When it comes to a coach paying the ultimate compliment to a player, it would really take something special to beat the one dished out to Diana Taurasi by her Spartak Moscow Region Vidnoje coach Laszlo Rageber.
An established star name in EuroLeague Women and recently crowned MVP of the WNBA, Taurasi certainly doesn't need anyone to underline her value but that didn't stop Rageber explaining to me this week,
|László Rátgéber has seen a lot of great players in 13 years of EuroLeague Women|
"You know what? Michael Jordan is a very lucky and fortunate person."
"If Diana Taurasi had been born a man, she would have been the best ever basketball player and not Michael Jordan."
It was quite a statement and one that is likely to cause plenty of debate but the all conquering Coach who helped his club reach a third successive EuroLeague Women title was in no mood for any second thoughts, "That's my opinion - seriously!" he claimed.
When it comes to the Women's Game there are few around with the experience and knowledge of Ratgeber. Consequently he was quick to point out that even with the likes of Taurasi on board, a fourth successive title is by no means a foregone conclusion with plenty of other challengers prepared to clip the wings of the reigning EuroLeague Women champions when the tournament tips off next week.
"Me and Jan Bobrovsky are the only two coaches to have been sitting on the bench for all of these 13 years in the EuroLeague Women. Every year there are surprises."
"The Turkish teams can be very strong and Lotos Gdynia are a great team. UMMC Ekaterinburg are very, very strong - perhaps the strongest ever! Also Ros Casares Valencia. What a team!"
"I also never forget Frisco Sika Brno, Mizo Pecs and Bourges, I think the only three teams that have played all 13 EuroLeague Women seasons!"
"It will be very difficult to defend our title for the fourth time in a row!"
However with such depth and quality it is difficult looking too far beyond Spartak who already have the inaugural SuperCup Women safely tucked in the trophy cupboard after their convincing win over Galatasaray this week.
|Ilona Korstin receiving Spartak's first trophy of the young season, the SuperCup Women from FIBA Europe President George Vassilakopoulos|
The one overpowering aspect of any conversation with Ratgeber is that his passion for the game is certainly not on the wane. Both he and Pokey Chatman are genuinely excited for the challenge ahead this year although it won't be until 2010 when the business end of the season kicks in that the pair will really want their star spangled team to be at the peak of their powers.
Indeed it is also likely to be the time when two of their superstars have returned and settled back into the team and ready for another wholly likely appearance at Final Four.
"We have practised really well lately and we have brought in Jekabsone-Zogota, Ilona Korstine and Sonja Petrovic is back after an injury. However the most important thing is to always be good in March and April."
"Edwige Lawson-Wade is replacing Sue Bird and Janel McCarville has replaced Lauren Jackson but the two of them will come back, maybe in December or January."
"We had fantastic chemistry last year and played great defence. That was the key because of course we always have the players to score."
"If we play again with aggression and passion then we could win again but we have to be hungry!"
Ratgeber will soon have the chance to see if the players still have that hunger for the EuroLeague Women when they tip-off the defence of their trophy next week with a home tie against Frisco Sika Brno.
It will also hand the coach an early opportunity to catch up with his opposite number Coach Bobrovsky and you have to wonder if the subject of Diana Taurasi versus Michael Jordan might crop up.