BEIJING -- Bob Donewald, a former NBA assistant with the New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers, was hired Friday as coach of a Chinese national basketball team weakened by the injury to Yao Ming.
Donewald inherits a team that lost in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China failed to successfully defend its Asian title last August under former national coach Guo Shiqiang. Guo will remain with the team as an assistant.
"We are going to come together as a unit and we are going to make this country proud," Donewald said at a news conference Friday.
Yao, the center for the Houston Rockets, is sidelined because of a foot injury ahead of the world championships in August in Turkey and the Asian Games in November.
"Yao Ming is one of the greatest players in the world," Donewald said. "And with his injury it is going to make things difficult."
Yao has boosted the popularity of basketball and the NBA in China. Donewald was hired after leading the Shanghai Sharks, owned by Yao, to the semifinals of the domestic league in his first season. It was the first time Shanghai reached the semis in eight years.
Donewald is the third foreigner to coach China's national team following American Del Harris and Lithuanian Jonas Kazlauskas. He is the son of Bob Donewald Sr., a former coach at Illinois State and Western Michigan.