CLEVELAND -- Dallas assistant coach Del Harris doesn't speak very much Chinese, but he isn't worried it will be a problem when he leads the Chinese national team at the Athens Olympics.
"Pick and roll is really pick and roll in any language,"
Harris said Wednesday.
Harris will become the first foreigner to guide China in
"It's an honor," the longtime NBA coach said. "The people of
China are looking at this as a very significant, landmark event.
It's important for sports, but it's also symbolic of the new, open
China that they want to put forward to the world.
"For the Chinese people, this is another step in showing the
openness of their country."
In Beijing, spokesmen for the State Administration of Sports and the Chinese Basketball Association said they couldn't confirm
Harris, who has extensive experience coaching international
basketball, said the Chinese sports ministry approved him as coach
During the Summer Games, Harris will coach Houston All-Star
center Yao Ming, who is thrilled that his country's team will be
coached by someone with Harris' background.
"(Rockets president) Carroll Dawson told me Yao was so excited he could hardly sleep," said Harris.
Harris said his NBA coaching background as well as his
international resume -- he has been involved with national teams
from Puerto Rico, Canada and the United States -- gave him an edge
over other candidates for the Chinese job.
Harris was an assistant to Rudy Tomjanovich on the 1998 U.S.
team at the World Championships in Athens.
The 66-year-old Harris, who has more than 500 career NBA
coaching victories, sees his affiliation with the Chinese team as a
positive in many ways.
"It's good for the Mavericks and it's good for the NBA," he
said. "It's good for the city of Dallas."
Harris will not join the Chinese team until the Mavericks'
season is over. Former Dallas star Rolando Blackman, now the Mavs'
director of player development, will be an assistant on his staff
during this summer's games.
Before leaving for Greece, the Chinese team will train in
Dallas, Harris said. He's hoping to schedule exhibition games there
as well as in San Francisco.
Harris said that Dallas owner Mark Cuban, who has been critical of his players participating in the Olympics, has been supportive
of him coaching in Athens.
"I asked him before I agreed to do it and he had no problem
with it at all," Harris said. "I think it enhances the
Cuban thinks the Chinese made the right choice and is happy
Harris is being given the opportunity.
"Del is a great ambassador for the game, and a great coach"
Cuban said. "I think it's great for him and for the NBA."
Dallas coach Don Nelson supports Harris' decision.
"It's quite a sacrifice, giving up your whole summer," Nelson
said. "But if it's something he wants to do, I'm happy for him."