BEIJING (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019) - The man that led Nigeria to their first FIBA AfroBasket title two years ago and also guided them at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Will Voigt, is optimistic he will sign a new contract to continue coaching the team in the coming weeks.
Currently coaching in China with CBA side Shanxi Dragons, Voigt wants to be at the helm of D'Tigers when they go for glory again at FIBA AfroBasket 2017 in Congo-Brazzaville. He would prefer to have a full-time position with Nigeria.
"I've said all along I would love for the position to be full time, to be able to invest all of my time and effort on growing the game in Nigeria and that's from the bottom up, from the grass roots system, working with our youth teams, doing clinics, working with our coaches.
"That's how I would like to see that job. As of right now, the job has only been part-time and for qualifying tournaments."
If Voigt were to coach Nigeria beyond the AfroBasket, he would be involved with the team as it adjusts to, and attempts to benefit from FIBA's Competition System 2017+.
Over a four-year cycle from 2017 through 2021, national teams will play regular home and away games to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 and the FIBA Continental Cups 2021.
The windows for the World Cup qualifying will be 20-28 November, 19-27 February (2018), 25 June to 3 July, 10-18 September, 26 November to 4 December and 20-28 February (2019).
Nigeria will have a tremendous opportunity to raise the profile of their national team.
"I understand what FIBA is doing for the brand of the national team to rise," Voigt said, "and the game schedule gives an opportunity for that to happen."
One aspect to FIBA's Competition System 2017+ is that FIBA will provide high-level TV production. If fans are unable to see the games in person, then they can watch on TV or on the internet.
"You can bring in new sponsorship as a result," Voigt said of the television coverage.
Nigeria are the number one side in the FIBA Africa Ranking, due in large part to what happened two summers ago in Tunisia.
"Those are the two more viable options for games," he said.
There are other advantages to FIBA's Competition System 2017+. As the players will leave their clubs during the season to join the national team, they will not have to enter a training camp and spend a lot of time getting into shape.
"I don't think the conditioning will be an issue," Voigt said, "but implementing a system (of tactics) in a short period of time will be a challenge."
Voigt and his players only had three full weeks together before AfroBasket 2015 but still reached the top of the podium.
Last summer, star forward Al-Farouq Aminu pulled out of the squad not long before the start of the Olympics because his insurance was not yet in place, and in their very first game against Argentina in Rio, center Shane Lawal got hurt and was lost for the rest of the tournament.
D'Tigers continued to fight and pushed both Spain and Lithuania hard before losing. They did beat eventual Group B winners Croatia.
Voigt says fans should remember that Nigeria never quit.
"That's part of what makes Nigeria great," he said. "The players are going to fight through a lot of distractions that a lot of other countries might not be able to handle.
"We easily could have gone there and said, 'We don't have Farouq, Shane is now out, we got blown out by Argentina, let's just enjoy Olympics'. But what you saw was everybody was committed to fighting and representing the country."
As far as the new competition system and the qualifying windows for China 2019, Voigt sees a couple of other countries in Africa being well positioned to reach the World Cup.
"If you are looking within the continent, the system would favor Tunisia and Angola where they have domestic leagues and most of the national team players playing there," he said.
"I know that our federation has been working hard to try and strengthen the league," Voigt said. "I think the more opportunities there are for our domestic players to play, [having] the best domestic players play within Nigeria, the better it's going to be for the national team."
One thing that will help Nigeria moving forward, Voigt says, is the togetherness in the squad.
"There is a real brotherhood there," he said. "These guys stay in touch with each other all the time. I definitely keep in touch with all of them."