|Dzikic is looking to bring his winning mentality from club level to the international arena|
In late December, Serbian coach Aleksandar Dzikic accepted the challenge to be the new man in charge of the senior national team of F.Y.R of Macedonia and steer them through EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round.
The core of the team that had reached the EuroBasket 2011 semi-finals had just retired and the primary task for the new head coach was to ensure the smooth transition from a group of players that were worshipped by fans, to the next generation of internationals.
As fibaeurope.com found out, the 43-year-old Dzikic, who is also the head coach of Slovenian champions Krka Novo Mesto and had previously worked at the U20 Serbia national team, did not blink twice when faced with the challenge and is slowly but surely instilling his personal philosophy in the national team of F.Y.R of Macedonia.
Why did you accept when the federation offered you this role and what convinced you to coach a national team on top of Krka and, moreover, a national team that is not Serbia?
I see this job as a new challenge, a new experience, a next step in my career. It is different than working in a club, it is specific in many ways.
There is a generational change in the team, most of the veterans that achieved the 4th place at EuroBasket 2011 have now retired from the national team, but fans want to see the same level of success, isn't this a very risky challenge for you as a coach?
Risk? What kind of risk? I'll do my job as I always do: with honesty, with full heart, energy and passion. I'll give it my 100%, I hope it will be enough. Basketball in F.Y.R. of Macedonia didn't start with me and it will not stop with me. Generational changes are a normal thing in sports. Some men are aware of it, others are selfish and they don't care about the future after them.
Your approach was to select the best players that will build the new core of this team and then find the playing style that fits them, or to first establish a new playing style for this national team and afterwards find the players in the country that fit your philosophy?
I was hoping that some of the guys, who are not with us, would be with us. But they are not, and that is the fact. And some of them are very far from end of their careers. So we work with the players we have, with players who want to represent their country. We have some new names. As for our style of basketball, we have to truly understand our qualities and limits, we have to truly understand that 'United We Stand, Divided We Fall'. I want my players to truly and completely understand what is the essence of my '5 players - 1 idea' philosophy.
You have now been in training camp with this team for some time, you had good results in some friendly games, what can we expect from the new generation of this team? More importantly, do you think this team will meet the expectations that you had in the winter, when you took over?
We have one goal: to qualify for EuroBasket 2015! In order to do that, we need to be a team. Our talent is not on the same level as that of the EuroBasket 2011 generation. We don't have the talent, nor the experience of that group, but we will do whatever we can do to achieve our goal.
|"Basketball is part of my life and my life is part of basketball"|
As a coach, do you motivate players differently on the national team than at a club?
I believe in a simple fact: I do care about my players and I believe that my players do care about me. We share mutual goals, a mutual understanding, we work in the same direction and we try to be on the same page as much as possible. Once we have that kind of relationship, I don't need to coach energy and approach. I insist on focus, inner discipline and playing together. I guess these are the cornerstones of a 'motivated team'.
What aspects of Belgium, Belarus and Denmark do you like? In what aspects is your team better? In what aspects do you expect or need to improve before 10th August?
At this moment, we are thinking mostly about ourselves and we follow our opponents as close as we can. I don't believe in 'easy opponents' and I have never let that kind of approach exist in my teams. We are not a team who can afford that kind of mindset. The fact is that Belgium is the favourite in our group, but let's wait and see what will happen on the court. We have the same approach towards Belarus and Denmark. It is not serious to give any kind of predictions.
Will you justify the role of favourite in this group, together with Belgium?
As I've said, we are in a totally different situation than Belgium. We are missing eight players, but not role players!
Assuming you qualify and you coach this team at EuroBasket 2015, will you consider a career aspiration of yours has been fulfilled? Andrea Trinchieri said last September that he was surprised at how different experiences were to coach a club in the Euroleague and to coach a national team at EuroBasket.
I believe Andrea and I share the same opinion about this. It is different, I know that for sure. I am really motivated to qualify for EuroBasket 2015, for so many reasons. Is it going to fulfil my aspirations? I have no idea. One thing is for sure - basketball is part of my life and my life is part of basketball.
In your opinion, what kind of future does basketball have in F.Y.R. of Macedonia? Are people right to be excited about young talents coming up?
We have some interesting kids. Some of them are working with us, some of them are with the national teams of their own age group. We need to understand that we have to "fight" for each and every talented kid. We cannot afford to lose kids and think 'well, the next one is just around the corner' - because they are not! I'll try to help the federation on this matter, because I believe it is very important for the future of basketball in the F.Y.R of Macedonia, what will happen in the next five years. Young players need a chance to play, to grow up, to mature, they need good coaches and opportunities in responsible clubs.