By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
Evaristo Perez is new to the EuroBasket, but he’s looked like a veteran campaigner in leading the Spanish to a gold medal game showdown against Russia.
Spain's coach spoke to Cindy Garcia-Bennett after his team’s semi-final triumph over Belarus.
FIBA Europe: Congratulations on your 70-54 victory over a Belarus team that had been playing excellent basketball here in Italy. What was the key to this victory?
Perez: "Belarus is a great team and have had a great tournament. We felt it was necessary to stop their interior game but they played excellent early on. In the second half, we had better defense and used that to build our confidence."
FIBA Europe: What are your emotions right now, considering you have led Spain into the title game in your first tournament in charge?
|Perez knows that beating Russia and Stepanova will be a tall order.|
Perez: "I'm just really happy that we have achieved this, but I have to say I can’t think too much about it because we have a big game to play."
FIBA Europe: Russia won the event in 2003, claimed bronze at the Athens Olympics and finished runners-up to the Czech Republic two years ago at the EuroBasket in Turkey. Last year, Russia won the silver medal at the FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil. You could not have asked for a tougher game than what you have on Sunday, could you?
Perez: "They have great size and a lot of experience. They have also beaten us in this tournament already, in the qualifying round. We have to consider that Russia is one of the best teams that have ever played. As strong as they are, though, we can always find one way to win. And I hope we can find that way on Sunday.”
FIBA Europe: What are your chances?
Perez: “I have a team that has to play at the limit of the strengths in order to get good results. So far we have done so. We are aware that we have to beat the top teams if we want to reach the highest level."
FIBA Europe: I have been very impressed with the play of Lucila Pascua and Anna Montanana. What difference have they made to this team?
Perez: "One of the weaknesses of previous Spain teams before was interior play, whether it had to do with lack of quality or physique. I think the five centers I have in my team have done a very good job. They have risen to the challenge and have shown that we have a balance between our interior and exterior play. I know Lucila and Anna well. Anna has a lot
of quality and what distinguishes her is her versatility - she can play inside, read the
|Isabel Sanchez isn't one of Spain's big names but she has impressed her coach.|
game well, play in the open court and be a threat on the perimeter.”
FIBA Europe: Isabel Sanchez has received a lot of playing time and made a huge difference to this team. Are you surprised?
Perez: "She didn't have a starring role in the national team before and this year, she is having the opportunity to play much more. Isa has been a very regular player in the Spanish League in the last few seasons and for me, she is a great player. Perhaps in the past she lacked something but this year, she is taking responsibility and she is responding. In terms of minutes on the court and performance, she is one of the best for us."
FIBA Europe: As always, Amaya Valdemoro has been influential. Could you talk about her?
Perez: "She is a great player and we need her in the team. Before her starring role was total and absolute. I have tried to bring some balance in the team and I think it has benefited everyone. Her presence on the court means that our rivals' defence is always focusing on her and the rest of the players in the Spanish team has to take advantage.
Despite the fact that she is a great player, there is a lot of balance. She is bringing many good things in attack but she is contributing in other areas of the game which may not be so evident. But the team is thankful for that.”
FIBA Europe: You have been coaching women for two year now, after coaching in the LEB. How have you changed?
Perez: "I am the same coach. I used to coach in the LEB, but I am the same, my ideas about basketball have not changed. Whereas I have had to adapt to coaching a youth team to a club team, in this case it hasn't changed me. Basketball, regardless of the physical difference, my vision is the same, and my vision of training is the same.”
FIBA Europe: What about your future with Spain?
Perez: "I have an agreement until the end of EuroBasket. Once this is over, we will sit down and talk. If they are happy with what I have done and I'm satisfied, then I'm sure I will continue."