The American coach sees potential in Bhutanese players

Basketball: Team Spirits’ Karma Phuntsho scored 21 points, won six defensive rebounds, three offensive rebounds, seven assists and four steals in two games at the ongoing basketball B League.

Unlike in the past, players will not have to surround the scorekeeper to check, for instance, how much he scored in a game, with basketball coach, Michael Andrew Behnke introducing the game statistics in Bhutanese basketball.

The coach, commonly known as coach Mike, coaches the women’s national team and monitors basketball games and maintains stats at the ongoing B league.  He did the same for the A league last month.

Coach Mike said that maintaining statistics would help players improve and work on their weaknesses and help the officials keep track of promising players. “Keeping stats is another good way to train,” he said.

With over 17 years of experience in coaching, Michael Andrew Behnke, 44, from the USA, has worked as a college basketball coach in Pennsylvania.  Recently he coached the Nepalese Baseball Association and assisted the Nepalese Basketball Federation.

Bhutan Basketball Federation (BFF) hired coach Mike for a period of one year to promote the sport in the country.  His main responsibilities, according to the federation, are to promote women basketball, create an under-16 and under-18 team, and eventually help in forming a senior men’s national team.  During his stay Coach Mike will also assist in the development of a junior (after school) basketball programme.

The technical director with BFF, Tenxin Jamtshog, said that, with all his experience in the sport, Mike Behnke would help the game grow in the country. “The federation hopes that he will train and teach our youth the fundamentals of basketball as they would eventually go onto being the senior team in the future,” he said.

Apart from conducting the B League, Coach Mike is currently providing training to some 25 women on Mondays and Fridays at the indoor basketball court at the swimming pool complex and at the Royal Thimphu College.

“We have plans of taking the camp to the Paro College of Education starting next week, and eventually go on to start the first women’s basketball league,” coach Mike said. “Although women are a little hesitant to join the programme now, I’m hopeful that the number of turnouts will increase over time and we’ll be able to conduct the A League.”

Coach Mike feels that there is a lot of room for improvement for the sport in the country and is adamant that basketball will flourish in the country. “Bhutanese players already have the speed and agility, and most of our players have good fundamental about the game. We just need to teach them the technical aspects to win a few games in the South Asian regional games,” he said.

According to a survey done by the Bhutan Olympic Committee in 2010, Bhutan Sports Baseline Survey, it was found that basketball was the second most played sport in the country.  Bhutan has so far only recorded two international wins, against Maldives during the 1st South Asian Beach Games in 2012 and Laos at the 4th Asian Beach Games in 2014. The men’s senior national team is currently in the Philippines for a 10-day familiarisation trip to train for the upcoming South Asian Basketball Association tournament in July.

By Younten Tshedup