Pablo Laso: We direct the players, they direct the game

22 September 2010

Pablo Laso is considered by many as the quintessential Spanish point guard of the 90's. A master of steals and assists, always on the lookout to initiate a fast-break, he played for big clubs like Taugres (Caja Laboral Baskonia) and Real Madrid and reached more than 80 international caps with Spain, conquering the Gold Medal in the 1989 Under 22 FIBA World Championship.

He is now a successful coach in the Spanish ACB League, about to start his third season as head coach of Lagun Aro Guipuzkoa Basket Club and one of the FECC lectors. We caught up with him in the middle of the very busy GBC preseason schedule.

Pablo Laso, GBC coach
FECC lector and GBC coach Pablo Laso focuses on enabling the players to call the shots

FIBA Europe: Mr Laso, what is your impression of the FECC clinic in Lithuania this past summer and your view on the FECC 3-year program progress?

Pablo Laso: I consider the FECC the equivalent of a Masters degree in basketball. The work of the professors, the quality of the study material and the amount of views exchanged during these 7 or 8 day sessions, both directly and indirectly related to the sport of basketball, is invaluable.

A very important aspect is diversity. Coming in touch with all these different nationalities is an enriching experience. FIBA Europe values coaches, the work that we do and invests in that. The development of young coaches is fundamental and it is obvious Svetislav Pesic pays a lot of attention to it, because he can recognize its value. Anyone can see the results of this policy; it is not by accident that so many European teams reached the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

FIBA Europe: In your last lecture at the FECC clinic you focused on point guard skills and offensive tactics without the ball, how will these be influenced by the new regulations? Do point guards have to work more on their long distance shot now with the 3-pointer line moving to 6,75? How are off-the-ball screens to be used now that the court is "opening up"?

Pablo Laso: As far as point guards are concerned, the basics are not influenced by the change. A point guard has to be a leader, has to organize the game and control the pace. I expect however the game to become faster, with attacks being concluded in 14 seconds or so, which means a point-guard will have to be able to take decisions even more rapidly.

It's true that a guard's exterior shot must now consist a threat more than ever, otherwise the defending side will have the luxury of closing in below the basket, but I consider the work in other offensive aspects equally important, as we search to create and utilize available space.

For example, up to now it was quite common to create a play to position a player at the corner to take a free three-pointer, but now there will be so little space left between the lines, that he won't be able to get into position fast enough without ending up stepping on one of them.

This is where the work of the coach comes in, the way we use screens on and off the ball to create spaces and where exactly in relation to the arc we use them, will have to be modified.

FIBA Europe: The path you followed was the ideal one, in the sense that you had a very successful career as a player before becoming a coach. Through the FECC program, you've come in contact with young basketball coaches from all over Europe, most will not have progressed in the same way, what is your advice to them?

Pablo Laso: The number one thing a coach must have is passion. I honestly cannot understand a coach who doesn't experience basketball at 100%, who doesn't live and breathe for this sport and is not passionate about his work.

In my opinion, we should be directing the players, so that they in turn can direct the game. The main aspect of our work is to guide the players to render them able to make the important decisions on court in split seconds.

We do this through meticulous preparation on all levels, working with the players on both the physical and the technical side, so that they are well-equipped to face any situation. As a coach you aim for constant improvement, it is your job that your players become better day by day.

It is of course the younger players that require more attention, because they are like sponges and can learn very fast, but any player, even the more accomplished one at a mature age, can still improve on aspects of his game or add something new to it. It could be small things in the way he dribbles, or his jump shot style etc. but details can make the difference.

The biggest challenge however is probably the work on the psychological aspect, since you deal with different personalities, different ages and different nationalities or cultural backgrounds and it is your job to keep this diverse group of people highly motivated at all times.



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