Kazakhstan coach Karpenko on mission to improve basketball's popularity in country
Kazakhstan head coach Mikhail Karpenko is aiming for more success at the Asian Qualifiers to boost the game's popularity back home.
ASTANA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) - Kazakhstan head coach Mikhail Karpenko is aiming for more success at the Asian Qualifiers to boost the game's popularity back home.
Kazakhstan surprised a lot of people by going unbeaten in the first window, defeating Qatar on the road and defending their homecourt against upset-conscious Iraq. This caused coach Karpenko to be excited, especially after their team fared poorly at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017.
"We played good in the first window of the Asian Qualifiers because we were disciplined on the court and followed the plan," he said. "Of course, we also wanted to change the image of the Kazakhstan national team after a poor performance in the summer."
What made their victory even sweeter, though, was the fact that they pulled it off in front of their fans at home. This was not lost on coach Karpenko, who felt happy for the Kazakh fans who witnessed such a momentous occasion.
"It was amazing! We felt supported throughout the game," he explained. "It was first time in history when the national team played in Astana for an official game, and we won! It was truly unforgettable!"
The Steppe Wolves' head tactician is hoping that these results will lead to a resurgence of interest in Kazakh hoops, which hasn't stood on stable ground since they finished among the top four at the FIBA Asia Cup 2007.
"It's a great honor to represent Kazakhstan," he said. "For sure, our fans are waiting for wins, and we are trying to get it. We want to make basketball more popular in Kazakhstan."
Speaking of more wins, coach Karpenko's wards are aiming for two more wins to keep their immaculate record and secure for them a spot in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers.
"We have really good chances to win 2 times in a row in February, but our opponents will not give us easy matches," he said. "As a team, we need to work on our weaknesses and be ready physically, tactically and psychologically."
The big dream for Kazakhstan is to make it to the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and he knows this means the Kazakhs will need to play their remaining matches in the most efficient way possible. If they are able to do this, Coach Karpenko will have cemented his spot in Kazakhstan basketball lore, but he also knows there is still a very long way to go.
"It's going to be very hard, but it is our desired target," he shared. "We need to show our best basketball in all the remaining matches, and maybe the dream will come true."