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New Zealand coach Baldwin steps down after loss

8/26/2006 - NBA

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."