No Yao hand in appointment, says Sharks' Li

New Shanghai Sharks head coach Li Qiuping has insisted Yao Ming had nothing to do with his appointment, saying that he plays no part in the club's affairs.

New Shanghai Sharks head coach Li Qiuping has insisted Yao Ming had nothing to do with his appointment, saying that his former apprentice and current Chinese Basketball Association president plays no part in the club’s affairs.

The CBA side announced the return of former manager Li on Friday, as replacement for incumbent Liu Peng.

“He (Yao) is in Beijing and I am in Shanghai. He no longer takes part in the club’s affairs, so we did not have any communication before I came. He is in charge of the country’s basketball now,” Li told local media at his first training session with the team following his appointment.

The 58-year-old old signed a two-year contract with the Sharks after Everbright Sports Foundation became the club’s new investor. The team finished 10th in the 20-team league last season.

“The goal for the first season (of my contract) is a top-eight finish so as to qualify for the playoffs. But I want the team to fight for a top-four finish since we have players with potential,” said Li, who also unveiled plans for the team, including a change in line-up.

According to Li, American point guard Jimmer Fredette will continue to be the team’s core player but his compatriot Nick Minnerath will be replaced.

The Sharks also plan to buy a few domestic players to strengthen the squad. Former captain Liu Wei, who is currently under contract with the Sichuan Blue Whales, is also expected to return to Shanghai, but more likely as an assistant manager with the team.

Former national team player Li used to be the head coach of the Shanghai women’s basketball team in the early 1990s. He led the Sharks to the country’s top-tier league in 1996, which was also the year he introduced Yao to the team.

After two runner-up finishes in the 1999-20 and 2000-21 seasons, Li helped the Sharks win their first CBA title in the 2001-02 season. Li resigned at the end of the 2008-09 season citing health reasons when the club faced financial problems and was bought over by Yao.

Li coached the Qingdao Eagles from 2014 to 2015 before joining the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, again helping that team to win its first CBA title at the end of the 2016-17 season.

“To coach a team with the potential to win a championship is one choice, and to return to Shanghai is another choice. But it’s more meaningful for me to come back to Shanghai,” Li explained.

“Every team has its own problems and targets. Xinjiang’s goal was a championship. But there will also be pressure in coaching Shanghai. Shanghai fans have high expectations. For me, I have come back to try and meet those expectations and help the team to achieve a result that can match the city itself,” he added.

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