. Sam – you think you could try and wangle the “ U20 challenge” or something?

    Moaning is very counterproductive – for the U20s to be a desirable program we need to help make it so! Demand clinics with the coaches, demand home games in basketball hotspots, demand our best players represent their country!!

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