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Jordi Fernández, Canada’s promising Spanish coach who aspires to work in the NBA

The young Spaniard has impressed with his Canada team at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup as they face Team USA for 3rd/4th place.

Jordi Fernández, seleccionador de Canadaá, con Dillon Brooks, durante el Mundial de 2023.

Jordi Fernández (Badalona, 1982) has long been tipped to be the first Spaniard to be a head coach in the NBA. His career arc suggests that that accomplishment is not far off after the 40-year-old has coached in the G-League, worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers who were finalists with LeBron James, he has been an assistant with the Denver Nuggets who were one step away from the ring that they eventually won in 2023. This season, Fernandez assisted Mike Brown with the Sacramento Kings and helped get the Californian franchise finally secure a ticket to the playoffs after sixteen consecutive years of absence.

In June of this year, he also took on the challenge of becoming coach of Canada, a young team without much experience on the big FIBA stage, but with a squad full of NBA talent despite the absence of Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Murray: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, R.J. Barrett, Lu Dort, Dillon Brooks...

His young team fell short in their quest for World Cup glory as they fell to Serbia in the semifinals and now face Steve Kerr’s Team USA for the third-fourth place playoff game.

“I’ll be ready”

During the preparation for the FIBA World Cup, his Canada team played (and won) against Spain in Granada. There, Jordi Fernández spoke to AS and made it clear that he sees himself, in the future, as a head coach in the best league in the world: “I have been able to do interviews with several teams and it has been very positive for me, to learn how these selection processes go. I feel I’m very close but I’m not obsessed, because the important thing in my job is to focus on what I have, which is Sacramento and now also Canada. I’m not obsessed, it’s not something I want to achieve right now. It will come, I’m confident that at some point it will, but I don’t need it now. When the opportunity arises, I’ll be ready”.

In our conversation, Fernandez also explained how good his first experience on the Kings bench had been, alongside Mike Brown, a coach who already had him as an assistant when he coached Nigeria in the last Olympic Games: “After sixteen straight seasons without making the playoffs, which at that time was a record in professional sports, imagine what it was like to qualify. Also, Sacramento lives and breathes for basketball. The Kings are a team with a long tradition, the only major sports team in the city playing in the major professional leagues. Fans were really looking forward to it and it was great, the atmosphere in the playoffs was incredible and in general, it was all very positive”.

Canada's head coach Jordi Fernandez
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Canada's head coach Jordi Fernandez SHERWIN VARDELEONAFP

Nuggets experience

Finally, he recalled his time with the Denver Nuggets, the team that won the NBA championship in June for the first time in its history: “As soon as they eliminated us in the playoffs, I was all for Denver. Because of the years I spent there, because of my relationship with the coaching staff and the players... I experienced everything from the inside, from the bottom to the top, also the hard times and the injuries... I’m very happy for the guys, they went through a lot with us and it was a very special moment.

At just 40 years of age, Fernandez already has a CV to boast about. A coach who has both experience working at the Olympics and both NBA and FIBA: “The international game is a challenge, but I was born and raised in Badalona, I lived in Europe until I was 26, I worked with the Spanish Federation and I’ve been to a Eurobasket and an Under-19 World Cup, I went to the Olympic Games with Nigeria... I can bring some experience in these high-level FIBA tournaments and that’s partly why they chose me, because of that experience mixed with my relationship with NBA players”.