In a stunning move, Sharks head coach Daniel Panaggio was relieved of his duties on Saturday afternoon and has been replaced by Wang Qun, the sole Chinese assistant coach on the Sharks technical bench. According to a statement on its website, the Sharks say Panaggio will take on the role of ‘senior basketball consultant’ for the rest of the season- although whether the American will stay in Shanghai under that capacity after the end of the 2012/13 CBA seems doubtful.
Panagio’s fate was presumably sealed after the Sharks lost 101-88 to defending CBA champions, the Beijing Ducks on Friday night, which effectively ended the Sharks’ season. With fifteen games remaining, Shanghai have no chance of making the play-offs and the only speculation left now is whether the Sharks will finish in the bottom five and thus earn themselves an extra foreigner roster slot in 2013/14 as per CBA rules.
Anger has been rising for a while within the Sharks’ fanbase about the performance of the team this season, with some chanting the name of former head coach Bob Donewald Jr., who remains a popular figure at the Yuanshen.
Having defied the odds to make the playoffs the previous year, optimism was high this year that the Sharks could make a legitimate run for the title. Instead, star import Gilbert Arenas- who was signed two days before the team’s first game of the season- has been plagued by injuries and his absence has been one of the main reasons for the Sharks’ sudden downturn in fortunes.
In his press conference after the Ducks game, Panaggio conceded that the decision to sign Arenas (and buy out the contract of previous recruit Elijah Millsap in the process) was a gamble that didn’t work out. The former Washington Wizard point guard has played only four games this season and is currently in America getting treatment on a recurring injury.
Wang, who has been part of the Sharks’ coaching structure for some time, has pledged to continue using Panaggio’s triangle offense and this will undoubtably be seen as an audition for Wang to win the job full-time. Although some fans have called for the return of legendary Sharks coach Li Qiuping or somewhat bizarrely, owner Yao Ming, to coach the team, Wang would appear to be the most likely candidate to take-over the job full-time if Shanghai have a respectable end to the season.