How Warriors assistant coach DeMarco led Bahamas one step closer to first Olympic berth in huge upset

Mychal Thompson, Klay’s father and a native of the Bahamas, said it was the biggest win in Bahamanian basketball history

The NBA offseason allows players to hone their skills, but they aren’t the only ones.

Chris DeMarco, a Warriors assistant coach, has spent the last five offseasons as the head coach of the Bahamas men’s national team, which won a historic road game against Argentina last weekend, its second win over the tournament hosts in five days.

The Bahamas won the Olympic Pre-Qualifiers in South America, with Buddy Hield and Eric Gordon providing lethal scoring threats and Deandre Ayton manning the paint.

The small island nation of about 400,000 people has had little international success. However, the Bahamas stunned Argentina, the world’s fourth-best team, with a fourth-quarter rally to earn a spot in its first-ever Olympic qualifiers. The Bahamas’ victory also eliminated Argentina from the Summer Games for the first time since 2000.

DeMarco didn’t realize the significance of the victory until the team was hugging and celebrating.

“You realize what a monumental moment it is for the national team, but also for the country,” said DeMarco.

The FIBA stream’s play-by-play announcer called it “arguably the greatest moment in the history of Bahamas basketball.” But Mychal Thompson, a two-time NBA champion from Nassau, Bahamas, says there’s no debate.

“There’s no doubt about it,” said Thompson, a two-time NBA champion. “Beating such a worthy opponent… “The biggest moment in Bahamian basketball history is qualifying to play in another tournament to qualify for the Olympics.”

DeMarco’s path to the Bahamas started when the Warriors’ coaching staff worked the 2017 All-Star weekend and Hield competed in the Rising Stars challenge. Because of that connection, he was asked to join the Bahamas coaching staff for the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, in which the Bahamas defeated the Dominican Republic. DeMarco described it as a watershed moment for the nation’s basketball program.

“It ran smoothly, and we had great chemistry with the other members of the staff and the federation,” he explained. “It just felt like we all had a vision.”

The Bahamas has produced eight NBA players in its history, including the league’s first overall pick in 1978, as well as three first-round picks since 2016. However, the country has never made an impression on the international stage.

DeMarco wished to contribute to the change.

Gordon’s arrival this month, whose mother is from the Bahamas, has made the island a formidable threat. Nonetheless, the group had little prior experience playing together.

“Our messaging and focus from the start was on building chemistry,” DeMarco explained. “From the start, the most important thing for us as a staff was coming together and being together when it mattered, and [Argentina] is a team that’s played together for [a long time], and we had to find a way for us to really jell on and off the court, and I think we did that.”

The Bahamas swept the group stage, including a stunning victory over Argentina. The Bahamas then defeated Uruguay in the semifinals to set up a rematch with Argentina in the championship game.

The Bahamas defeated Argentina and its home crowd, and will now compete in the Olympic qualifying round alongside 23 other nations next summer.

“With the talent that they have, [if] they continue with this kind of passion, determination, and dedication, they could find themselves going to Paris,” Thompson said.

“From what I understand, the Bahamas can bring in more players… to make the pool even deeper.”

His eldest son, Mychel, served as an assistant coach on the team this summer after previously representing the Bahamas in tournaments. It’s natural to wonder if his middle son, Klay, will consider playing for the Bahamas next summer.

The Warriors star clearly has a strong attachment to his father’s homeland, as evidenced by his display of the Bahamian flag on the court after winning the 2022 NBA championship. On his social media account, he has also been celebrating the Bahamas’ FIBA victories.

Mychal stated that Klay “feels very much connected” to the Bahamas and did not rule out the possibility, despite the fact that the Warriors star won gold with the United States in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. (Gordon had previously represented Team USA in international competition, but not in the Olympics.)

Regardless, Mychal Thompson sees a bright future for Bahamas basketball.

“It’s about time,” he explained. “This potential has existed for years.

“You have four legitimate NBA players, which the Bahamas does not have… They are unquestionably a global team to be reckoned with.”

DeMarco believes his experience with the Bahamas will help him contribute more to the Warriors coaching staff.

“Understanding the personalities and intricacies of the head coaching job, you can’t really replicate the sort of experience as an assistant,” DeMarco explained. “I just think you have a lot of potential as a coach, and I hope that helps our organization.” Hopefully, it helped me.”

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