BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
Sergio Scariolo has likened his position as coach of Spain's national team to that of a driver of a very fast, luxury car.
|Sergio Scariolo has had tremendous success with Spain in the last three years|
His squad is loaded with NBA superstars and some of the best players the Liga Endesa has ever seen.
In two of his three years, he has won gold medals.
It happened at EuroBasket 2009 in Poland, and last year at the EuroBasket in Lithuania.
Is there a coach that would not like to be in his shoes, to lead a national side that has Pau and Marc Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Fernandez and other ultra-talented players?
On Thursday night in Madrid, Scariolo took a break from his job as Olimpia Milano coach in Italy and watched a presentation for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup that is to be played in Spain.
He gave this interview to Basketball World News for FIBA Europe.
FIBA Europe: Two gold medals in three years isn't a bad effort, Coach Scariolo.
Scariolo: I hoped that when I took charge, the dream of everyone was to finally win this European Championship which Spain had never won before. Everyone was so anxious to get this. We did it. We've done it twice, so it was great. Now we have another challenge in front of us, to try and win the Olympic Games. Hopefully everybody will be healthy and we'll keep playing good basketball.
FIBA Europe: What is this challenge like for you personally? You seem to be a great fit for a great team.
Scariolo: I feel great. I feel great with the players. I feel great with the coaching staff. I feel great with the federation people. I don't know if perfection exists, because this is a very high pressure job as well. Expectations are always above the level of the real team possibilities, but this is stimulating and challenging as well. I feel great being in charge but of course, sharing the club (Olimpia Milano) job and the national team job is tough for you and the family, but so far I've been really grateful to the federation (FEB) for the opportunity they have given me and I've really enjoyed these experiences.
FIBA Europe: Have you thanked them for giving you the keys to Ferrari, as you have said?
Scariolo: (smiles) Yes, finally I have a Ferrari. It's not easy to drive a Ferrari. There are many people who are out at the first curve. We've managed to keep in the street so we're happy about that.
FIBA Europe: Last summer in Lithuania, when you brought in a great player, Oklahoma City Thunder big man Ibaka, into the team. But there are only so many minutes for players. What is that challenge like to keep everyone happy?
Scariolo: The goal cannot be to keep everyone happy, to give everyone the playing time they desire, the option to shoot, to play as they would like to. The commitment of the group is toward the final result. Of course, we have to manage difficult situations. The strength of the group is that everybody is really able at the bottom line to make a sacrifice for the good of the team. That is a good starting point.
|Ricky Rubio is doing great so far in his rookie season in the NBA|
FIBA Europe: You really stood by Ricky Rubio last year when he was having a difficult time and kept him in the national team rotation at the EuroBasket. Are you surprised by how well he is playing now?
Scariolo: No, not at all. We're seeing him do what he's done so well many times. Maybe shooting is a little bit better, but all the rest of his game is exactly what he was doing here (in Europe), what made him so special. Now I think this fresh situation gave him more confidence in his three-point shooting. And this is great. I'm happy for him because he is a beautiful kid. He's a team player, generous and loves basketball. It's a joy to have him in a working group. I'm really happy for him.
FIBA Europe: The future?
Scariolo: "We have to go step by step. The next challenge is the Olympics. We will see how many players will keep playing - not for their commitment or desire, but for their physical situation. I think the average level of the Spanish players will still be high. When we talk about superstars, we talk about Pau, we talk about Juan Carlos - we're talking about very special players and you don't find them every four years. But again, the level to compete will be there. Winning maybe depends on many small factors that aren't always in your control. Remember at the (2010) World Championship, we lost in the Quarter-Finals to Serbia when Milos Teodosic hits the amazing shot. We'll try and do our best.
FIBA Europe: In terms of players, you once brought Raul Lopez back into the team after he was away for a long time. When you look at a player like Sergio Rodriguez, who helped win gold at the 2006 World Championship and silver at EuroBasket 2007 but hasn't featured for the national team since, what are his prospects?
Scariolo: He has a chance, for sure. Of course he does. He is having a good season (at Real Madrid). Normally in a country like Spain, you have 15 or 16 players who can fit perfectly but the problem is that you can only bring 12. But the season is still long, we will see the shape and the physical condition of the players and how they will play in the really hard moments of the season. We still have a long time to make this decision.