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Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Víctor Lapeña and Noelle Quinn are ready to get down to business with Team Canada

Víctor Lapeña is ready to get down to business. Announced as the new head coach of the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team on Thursday, Lapeña comes to the program as the first-ever international coach in Canadian women’s basketball history.

“I'm very excited to be here to be part of the Canadian National Team,” Lapeña said at his first media availability with reporters after the announcement. “The program of the Canadian federation is one of the best in the world and now I'm part of this program and I will do my best to boost the national team to the next level.”

Lapeña comes to the Canadian team with a resume that includes serving as the head coach of Fenerbahçe in the Turkish Super League. He has also spent 14 years serving as an assistant coach of the Spanish Women’s National Team, as well as serving as both an assistant and head coach of the Spanish Federation’s youth teams. He has earned 14 international medals during his years with the Senior Women’s National Team. Since joining Fenerbahçe in 2019, Lapeña has led the team to the Turkish Women's Basketball Presidential Cup (2019), Turkish Women's Basketball Cup (2020) and to a club-record 15th Women's Basketball Super League title in 2021.

A native of Zaragoza, Spain, Lapeña will get to work with the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team immediately.

“Joining a high-level organization as Canada Basketball is an honour and a great responsibility,” Lapeña said. “I believe the program has tremendous potential as we enter a transition period for the Senior Women’s National Team ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Our challenge will be to give confidence to the stars of the future, while not forgetting all the good that has been done to get the team to this point. That to me is the cornerstone of building a winning team and culture. I’m looking forward to getting to know the players and staff over the course of the next month as we prepare for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournament. I'd also like to thank my club, Fenerbahçe, for helping me start this adventure at this time of the season.”

Lapeña succeeds Lisa Thomaidis following an eight-year tenure as head coach, and 20 years with the program overall.

“I'd like to say that the people who have come before us have paved the way for us to be in this position to take the next step,” Denise Dignard, General Manager and Vice-President, Women’s High Performance said. “We found a candidate in Víctor that exceeds our expectations in both the Pro and FIBA experience and success. In addition, Víctor has extensive experience in one of the top women's basketball development systems in the world in Spain. I know this is going to benefit the development of our younger Canadian players.

Lapeña takes over for a Canadian team that will be in Osaka, Japan in one month’s time to play in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournament that begins on Feb. 10. Canada will face Japan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Belarus in the tournament, with three teams advancing to the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney, Australia.

Though the next month is sure to fly by in a flash, he is excited to get things underway.

“The first step is to know, certainly, my players,” he said. “To try to enjoy with them, and to know who is who and what can I do for them to [help them] play very good basketball, to enjoy on the court and to be very, very competitive in that moment.”

Lapeña wasn’t the only new face to be welcomed into the program on Thursday. Noelle Quinn, head coach of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, will be joining Lapeña’s staff as lead assistant. Rounding out the Senior Women’s coaching staff are Carly Clarke and Steve Baur, who remain with the team following Thomaidis’ tenure.

Lapeña and Quinn will rely on Clarke and Baur to help get them up to speed on roster personnel before the team is able to be together in person.

“I have a very good staff close to me,” Lapeña said. “Steve and Carly know the group personally. My staff is showing me information. I'm going to try to connect with the players as best as possible before we have them with me. I do have a very good plan on the first day to share with them, to be able to play with our best energy and to bring all in. This is the key for me.”

Canada Basketball President and CEO Michael Bartlett explained that the organization took feedback from players on the Senior Women’s roster prior to beginning its coaching search. Following the Tokyo Olympics, conversations were had with players, alumni and advisors to discuss how to push the fourth-ranked women’s team to the next level.

“Our athletes are world class,” Bartlett said. “They’re playing around the world with leading clubs representing Canada every time that they get a chance and we need to match their best with our best resources. That’s a promise we’ve made to them time and time again over recent months. Today’s hiring, we think, reflects that commitment.”

Hiring a coach with pro and international women’s head coaching experience was a top priority for Canada basketball in their coaching search. The addition of Lapeña and Quinn brings an abundance of both. Prior to being promoted to head coach of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm this past May after spending three years with the organization in a variety of coaching roles, Quinn had a 12-year playing career in the WNBA as well as overseas.

She is looking forward to getting to work alongside Baur and Clarke to get familiar with the senior women’s roster. She is also excited to get to coach alongside Lapeña, serving as his lead assistant.

“Víctor, his vision is amazing,” Quinn said. “You [can] feel his energy and his love and his passion and in that role, for me, I think the biggest thing is to support that. I pride myself on being the ultimate teammate. So whatever [is needed], I will be that.

“Over the course of the last several years, I’ve observed the growing strength of Canada Basketball and the Senior Women’s National Team,” Quinn said. “To now have the opportunity to join the program, especially at a time when the future is so bright, and to work alongside Víctor and the entire staff, is an exciting opportunity and one I’m grateful to be a part of. Our quest to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games starts today and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Despite the short timeline to prepare for the World Cup Qualifying Tournament, Lapeña is up for the challenge and is looking forward to getting to see his team together for the first time.

“In one month, we will see the result,” he said. “It is very difficult, but I love it. This is what I love to enjoy and to live.”

The Canadian Senior Women’s National Team will hit the court on Feb. 10 when they open play at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournament against Japan.