Jordi Villacampa won a lot of trophies as a player at DKV Joventut.
Now, thanks to their EuroCup triumph over BC Khimki on April 9, he has tasted glory for the first time since becoming club president in 1999.
How much did it mean to Villacampa?
If you weren't in Kyiv on the night to see him, you probably wouldn't have known. Villacampa, 42, cheered so loudly for DKV that he lost his voice.
He has recovered and, in an exclusive with PA Sport's Cindy Garcia Bennett, the legend talks about his great moment as club supremo and offers his thoughts on the future.
FIBA Europe: You were known as one of the best shooting guards in Europe in the eighties and nineties you were part of DKV's golden generation, captaining the team that won the FIBA EuroLeague title in 1994. You spent your entire 17-year career with La Penya. What is the significance of the EuroCup win for DKV?
Villacampa: This is a very important title for us. We are aware of how challenging it is for a team to get to the Final Four in any competition. We faced very important teams, that were difficult opponents and to win it is a big achievement for DKV.
FIBA Europe: What were your aims in this competition at the beginning of the season?
Villacampa: When we decided to play in the EuroCup, we knew the challenges that we would encounter, such as the long trips to Russia, having to come up against very good teams. We knew that there could be a possibility that eventually we would pay the price in our domestic competition (ACB). But right from the start, the team was very focused and considering the sacrifices that playing in this competition would entail, they wanted to go all the way and they have done it.
(DKV have impressed in the ACB and are currently in fourth place.)
FIBA Europe: The EuroCup was such a difficult competition with the travel that you mentioned, and adding to the mix DKV's demanding ACB campaign, it truly is a major accomplishment. What was the secret to this team's success?
Villacampa: Success doesn't come just like that. The team worked hard for it on a day-to-day basis and I think this has been the secret. It has been important that the team has found a good physical condition and that they have found a dynamic that has worked. As a president, it's great to see players that are so committed to the team.
FIBA Europe: Where can DKV Joventut go from here?
Villacampa: Only the future will tell whether the EuroCup title will be the beginning of a new chapter for the club. I hope this is the case. We have a good project for the future and there's no reason why we cannot compete at the highest level.
FIBA Europe: Are there any similarities between the team now and the 1994 side you played on that won the EuroLeague?
Villacampa: There is the same mentality as there was back then. There were no stars but all the players contributed to the team's success. It was a team effort just as it is today. I think players nowadays are physically stronger than back in my playing days although perhaps they lack more quality. There were certainly more players that had come through the (DKV) youth ranks and as it is right now, there's only Rudy Fernandez and Alex Mumbru in this current team.
FIBA Europe: When you say there are no stars, I guess you are talking about players like Mumbru who must be one of the best kept secrets not only in Spain but all of Europe. Are you surprised by how well he's play this season?
|Villacampa sees Alex Mumbru has a unique player in the ACB|
Villacampa: There are few players in the ACB similar to Mumbru. He is tall, has the ability to shoot well from long range and is very good at penetrating the zone. He began his career at DKV before joining Real Madrid. He didn't have much luck at Madrid and we gave him the opportunity to show his worth, and he hasn't let us down. I'm very happy that he is having a good campaign because he is a very good player.
FIBA Europe: It's obvious that Aito Garcia Reneses has done a very good job this season as coach. Do you believe he is a good fit with DKV?
Villacampa: What I like about Aito is that not only does he like to win but he is devoted to long-term projects. He has a lot of experience which comes in handy considering that we have a young team. He has won many titles and is a coach that believes in players. He gave Pau Gasol back at Barcelona a starring role and helps the players mature and becoming complete.
FIBA Europe: How do you rate Rudy Fernandez?
Villacampa: Two years ago when Rudy Fernandez made his debut and was voted MVP of the Copa del Rey he was a hit, which was a blessing but also a burden for such a young player. The media attention and the NBA talk hindered Rudy last season and he wasn't able to pick up where he left off. This season he has developed a lot as a player and he is progressing. He is a great player and he has a great future ahead of him but he can still improve a lot.
FIBA Europe: There has been a lot of talk about Rudy moving to the NBA in the near future. Does it worry you?
Villacampa: My main concern would be if Rudy were to go to the NBA without being ready. It's easier nowadays to go to the NBA but it's a different matter altogether to become successful. Rudy first needs to prove himself as a great player in Spain and I'm sure, that once he does, he will make an impact in the NBA.
FIBA Europe: You played 158 games for Spain and were in the side that captured a bronze medal at the 1991 EuroBasket. Are you hoping to see Fernandez and Mumbru compete for Spain at the FIBA World Championship in August?
Villacampa: It's up to coach Pepu Hernandez to make the final decision but I think they have possibilities to go and I would like to see them both play for Spain in the biggest basketball competition.
FIBA Europe: When you took over as president of DKV Joventut, what was your aim and have you met your goals?
Villacampa: We are half way there. Aside from the sporting issue, there was the problem of the the club's financial situation. We are slowly solving this problem. In the past few years we have seen an increase in attendance which is very good news for the club and for the game. From a sporting level, we want to compete at the highest level but we want to invest on our youth teams, making good signings and try to retain the players that we have. When it comes to making signings, we cannot compete with certain clubs. That is why there's no room for error. It's very much like Formula 1 - we are not a Ferrari but we take advantage if the Ferraris make a mistake.
FIBA Europe: You retired form professional basketball in 1997, do you miss the game?
Villacampa: I am very fortunate that I can still work in basketball. I don't miss having to go to training and all the running that we had to do. I do miss the competition.