Can you something tell me about your history as coach / player
As player I was a player with a lot of aggressivety, good hands and spent the most time of my carreer as point guard. For my physical I was more a two than a point guard. I born in Badalona city, basketball is important and ten years ago they won the European league. So it is a place where basketball is everything. Where 25 hours a day is basketball. I focused on basketball and finished my study History and started Politics. Always basketball as a hobby and could focus on basket it was my main concern. When I got a big injury in a game for promotion to the second division, they broke my jaw with a elbow at three different places. Two months I could not speak and eat only liquid stuff. Also broke my nose, so it was though, so you see the teams fight intens, aggressive to win. In winning or losing is this really, really important.
After that I decided to coach and already coach some young teams. First on the Menorc Islands, I won the cup and lost the final, North Missouri State University as assistant-coach in the second division. El Salvador national team as head coach, we became second in central America after Panama.
Two years in Puerto Rico where we won two years our conference, one year in Mexico where we lost the final. After that I went to Venezuela where I reached the quarter finals of the South America League looks like the champions league but in South America. Come back to Mexico, final and lost again. CBA assistant-coach at Indiana, good team all the players played in the nba that season or before. The coach of that team is now the coach of Golden State Warriors in the NBA. I go back to Mexico, different team, lost. Three years in Mexico, three different teams but three losses.
Has it something to do with you that you lost three times in mexico
Oh no, I won two times in Puerto Rico. I did not have the best team also and at the first match we had a fight. The Americans where scared and left the other day and the other five games we played without the three Americans. In game three there was another fight and this time with the crowd. They only want to continue if we play without crowd. We played with crowd and we lost.
I went to Galicia for two years and after that to Tarragona for two years also LEB. In the team I worked for the CBA I was also scout for Tau Ceramica Vittoria.After Tarragona two years at Cab Madeira in Portugal. First year won the cup and 1/8 final of the European competition. Next year we were in the ¼ final. We lost with 21 and had to win with 22 to reach the final four. We were the third team of all team sports in Portugal who reached so far in an European competition after Porto hockey and soccer.
Madeira is a place with 15.000 people and a budget of 200.000, it is nothing. We practiced a lot. We changed a lot of players because they could not fit in this work of mentality. Fifteen in two years.
Were there many players who could not work with your style of coaching
Yeah because of the intensity of practice, you are demanding so you always have conflicts. I can life with the conflicts but some players cant. I know in my life that I will be in conflict every week.
How do you handle these conflicts
Knowing this is the way to win. The way to win is improve and to push and you have always opposition. There are many people involved with matches like refs and of course the crowd. The crowd was not a problem, they were always a very good help. I am for sure that will be the same here in Groningen.
Many people expecting much of you
Yeah and I except also a lot of myself.
You wrote a book, is it only in Spanish
I dont want any euro from it because it is not my business. The only reason I write it was they asked me. I am the only Spanish coach in the history who coached in 7,8 or 9 different countries. So it is special and attractive for people who writes biographies. The book is good and I like him. Many people like it because of the ironic style and the details on- and offcourt.
In El Salvador it was two years after the civil war. I was living with body guards. Difficult life and they had a lot of guns. It is not very common everywhere.
If you look back what are you most memorable moments
It is difficult because I won six or seven different titles and every title was special. But just other things I life are nice to remember. For instance the time in El Salvador where we could practice one per day. I pushed and pushed but only one time a day. They have so many problems and it was really fight to survive. If you see that you realize life is not fair. Not everybody has what he deserves. Players who get well paid in time but dont work are unacceptable for me. I have been in situations where people only need five euro to bring food to their children. So you learn a lot about life in Central America.
Even in America where players awaiting for their limo after practice. You learn from this and have to take the good and bad things from it.
Can you improve with this knowledge of Latin America and the States your style of coaching
No you have to adapt to the situation and the players you have. Of course I have my style, the way how I see and understand basketball, the knowledge which I have is my past, experience and background.
Depending the players I do have in my team I do some moves in some places. Players are not equal and what works on one team could not work on another team anymore. You need to adapt to these new situation.
You were scout at Tau Ceramica Vittoria
Yes it was for eight months. In that team I really control to whole market. I was responsible for the NCAA 1, 2 and 3, CBA and NBA. For the NBA not the rosters but the guys who are on the injured list. Those players could be signed by Tau in that time.It was a very good experience, the best teams in Europe where asking me for players. What do you think about this guy, and this? I am sorry but I cant tell you , I work for Tau.
It was not conflicting with the position of assistant-coach. You also follow the players in the CBA and the best players in the NCAA who could be good enough for your team next year. Only one time when Tau was in the playoffs. They would to sign Staley Roberts who played with Shaquille Oneal. He was better than Shaquile on that time and he got caught for drugs or something in the NBA. After two years Tau could sign him. Tau could practice with him to see how is doing. After five minutes of practice in Houston he broke his foot. Over. He was always like this, travelling and for searching players as scout.
How is it for you and the family to travel
I have to risk a lot everytime, I travel a lot and winning is my only excuse to my wife for telling her we are going to leave again. It is not only about money and winning. My wife can also work in different things and everytime she needs to quit her job. We are always together and now we have a baby. I risk a lot so I cant waste my time. I came to Holland to win. My first goal is to win the league and go second round of Uleb.
It is important that when you leave your country to only hang out. I have a responsibility with the club but also with myself and my family. That is the main reason I push the players and myself to win.
At Donar I hope we will have a good chemistry with everybody involved in this and reach the goal.
In a recent article was noted that you and Scheepstra do not have a good relationship
I still not know Marten, I did not met hem yet. I cant say anything about him and so this is a lie. But he is responsible for the younger teams and mine contract is clear. I have a contract for one year and responsible for the professional team. This is never be a problem because I can sign twenty times in a row for one year. Most coaches want long contracts so they want to be secure. I dont need that. I am secure with one year.
In Mexico your contract is not guaranteed, you play three times a week and I stayed three years. I dont need a paper to make me feel secure. I depend on my work.
Also in life you have to think in today and tomorrow. Today is after tomorrow and today you have a lot of work today. Tomorrow woef Imagine, I cant know what will happen in the next three days. Lets be realistic and also my mentality is to only think in the next game. My goal is clear, I work to win.
How can you win, how can you win the championship
Making a team, making them to feel important. Make them all feel important. Different roles for sure. But all players must help us.
What kind of roles do you use
Depends on what they can give us. I cant say you are going to do this and you going to do that. I want to see what they can give. After that I will ask them if they want to do that. When they have a commitment it is very easy. I just to push till they fulfill this commitment. When they cant fulfill this commitment it is not a good, no chemistry because you cant rely on them.
Which roles did you already assigned
It is not only about roles. It is about work harder than anybody. We know we will not be the most talented team. This is not an excuses. You can win without being the best talented team. We dont have the biggest budget so this is not an excuse. So we know and have to work with this.
It is similar to the situation of Madeira
Yeah Madeira and all the other teams where I have been. I never had the best team, maybe in Puerto Rico. Three players of the national team who played at the Olympics. So they were good. But nobody needs them.
At the end it is 5 against 5, the same ball, two baskets, no excuses, no complaining and it is just up to you. It is how you practice for sure. My focus is always to practice in though conditions and stronger then they will find in a game. Sometimes you have to adapt to this process and it is not only physically hard but also mentally. It is to be a normal process.
Are you not afraid for injuries when you practice so hard
We dont allow injuries. If a player miss one practice he will not play next game. But the players have to adapt to this rhythm of practice practice practice
When you give one day off it is like Christmas. They guys know the season is going to be though. We play three times a week. It is absolutely crazy. Sometimes it is four games and this is crazy because in terms of preparing the team. When I have a week to prepare I know the team, I know all the players, all the plays of the other team and see them three times. They will not surprise me. For instance you play at Tuesday, 4 hours travel, arrive, Wednesday practice, travel Wednesday because Thursday we have a game, play game and travel, practice Friday because we have Saturday game, Sunday travel in Europe, arrive at Sunday night, Monday practice, Tuesday practice and in the evening game, travel Wednesday, arrive Wednesday and practice. It is not physically but mentally and also the scouting. This is not good for the level of basketball and it is stupid. Too many games in a too short period of time.
It is not only of keep your team mentally fit. You cant practice and improve the team in the way you want. For instance if a team has seven plays, I cant know them all. At Tuesday a team has 10 plays and Thursday too and on Saturday 15 plays, I cant know 16 plays. The players cant practice and learn every week 16 plays. I hope that the Belgian, dutch and german league change this in the future. This will improve the results of the teams in Europe but also the national teams. That is why the strongest leagues are so strong. They are very well prepared.
Why more money, what you see is better, you practice more, better fundamentals. Some teams practice three times a day. Everything is practice. The beautifull of basketball is that everything you practice you will see it. All what you practice in practice it works. It is different with soccer because they dont practice a lot. It is a joke. My players will watch this week four movies. One with our mistakes, tomorrow plays of the opponent, players individually scouted and two hours before the game we also have film.
This is another level of work. It is not just talent but work. Work plus talent. Talent without work you will not win. With a worker team you can have the chemistry to win.
Do you adjust your tactical plan to the opponent
I work with my philosophy and methodology and the players have the known when we use different kind of defence or moves. It is about repetition, showing film and learning from the mistakes. I never see the improvement I want because everytime you see increase you demand more. You never finish. I know we are in a month very good but we are very far from where I want.
So you cant be satisfied in basketball. You can always improve, you can always try to be perfect. The gap between where he want to be and now is very big. One thing is that the players has to realize that the team is good as a team. Nobody is good individually in the team. I mean nobody is more than anybody. Nobody does something special or different without the help of a other guy. Nobody will have special treatment, I dont care about the background or nationality, I dont care the stats of last season. I am cared about what I see every day. The friendship is on the court. Before these four lines is the place where they have to help each other, where they have to be very close. Outside the lines I cant tell them but inside I can tell them who will help him. If you are the best shooter we will take care you but you have to go for the best option. Only shoot on the best shot for you and the team.
In this process the team is first and me is second. With eight different nationalities and eight different knowledge of basketball you have to be very strict, you cant allow a lot of distractions. Focus on what is the best for the team.
How does the losses in the preseason fits in the process
The losses in the preseason are part of the normal process. But some players still think that we signed them to do the same things as they did on places before. I want more, I demand things I see that they can do. Not only what they are doing already. If he scored 15 points it is not enough.
Can you give an example of this
Somebody who got the fourth foul and he is coming to the bench. He is coming to me and say I got four fouls. So what?. Many teams will protect him because he must play in the last minutes. Every minute is the last minute. You are not more important than somebody and until the preseason it is just about work. If you play with four fouls, you are pressing yourself also. If you dont want to play anymore it is better that you dont play anymore. You dont have to think that you must play in the last minutes. Why do you assume you will play the last minutes? Who told you that? Why? Are you better than this one?
It is a situation which happens often
I dont allow that. Everybody is important.
Did you scout the players?
Yes I did it together with Albert.
All the players we scouted and signed with Albert. No, we cant see it were the first options. But we cant say we are not happy with them. The thing is we have one limitation and that is the money. When you look for seven months, we saw 400 players. One day I returned with 250 dvds. I was the man who watched them. Sometimes Albert was talking, so I say I want to see him. So they were sending dvds. We only choose eight till twelve players. We followed some players for three months and we are interested, very interested and they use our offer to go to a better league. The guys who I have now are not the first options but good options for us. I am happy with the decisions we made. After the first day everything changed and is open. You dont know but many things can change in one month and at the end you have ten players. You can sign but it is difficult to sign the character or mentality.
You cant see it on the dvd but maybe some details. This is normal in basketball, you see many aspects of players sooner or later and then it can come to conflicts.
Does it happen often that players get fired
It depends on the way they adapt. Probably we will have corrections of the roster. I cant tell you because many it is in the last month or next week. The way I coach is of permanent pushing. When you push you always have potentially conflicts.
It can happen that players cant handle this anymore but I cant handle maybe the situation too. I want people to try always.
About your situation, when did you get in touch with the club
It was by my coach we said they were searching for a coach. I was a year off because we were expecting a baby. It was really a good opportunity because I could work for six months very hard with Albert and try to sign players with the money we have.
What do you know about the club
When I arrived for the first time my contact was Robert and Albert. When I arrived here for the season Robert is gone and Albert too. I also have to adapt to a lot of new things. I am not disappointed about this. It is just a fact. I try very hard that this not affect the team. We have to focus on improvement of the team. My goal is to win the play-offs. Everything in life costs patience and time.
I really want the players to push the crowd. If they see that we are fighting, they will see the glass half full instead of half empty. The crowd is also important because they help. It can be the difference between winning or losing especially in the playoffs or important games.
Try to focus on the team, is that the main reason that you dont allow people at the practices
This is very normal in professional basketball. I am talking about professional basketball everywhere the practices are closed. This is because you want to work like at office. You dont want ten who speaks, two are yelling and some calling.
How was it to experience a practice with so many people
I think they were very respectfull and it is not easy to control 700 people. People were very enthusiastic to see the new players. It was a good decision to do because after it the people respect my decision.
I can speak with everybody after the game. I am friendly. It is not my professional way of working but for everyone. It is like going to the cinema and see people eating, talking but this is not the same.
What do you know about the dutch competition
I need to work on and adapt very quick. It is impossible to be 100% for the whole season. If you look at the EiffelTowers, they lost the cup last year. So they were down when they were in competition. They had a very good season but it very difficult to have a perfect season.
I dont know coaches of the opponents, I dont know all the players. What I know is what my team can and that is my focus.
Do you know something about your European opponents
Just a little bit. The Spanish one for sure but we have to scout them all. We are trying to arrange the dvds of the last matches of the teams before we will play against them.
Do you think there is a chance to reach the second round
The challenge, the possibility but it is a strong competition. I am not afraid to try to get the challenge. I think my team will compete against all of them. The crowd and the players fighting every second on offense and defense. We will be a competitive team. From my team in Madeira, I had a worse team, less money and talent. But I know they were working very hard. He we will see this soon too. We have to reach that level of mentality, agressivity and intensivity. This is about practicing, correcting all these and life conflicts which will appear during the season.
Do have any idea about teams which you can beat in the Uleb Cup
No but the team we know the less is the Romanian team. Four times in a row they won the championship. They have a lot of players from the national team and two years ago they won the EuroCup Challenge. So imagine the most worst team already won an European title. So I think our opponents will be very though. But if they not think we are tough they will have a surprise.
We need to be focused on our 5 procent of possibilies is our 100%. So these 5% is a lot.
In the time the European competition is running are you more focused on this?
In basketball you have to think in the next game. If you dont play well in the dutch competition, next game will be difficult. I prioritize in practice. We have to look for different ways to solve it.
For instance the Turkey team will play on Sunday and when they have a game on Tuesday they will talk with the federation. They will move the game and so they have eight days to prepare.Three or four players of their team are more than the double of our total budget.
Girona more, they even have a player of 1.5 million. We have 414.000 netto to sign players. Obviously the money is there but we will see. I think we will be very competitive and for the players it is a good opportunity to show that we have a good basketball team in Groningen and we have a lot of proud and fight for every position. I want everybody in Europe to talk about this and us.
Everybody talked about EiffelTowers last years
Yes but they only won two games. So I want more and that is second round.
Do you feel special to play against Girona
No, only that I know them more than the other teams. It is fourty minutes from my house. Nothing special. We will fight even harder. This is not because it is a Spanish team but I know them more. More knowledge about the team and the coach. The Girona-coach was my coach.
They can be better than us but they will not surprise me. Knowing that lets fight.
what about the game against Joventut
The good thing was that we were 35 minutes very close. That means that with all the mistakes we saw today, 25 minutes of mistakes. If I see things in the way I dont want to see them it is a mistake. So 25 minutes of edited movie with this. Realize that we were seven or eight points down so it shows that we will not be a bad team.
Especially the last ten minutes and for sure the last five were bad. We know that there is a big difference between the Spanish and Dutch competition. I know that our team will improve and I want that nobody can beat us. I work to arrive in the finals.
Does it feel special to play against Joventut with such a number of good players
Nothing is special. I wanted to win, I was very disappointed about that we dont won at the end. I was not complaining about their budget, players or level. I knew that so it was not a surprise for me.
Dutch spectators do not see so often this kind of players
It was an incredible opportunity to see these players with this kind of level. They will be legends in Europe. In thirty years you will speak about them like players as Petrovic, Sabonis.
It is maybe an unrealistic target to win over Joventut
Maybe also reaching the second round in the Uleb Cup. I want the crowd to helping on this. The crowd is very important factor for me. It is nice to know that we can reach this goal together.
We have about 2.000 every game and that have to be double. So that is mine goal too. Now it happens only before but I want it to do it earlier in the season. If you want to win we need four thousands of people every game. They have to feel part of these winnings. They are not just coming for the match but winning together with us.
How can you reach that the crowd is feeling a part of the team
Connection between me, players and the crowd. I am working on this. If I want to push my players they to get something back from them. I know the people is there and they are willing to help. So lets do it together.
I want to feel that the crowd is helping us.
In the time I was a player I was always looking for something else so it was not only winning but also enjoying. To enjoy you have to do the things right, to reach that you have to work hard. I dont believe in luck for example. If the scored a threepointer court-to-court in the last second it is because our bad defense. I think we will be very competitive because I see what my players can do. They have to work a lot because I believe in them. I have to push them till the moment they do it by themselves. Otherwise we will not reach the goals so we dont have any options. I dont like to give options because the players always choose the easiest one. Most of time in basketball it is the worse one.
Do you see a big difference between clubs in your home country and the Dutch teams
First the fundamentals, everything around the team is more professional, not only the coaching staff. It is also about the money because in Spain you have two physiotherapist 24 hours a day. In Spain to travel by incredible situation. Although it are most of the time small charters but they have a private plane. Resting is very important when you are so much demanding. All the teams fly back after a game with private plane. That is the difference.
It is about sleeping, eating, recovering and we are looking for the same. We are going to look if we can sleep the night before the game somewhere close to the arena. I know it is uncommon in Holland but it is better. Players can rest and practice in the gym and shoot at the place they will play. Most of the time we have matches after five so we can practice on gameday. Ofcourse we dont kill them except in pre-season. So it was though because we have 4 practices and 2 games in three days and the travel too.
Is it a dream for you to become coach in the ACB
No, it is not even a goal. I will coach where I want to coach. For me it is real important to win in Europe. I want to win in Europe, I have this in my mind. I want to win a European title. I know it will be very very difficult but I will see in the future. It is easier with a topteam but having a topteam is also not easy. So it will be difficult because of many coaches who can win too.
My focus is to win where I coach and not arranging a better transfer by playing in the European competition. If I can coach in the ACB I want to have the opportunity to win.
In my contract it was for sure that we will play in Europe but not the Uleb Cup. It doesnt matter me what competition. In the beginning it was EuroCup Challenge, after that EuroCup and at the end it was Uleb Cup. Every time it was better and more talent but also more difficult to win. I like to play against the best ones.
With allowing Joventut in the EuroLeague there would be five Spanish teams in the tournament
Yes for sure but if you want the strongest teams in the strongest league you have too. If you have one team from Holland, one from Cyprus and one from the UK and not Joventut that makes no sense. My one thing was the opportunity here to play in Europe. That is my main concerne but together with becoming champions in the Dutch League. You cant think about it without the other. If Groningen wouldnt play in Europe it would not sign here. After I signed here I got an offer from Spain.