Senegal coach Alberto Antuna

Antuña adapting and fine tuning Senegal for Olympic qualifiers

WHEN Alberto Antuña arrived in Africa to take on the role of head coach for the Ugandan national women’s team, he learned one of the most important lessons in his first year on the continent: You cannot be too rigid in your ways and must be able to adapt quickly.

The lesson came after a loss to Kenya last year during the FIBA AfroBasket qualifiers. From that point, Antuña’s perspective changed.

He recalls the first game he coached (against Kenya). Many ideas flowed in his head, and he tried to implement them all, resulting in the loss. The experience made him realise he had to adapt and that pride had no place in winning.

Antuña is an experienced coach who has worked across Europe in the club circuit and at the national team level. After leading Uganda’s Gazelles at the 2023 FIBA Afrobasket in Rwanda, he landed Senegal’s women’s team head coach position.

In an interview with The Big Tip Off, Antuña discussed his time with the Gazelles, his new position with Senegal, and his hopes for their upcoming Olympic qualifying campaign.

Antuña’s appointment as coach of the Gazelles was not in the cards for him until just a few months before the February 2023 FIBA Afrobasket qualifiers.

“I honestly did not expect it,” recalls Antuña. “I remember in November of 2022, I was in the middle of the Eurobasket qualifiers with the national team of Montenegro. The president of the (Uganda) federation emailed me to inquire about my availability. He told me about the idea of me taking the head coach position in Uganda to work towards the qualifiers for the (2023) Afrobasket.”

Alberto Antuna with Uganda's national team.
Alberto Antuña says he coached one Uganda’s best generations of players at last year’s AfroBasket in Rwanda. Pictures: FIBA

Antua agreed to take the job after positive discussions with the FUBA… And the rest, as they say, is history.

Antuña feels fortunate to have had a team that was receptive and ready to learn with very little time for preparation. He considers that group of players as the best generation the East African nation has produced.

“The team had a really good connection and the girls trusted that we had a chance to win. That gave us the chance to compete and that’s how I managed in that first game against Mali. We competed well and secured a big win,” said Antuña. “That win, along with our victory against Senegal made it clear to the group that we were a different team. We were ready to compete every time we stepped on the court.”

During his tenure as coach of the Gazelles, Antuña led the team to six victories out of 11 games. It was their best performance yet, placing them seventh in Afrobasket. Despite the team’s success, Antuña announced his departure shortly after Afrobasket. He believed that leaving would be in his best interests and that of the Ugandan team.

The Spaniard explained, “I made the decision a few weeks after Afrobasket, and it wasn’t due to any issue with the federation. I chose to leave because the next competition would be in early 2025… That would be too much time before the next competition. I am very young and still very driven, so I want to be competing and managing teams.”

After his departure, Antuña admits he had no offers from other national teams. When Senegal parted ways with Moustapha Gaye after finishing second behind Nigeria in the AfroBasket, Antuña seized the initiative and contacted the West African nation’s federation.

“After my time with the Gazelles came to an end, I reached out to Senegal,” said Antuña. “I saw that they were looking for a coach and I was free [now] and ready to lead the team. I am also familiar with them, I know the talent that they possess because some of their players play in Europe and Spain especially.”


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Antuña’s first order of duty will be leading Senegal at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Antwerp, Belgium (8 February – 11 February). He will not have much time with the team because of the players’ club commitments.

The Movistar Estudiantes coach says his priority will be on-court preparations and building connections with players. He has already made contact with some of the Senegal team players.

The Lionesses will face off against familiar foes Nigeria, the USA, and Belgium. Despite the magnitude of the assignment, Antuña looks forward to the competition and the opening game against Nigeria. 

“I think everyone knows that the big game for us is the one against Nigeria. It is the first game, the most important game, and probably the one I am putting a lot of focus on, in terms of scouting, analysing the players, and understanding the way they coach,” said Antuña.

Senegal have appeared in two Olympic Games, the first in 2000 and the second in 2016. In their two appearances, they finished in 12th place. Can Antuña lead them to a third appearance later this year (26 July – 11 August) in Paris, France?

Alberto Antuna during the AfroBasket
Alberto Antuna believes Senegal will be competitive at the Olympic Qualifiers.

Beyond the Qualifiers, Antuña is committed to working alongside the Senegalese federation to make The Lionesses synonymous with success again.

“I want to make Senegal successful. I want to grow with them. Senegal has been the best in the history of women’s basketball on the continent but obviously, in the last 10 years Nigeria has been dominating,” says Antuña. “My goal is to end that reign. I have to build the best team possible for us to compete in the big tournaments like The Olympics and the World Cup, but it won’t be easy.”

As a coach, he wishes to continue his personal growth. He wants to develop his coaching style and adapt to each situation.

“Although I have gained experience over the past eight years, I am still a young coach. I am determined to prove myself by coaching in various countries and coaching styles. This will not only make me a better coach, but also a better person. It will also demonstrate my ability to adapt to different cultures and nations,” said Antuña.

As he takes on his new role as Senegal’s coach, he faces a new challenge with a team he believes has immense talent. However, with his experience and expertise, there is no doubt he’ll help the Lionesses in their quest to secure a spot at the Olympics.

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