Otis Hughley: Nigeria women’s basketball coach demands unpaid bonus

By Oluwashina OkelejiSports Writer, Nigeria
Otis Hughley standing courtside
Otis Hughley led Nigeria to qualification for the 2022 Women's Basketball World Cup

Nigeria women's basketball head coach Otis Hughley has taken a swipe at the country's sports ministry over unpaid bonuses and demanded a contract review.

Hughley replaced fellow American Sam Vincent ahead of the 2018 Fiba Women's World Cup and led D'Tigress to eighth place - the best performance by an African side.

Qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Games and back-to-back African women's basketball titles were followed by 2022 World Cup qualification, which included an historic win over France.

"I love Nigeria and I want to see them win the World Championship or [a] gold medal on the world stage," Hughley said.

"Sadly, I am owed for the World Cup qualifying tournament in Serbia and the Olympics. I have tried all I can but I can't continue to do it for free.

"The ministry said they will look into it and try to pay me the money we talked about since the Olympics. I am still waiting - no words from anyone.

"I am not sure my wife will allow me to continue to do this. I don't live there but I love the girls, I love the team, I love what we have done."

A former assistant coach with NBA side Sacramento Kings, Hughley initially signed a one-year contract with the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) in 2018 before a protracted leadership crisis hit the West African nation's governing body.

Players from D'Tigress have also been locked in a dispute with the NBBF and sports ministry over the non-payment of bonuses and organisational issues encountered during the Olympics in Japan.

Hughley caught in federation dispute

The battle for control of Nigeria's basketball has hampered preparations for international competitions and crippled the country's domestic leagues, but Hughley has continued to work with the NBBF on a tournament agreement.

Despite the seemingly endless issues blighting the sport - with two feuding factions competing for control of the NBBF - the country has turned to overseas-born players and a strong community of diaspora players based in the United States for both its men's and women's teams.

This has led to continental success (African Basketball Championship) for the male side in 2015 and three straight triumphs for the women's team in 2017, 2019 and 2021.

Working without a proper contract since 2019, Hughley was perplexed when the team received a cash reward of 25 million naira ($60,000) from the Nigerian government for last year's continental success, and the American said none of his coaching staff took part in the largesse.

With the unsettled NBBF unable to enter into a contract with him, Hughley says he would only continue in the job if his outstanding allowances are paid and his contract is reviewed.

"I want a contract this time," he told journalist Queen Moseph.

"I don't expect them to pay me what China, Taiwan or US [do, but] at least the average pay of other countries so I can totally focus on our preparation for the World Cup.

"Because if I have to quit my job here and do my consultant business here just to provide for my family and have to work to win the world championship, then it's not possible.

"You can't win the world championship using your preparation as a side job. They have to decide: do they want to win or do they just want to be there?

"It doesn't matter if you get someone else - then you have to pay them. Nobody is going to come for free. Maybe they believe they can find that person.

"I don't want to go through what I went through in the Olympics ever again, having to support myself outside what Nigeria paid me. That divides my thinking, divides my time. I had to do almost everything myself and we can't approach it this way again."

With just six months until the Women's World Cup in Australia, where Nigeria have been drawn alongside the hosts, Canada, France, Japan and Serbia in Group B, the country's sports ministry is keen to resolve the NBBF crisis.

A top official declined to comment about the issues raised by Hughley, but admits plans are under way to put an end to the leadership impasse at the NBBF.

"The ministry is interested in ending all disputes and in getting the NBBF to produce an instrument for the administration of basketball that will lead to its growth and development," Toyin Ibitoye, special adviser on multimedia to the Nigerian sports minister, told BBC Sport Africa.

"All issues are being addressed and the hope is that the interest of the game will be uppermost in all the deliberations."

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