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Stiebing resurrects career as coach of Qatar

HAMAMATSU, Japan -- Joey Stiebing had just been named Sun Belt Conference coach of the year when the University of New Orleans' new athletic director told him he was no longer the right man for the job.

That 2001 firing pushed Stiebing, now 45, into a major career
change.

For a year, he sold insurance for a financial services company in New Orleans.

"For me, being a coach my whole life, it was a great
experience," said Stiebing, an assistant at New Orleans for seven
years before becoming head coach. "I didn't know anything about
money. But it helped me gain some insights."

Then, in October 2002, a sports agent he knew called, saying a
Middle Eastern country was looking for a basketball coach.

A few weeks later, he was hired as head coach for Qatar. Nearly four years later, he has taken the national team to the world basketball championships after finishing third at the Asian titles
in 2005.

"It worked out for the best," Stiebing said Wednesday after Qatar lost its fourth game and was officially knocked out of second-round contention at the tournament. The team lost its fifth in a row Thursday to Australia 93-46 to finish the tournament winless.

"I've got a great boss [the Qatar Olympic Committee],"
Steibing said. "I went to Doha with the intention of staying one
year. I've been there for nearly four."

In Qatar, Stiebing has a five-bedroom home provided by the
country's Olympic committee in a modern complex. His four
U.S.-based daughters frequently visit.

Not that he's been around very much lately.

This weekend, he'll take the Qatar team to Saitama to watch the 16 second-round world championship teams play "just to experience
the atmosphere of that."

He and the team will return to Doha for two days before heading to Italy for a two-week training camp. Then it's home again for the
Persian Gulf regional championships, featuring Kuwait, Saudi
Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.

The team will get a break during monthlong Ramadan before
playing in the Doha-hosted Asian Games in late November and early
December.

His defense-oriented team's play in Japan has him optimistic
about what the team could accomplish at that tournament.

Qatar had its best game against Turkey on Wednesday, losing
76-69 but outplaying their opponents in the second half.

"We held them to 27 points in the second," Stiebing said.
"That carries over to the offensive side. We are a young team, and
we'll have one good half, one bad half."

Stiebing's Qatar experience, however, has been all good.

He acknowledges he was apprehensive about moving there, but
acquaintances who had worked in Qatar told him he would love it.

They were right.

"I have learned a lot about the Muslim community, the culture,
the Arab world," Stiebing said. "Qatar to me is safer than the
U.S. There is very little crime. You can leave your car doors and
houses unlocked."

And, he says, Americans are well-liked. There is a big military
presence in the country -- the U.S. Central Command Air Forces is
based there.

Stiebing has taken Arabic language lessons, with mixed success.

"It's very hard," he said. "I tried to take a three-month
course, but I had to drop it after a month because I was away so
much.

"In Arabic, they write from right to left. I had to learn the alphabet. I know some words. It was interesting, and I wish I would have stuck with it."

Stiebing's biggest worry since leaving the States was when
Hurricane Katrina hit his hometown nearly a year ago.

"We were in Serbia-Montenegro at a training camp, and I talked
to my daughter on a Friday night," said Stiebing. "She said they
said it was heading toward Florida.

"The next morning, we got to breakfast, and we watched it all
happening on CNN, BBC, Sky News."

When he headed back to New Orleans two weeks later, he
discovered his house had only minor damage.

"I was really scared, I had never experienced anything like
that enormity," Stiebing said.

And he's got plenty of Louisiana connections -- even in Qatar --
to keep him comfortable. Two assistant coaches and a strength and
conditioning specialist for the national team hail from New
Orleans.

"I have really enjoyed it," Stiebing said. "We have come a
long way to rise up in Asia. We are at the bottom of the rest of
the world, but this experience will be really good for the national
team and the country."