After many years coaching at the high school level, Donovan Blythe made the decision to strike out into new territory. He accepted an offer to relocate to Beijing, China, and establish a basketball academy -- by the name of Shuimu -- in the world’s most populous country.
Now, nearing his one-year anniversary in China, Blythe says he has no plans to cut short his stay.
“This is the best decision I could’ve made, winding down my coaching career,’’ Blythe said in late December on a trip back to the U.S., watching his former team, the Eastside Prep girls, play in a tournament at St. Francis “Basketball is huge in China, the most popular sport. I’ll stay as long as they want me there.’’
Originally from Evanston, Ill., Blythe spent 35 years in the Bay Area, most recently as the coach at Eastside, where, in 12 years, his girls teams went 254-110 and won two state championships.
“I’m having a great time there,’’ Blythe said. “They’re treating me very well. It’s a creative challenge for me. I felt I accomplished enough at the high school level.’’
Blythe is in charge of organizing the academy and conducting clinics for Chinese coaches.
As far as day-to-day life in China is concerned, Blythe said he lives in an area of Beijing where international schools are located, so he is able to get by as an English speaker.
“If I wanted to go out and walk at 4 in the morning I wouldn’t worry about someone running up on me with a gun,’’ he said. “And I’ve never encountered any discrimination about my skin color.’’
It’s not Blythe’s first exposure to China. He had previously signed a contract to help with the development of a group headed by former NBA player Yi Jianlian.
“I’m familiar with the landscape,’’ Blythe said. “They love basketball. They have guys there who can jump out of the gym. It comes down to grass roots development, youth development programs.’’