Laszlo Ratgeber changed his life this summer. He decided to leave Pecs, where he had spent 15 years, for the challenge of helping Spartak to a third straight EuroLeague Women crown.
I had a chance to sit down with the Hungarian coach speaks about this adventure.
On the decision to go to Spartak
"One morning I woke up and thought: "OK, If one day you can work with the greatest player, don't miss the occasion. I'm a player, and as a player I had to take the shot, that's what I did. I didn't want to someday be an old guy in a bar telling everyone how I might have coached Spartak."
"When I'm looking back, it was a big success to be in the Final Four three times with Pecs. It's a legendary story for me. They still did some good things this season. I'm proud of them. I didn't leave the cupboard bare. This is my little success to see they were in the Quarter-Final Round."
"I grew up in the former Yugoslavia, in Novi Sad. It was a little Russia. I have no problem living in Moscow. I understand the language, the culture."
On his coaching style
"It would have been difficult for me to come in to a club that has won two straight championships and said: OK, I'm changing everything. You can't forget what this team accomplished before. I tried to keep all the things they did well, and it was all the more easy as the assistant coach is the same. One big difference is that Thomson left, and Fowles arrived. The other difference is that we don't have "overbooking" on the bench, with players like Matovic and so on. Now we have young players there."
On the stars
"Everybody told me: you'll see, it's difficult to manage superstars. No! It's great! We have to learn from them. They are superstars because they are hard workers, and it's incredible for a European coach to work with Jackson, Fowles, Taurasi, and the best Russians. I think I now have the four best players in the world. Fowles is the best center, and within three years she will be the overall number one. She is still a kid, but is very clever, and very nice. She will be Superman, in a different world. Taurasi is a whole team. She's a classic triple-double player, and could finish with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Lauren Jackson, you know her. She's an amazing player, it's incredible to move the way she does at 1.95 meters. And Sue Bird is an angel. It's a dream to have a point guard like her. And when I tell you that, I don't forget I spent 10 years with (Dalma) Ivanyi"
On the EuroLeague Women Title
"I need to win EuroLeague Women, my first one. That's why I went there. To win! OK, I earn more money, but I spend more so money is not the issue. It was risky to go to Moscow after their success, but if Spartak calls you, you go. Even now, if they tell me, OK Laszlo, go home, I would consider it was good to be there. I'm growing up, as a coach and person."
On the Final Four
"So far, it's OK. We're in the Final Four, and believe me it wasn't easy because Valencia is such a great team. If they had beaten us, they would have won EuroLeague Women. They would have organized the Final Four, and I'm 100% sure they would have won! I was so happy to play game three of our Quarter-Final at home.
On his team
"I would sleep normally if Shchegoleva had no back injury. She didn't want to have surgery, but suffered. That's why she couldn't play much. But it's getting better. We took Streimikyte till the end of Final Four. She helped us in the Quarter-Final, when Fowles was injured with two important free throw shots. Streimikyte stepped off the bench, and made two of two. I hope Osipova will be helpful too."