Longtime NBA coach Bob Hill welcomed Yao Ming’s unanimous appointment this week as the Chinese Basketball Association’s new president.
In fact, Hill, who has worked as a technical consultant for the Taiwan men’s national team in recent years, hailed the move.
“Yao is an iconic figure here in China and rightfully so,” Hill told The Japan Times. “I believe he will be able to open doors for the CBA that have never even been approached throughout the history of the league.”
The CBA staged its inaugural season in 1995-96.
Hill, meanwhile, weighed in on the issue with a voice of authority. The 68-year-old mentor guided the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Seattle SuperSonics during his long run in the NBA.
The towering Yao, the No. 1 pick by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA Draft, was instrumental in transforming NBA players, coaches and teams into household names throughout China during his eight seasons in the league. The 229-cm Hall of Famer retired in 2011 after numerous injuries. But he’s remained active in the sport as an owner of his hometown Shanghai Sharks, the team which he started his career with in 1997.
Yao plans to “sell his stake in the Shanghai Sharks before next season and pursue a reform agenda for the professional league, state media reported,” according to Reuters.
What are Hill’s expectations for Yao in his new executive role?
“He has the capabilities to upgrade the league like never before,” Hill said of Yao. “I’m confident there will be many, many people rooting for him as he is a quality person as well.”
After retiring, Yao raised his already high profile as 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics’ bid ambassador. In a nation of more than 1.3 billion, everyone knows who he is — cemented, of course, by being China’s flag bearer during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.
Which is why Hill’s insights about Yao’s popularity help underscore his clout.
Hill served as the Tokyo Apache bench boss during the 2010-11 bj-league season. Last February, he returned to the NBA as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns, but his contract was not renewed.
Hill has developed close ties with CBA coaching icon Li Chunjiang, assisting the veteran mentor’s pro teams in recent years. As an investor in the United States Basketball Academy in Oregon, Hill forged relationships with Chinese teams that used the facilities and trained there. He also knows the international game from a European standpoint, serving under former NBA sideline supervisor Mike “Czar of the Telestrator” Fratello on the Ukraine national team in 2013-14.
In recent weeks, Hill has been assisting Li’s Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, a CBA team from Huangzhou that was 30-8 as of press time.