Diaz, Pagarao named national coaches

Posted on Nov 24 2021
Irish Pagarao, seen here driving against two players during last month’s 3x3 tournament

Irish Pagarao, seen here driving against two players during last month’s 3×3 tournament at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium, has been selected to coach the NMI Women’s National Team. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

The Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation has named veteran coach Joe Diaz and former national player Irish Pagarao as head coaches of the CNMI national teams that will be competing in the first FIBA Micronesia Cup.

“We are pleased to announce the selection of Joe Diaz and Irish Pagarao as coaches of our national teams. The NMIBF gives its full confidence to coaches Joe and Irish. They have been with our national team program since the beginning and have shown the commitment and efforts to help form competitive and well-trained national squads for the FIBA Micronesia Cup,” NMIBF president James Lee said.

Lee added that the NMIBF will be preparing teams first for the FIBA Micronesia Cup, which will be held late next year and will be used as a qualifier for the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands after the 2022 Micronesian Games in the Marshall Islands has been postponed to 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides the CNMI, others teams eligible to compete in the FIBA Micronesia Cup are Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, and Nauru.

Diaz will call the shots for the men’s national squad, while Pagarao will work with the women’s crew. The two coaches have been part of the CNMI National Team Program since Day 1 when the NMIBF instituted the project in June this year.

Coach Joe Diaz gives pointers to NMI National Team Program member Madi Alegre

Coach Joe Diaz gives pointers to NMI National Team Program member Madi Alegre during a break in their training session at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium last month. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Diaz has been coaching players from all ages for nearly two decades and is credited for the growth and success of the Rollers Basketball Association—one the most active sports groups in the CNMI on and off the court. Pagarao, on the other hand, represented the CNMI in previous regional competitions, was part of the coaching staff of the women’s team to the 2018 Micronesian Games in Yap, and co-leader (with Marlene Lumabi) of the NMIBF Mini Basketball Village Outreach Program.

Diaz ran the tryouts for the CNMI National Team Program with NMIBF development director Elias Rangamar last June and is now working with the 20 players that made the first cut for the pool that is originally training for the Micro Games. Pagarao also joined the tryouts and was among those who advanced to the next phase of the program, but is now taking on a higher responsibility with her selection as coach of the squad.

“I am excited and honored with this new journey. I look forward to working with coaches Elias Rangamar, Joe Diaz, and David Apatang (NMIBF vice president). I will use my experience as a player to help prepare our team and encourage younger players to join and stick with the program,” Pagarao said.

As for Diaz, he thanked the NMIBF board for the trust and confidence, and his support group, led by his wife Verna, that allows him to continue working with players, especially the youth.

“Now, this is an entirely different and tougher responsibility, but I am humbled to be given a chance to represent our islands and help prepare these dedicated and hardworking players for the FIBA Micronesia Cup. There’s more work ahead of us and we need everyone’s support to get our national team battle ready,” Diaz said. (PR)

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