ISTANBUL -- Bob Donewald is a coaching lifer who has plied his trade everywhere -- from England to Cleveland to Shanghai to Brazil to New Orleans to Ukraine -- before landing his current job in China, where he succeeded Jonas Kazlauskas and Del Harris as head coach of the Chinese national team.
The 40-year-old speaks with something of a Louisiana drawl, and he is, shall we say, tightly wound.
And after a 78-67 loss to Lithuania on Tuesday, when he was trying to leave the court with his team through the bottleneck, funnel-like exit leading to the mixed zone (the area at international sporting events where interviews are conducted), one of his assistants was stopped by an arena security official who saw something on the man's credential he didn't like and made the mistake of trying to prohibit that assistant from getting past.
Now, as we said, Donewald is a pretty tightly wound guy.
And when the security guard would not yield, Donewald got into his face rather Forcefully (note use of a capital 'F.' Get it?). Somehow he got the guy to back away, saving himself an ugly international incident that might have left him wandering in a circle around a pole for the next 10-20 years, unless he decided one random day to try walking the other way (obligatory Midnight Express reference).
Donewald was still hot in the formal press conference some 20 minutes later, angrily telling a Chinese journalist to "Get off his ass" when the questioner wondered why point guard Liu Wei had scored 21 points and team captain Yi Jianlian-- who attempting just two field goals in the second half of a game in which the Chinese had jumped out to an early 16-5 lead -- had scored only 11.
"They fronted me, they helped on me, so I tried to do other things like rebound to help my team," Yi said.
The star of the game was Lithuania's Linas Kleiza, who shot 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter and finished with 30 points on 14-of-22 shooting. Kleiza had two buckets in an 11-0 run after the game was tied 48-48 early in the third quarter, and he was unstoppable down the stretch to send Lithuania (6-0 in the tournament) into the quarterfinals against the winner of Tuesday's late game between Argentina and Brazil.
Donewald was effusive in his praise of Yi afterward, calling Yi the single best player in the entire tournament up until the last game, and that an Achilles injury flared up in the second half and limited Yi's effectiveness. Yi is expected to remain with the Chinese team through the Asian Games later this month before reporting to his new team, the Washington Wizards.
Donewald also told a wonderful anecdote about Yi becoming the new leader of the team in the absence of Yao Ming, saying Yi had asked the coach if he could take the entire team out to a steakhouse for dinner back in mid-August when they were training in New York.
"I told him 'Why don't you just take the players?'" Donewald said. "And he said 'No. I want the coaches and the support staff to come, too. We are all family.'"