TORONTO - Leo Rautins, the head coach of the Canadian men’s basketball team, gets so frustrated talking about Matt Bonner that he’s almost at a loss for words. And that’s saying quite a bit.
Rautins is, after all, a professional commentator.
The fact Bonner, a former member of the Toronto Raptors and current forward with the San Antonio Spurs, has been unsuccessful in procuring his Canadian citizenship, despite getting the ball rolling back in 2008, upsets Rautins to no end.
“It’s very frustrating,” the head coach said on Tuesday, after a Team Canada practice at Ryerson University. “I see a lot of Canadians who are less Canadian than Matt Bonner. His daughter’s Canadian. His wife’s Canadian. His grandfather’s Canadian. He’s got a home here. When he’s not playing for the San Antonio Spurs, he’s here (in Toronto).”
The main stumbling block seems to be the fact that Bonner, a native of Concord, N.H., spends most of the year in the United States. But he has no choice. He plays for San Antonio. Rautins said Canada Basketball has tried to make that point to the federal immigration ministry, but to no avail.
“Trust me, we’ve tried everything,” said Rautins. “I feel bad for Matt. I don’t know if there’s anybody who wants to play more (for Canada) than he does.”
Still, Rautins is optimistic that Bonner’s citizenship will come through in time for the Red Rocket to help Canada qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. There are two qualifying tournaments left for Canada, later this summer in Argentina, and next year at a still unnamed location.