New Zealand coach Baldwin steps down after loss

Updated: August 26, 2006, 7:52 AM ET
Associated Press

SAITAMA, Japan -- Tab Baldwin, New Zealand's head coach for the last six years, resigned after his team's 79-62 loss to Argentina on Saturday in the second round of the FIBA world championships.

"I just think it was time," Baldwin said. "This is not a snap decision. I've talked about it with my family. It was a decision I believed in some time ago as the right decision but wasn't prepared to announce it until this tournament."

New Zealand (2-4) finished a surprising fourth in the 2002 worlds, but appeared on the verge of not even advancing out of this first round after losing its first three games and being down 18 points at halftime to Japan in the fourth. New Zealand came back to win that game 60-57 and beat Panama to advance to the second round where it lost to the reigning Olympic champions.

"I have enjoyed every second of it. I have been blessed," said the 48-year-old Baldwin, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., who coached at Auburn-Montgomery from 1983-86 and Central Florida from 1986-88.

He took over New Zealand's national program for the 2002 world championships.

"The number of highlights I have had have all been because of the players," he said. "If I've done a good job it's because of those guys and their willingness to work with me."

Baldwin, who started his professional coaching career in New Zealand in 1998 with the Otago Nuggets, said he will continue to coach but not in international competition.

"Right now I am on the job market," he said.

New Zealand finished 11th in the Sydney Olympics under Baldwin and was 10th in Athens.

The retirement of big men Sean Marks and Ed Book had New Zealand coming into this world championships as a medal long shot.

"We were a bit thin on the front line, we knew that," he said.

Forward Pero Cameron was a mainstay of the program under Baldwin.

"I have been there a long time with this guy," Cameron said. "I can't say enough about him. This is a big loss. ...

"I've had some great times with the guy on and off the court. I've been through some big highs with him. I met him as a 17-year-old with the juniors. He showed me a lot and challenged me every day, every day."

Baldwin said he thinks the program would benefit from the promotion of assistant coach Nenad Vucinic, but no decision has been made.

"Coaching 12 months a year takes its toll," Baldwin said. "The best decision now is for the mantle to be passed on."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press