BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Alejandro (Aito) Garcia Reneses has been coaching in the Spanish top flight since 1983|
Alejandro (Aito) Garcia Reneses, a man largely responsible for the transformation of Spanish basketball into a superpower during the last three decades, has become the first coach to reach the 1,000-game mark in the ACB.
The 68-year-old officially reached the milestone during Sunday's road game of his Cajasol Sevilla side at recently crowned Eurocup champions Valencia Basket for Game Day 32 in the Spanish Liga Endesa regular season.
The thrilling encounter ended in a 104-93 defeat for Cajasol after overtime, Reneses's 303rd loss in the ACB (697 victories), but the youthful Seville team remain on course to clinch a play-off spot as they currently occupy eighth spot in the league standings with a 17-15 record.
The standing ovation that Reneses received from the 8,000-strong crowd in Valencia, all fans of a club he has only faced as an opponent during his 21-year-long career in the top flight, served as a reminder of the fact that even his detractors recognise his enormous contribution to Spanish basketball.
That is because steering Seville, the team with the youngest roster of the competition, into the Liga Endesa post-season, would be but a minor feat in a long string of achievements for the veteran coach.
Beyond his expansive trophy case which includes nine ACB titles, five Copa del Rey trophies, one Cup Winners' Cup, two Korac Cups, one ULEB Cup and one EuroCup title, Reneses's trademark has always been his trust in, and development work with, young players.
Reneses is the coach who gave the likes of Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez and a 15-year-old at the time, Ricky Rubio, their debut in the ACB and entrusted them with plenty of playing time on important teams to facilitate their growth.
"A coach must be happy when his roster performs at 100% of their potential," Reneses commented.
"While if they perform at 90% and he becomes a champion he cannot be so satisfied.
"I measure these things in a different way, it is not necessary to win a title to enjoy it.
"I would like it more if the learning process of my players is as fast as possible."
The Madrid-born legendary tactician took his first professional steps in Catalonia and actually spent the biggest part of his career in charge of the region's two big basketball clubs, FC Barcelona and Joventut Badalona.
Reneses coached Badalona from 1983 to 1985 and then crossed town to take over the reins of Barcelona and associate his name with the club, as he stayed at the helm until the 2001/02 season.
|Reneses steered Joventut Badalona to the EuroCup title in 2006|
Following a sabbatical year he returned in 2003 to Badalona for a second, five-year-long stint, helping Fernandez and Rubio to launch their careers and left at the end of the 2007/08 season in order to coach the senior national team at the Beijing Olympics.
During his brief spell in charge he steered 'La Roja' to the gold medal game of the 2008 Games, where they eventually fell to the USA in an epic final.
Reneses then took charge of Unicaja Malaga but parted ways with the Greens midway through his third season and has been at the helm of fellow Andalusian side Cajasol since summer 2012.
The notoriously adverse to press conferences Reneses had in reality reached the 1000-game landmark during last season, his first at Seville.
Officially however, he was at the helm of Barcelona only for three games during the 1992/93 season as, precisely in order to avoid attending press conferences, he relegated himself to assistant and promoted Quim Costa to the role of head coach.
"I don't plan the future, I live in the present," Reneses replied on Sunday, when asked how many more games he expects to coach.
"For sure the two remaining games in the regular season.
"Then there will be a few more in case we qualify for the play-offs and then we'll see how it goes.
"If I still enjoy coaching and they keep giving me this opportunity, it is possible that I go on."