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End of an era as Neo confirms exit

SINGAPORE — After more than 12 years in charge of Singapore’s men’s basketball team, head coach Neo Beng Siang has confirmed that he will step down from his post when his contract expires at the end of next month.

End of an era as Neo confirms exit

Neo Beng Siang, National Basketball Team coach. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — After more than 12 years in charge of Singapore’s men’s basketball team, head coach Neo Beng Siang has confirmed that he will step down from his post when his contract expires at the end of next month.

TODAY understands the Basketball Association of Singapore (BAS) was keen to extend Neo’s contract till the 2017 Southeast-Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysia, but he turned down its offer in order to “spend more time with his family”.

Under Neo’s guidance, the Republic’s cagers enjoyed an upturn in fortunes on court as they cemented their status as one of the top basketball nations in the SEA region.

Reflecting on his time with the national team, the 47-year-old told TODAY that he was honoured to have had the chance to make such a positive impact on the local basketball scene.

“I’m extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to coach the national men’s team for as long as I did,” said Neo, a former national player. “I’ve been here for more than 12 years already, it’s time for a fresh face to take over. I’m thankful there were many highlights for me during my stint, and my favourite

moment has to be when we won the SEA Games bronze medal in Myanmar in 2013.

“The new coach will have a group of high quality players to work with. Our local boys have matured and shown that they are capable of competing at a high level. I’ll also be more than happy to share what I know about the team and the local basketball scene with the new coach.”

Although Neo is stepping down as national coach, he remains keen to stay as the head coach of local ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) outfit the Singapore Slingers, and will enter contract discussions with the BAS after the end of the season.

Singapore forward Ng Han Bin hailed the influence that Neo has had on his playing career, and says the he is seen as more than just a coach.

“I owe my (playing) career to coach Neo and (assistant coach) Michael Johnson,” said Ng. “They’ve given me a lot of guidance and exposure and taught me how to be professional, as well as helping to shape my character and lifestyle for the better.

“Many in the team have spent a lot of time training together and we treat each other like family, and coach Neo is the father figure. His passion and commitment to the game, and to building us up as players, gave us the added drive to train and play even harder.”

The BAS has started looking for Neo’s successor and advertised on their website on Sunday for a Technical Director cum Head Coach. TODAY understands the BAS has received at least nine applications.

BAS honorary secretary Ong Swee Teck paid tribute to Neo for his work with the national team over the years, and said he’s confident the new coach will be able to build on the platform of success Neo had left behind.

“We appreciate all that Beng Siang has done for Singapore basketball,” said Ong. “The results he achieved with the national team don’t lie, and it’s clear that he and the other assistant coaches have helped to raise the standard of our local players.

“But we have to move on. Our main concern now is to ensure minimal disruption in transition once a new coach comes in, because there might be a different playing style that might be implemented.”

NEO’S COACHING HIGHLIGHTS

SEA Games: Won a bronze medal at the 2013 Myanmar Games – Singapore’s first medal at the multi-sport event in 34 years. They followed that up with another bronze at last year’s Games.

SEABA Championship: Led Singapore to successive third-place finishes at the biennial tournament in 2013 and 2015.

FIBA Asia Championship: Singapore qualified for the championship, which also serves as a FIBA World Cup and Olympic qualifier, last year, after a 14-year absence.

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