|There is a first time for everything - Slovenia Head Coach Bozidar Maljkovic experienced his first EuroBasket ever after 40 years on the coaching scene|
Bozidar Maljkovic took a plunge when deciding to guide a national team for the first time in his career.
After 40 years on the coaching scene, Maljkovic experienced his first EuroBasket in Lithuania as boss of Slovenia.
Among his many achievements, the Serbian coaching great steered Limoges and
Panathinaikos to EuroLeague titles.
Slovenia were without Bostjan Nachbar, Sani Becirovic, Gasper Vidmar, Beno Udrih, Primoz Brezec and Domen Lorbek in Lithuania.
Maljkovic, after leading Slovenia to a seventh-place finish in Kaunas, spoke to fibaeurope.com about the tournament.
fibaeurope.com: Why did you decide to wait so long to coach in your career a national team?
Maljkovic: "I had several possibilities to coach a national team before but I was always tied up with a club. It didn't appeal to me because you work only two months and the rest of the year, you carry a notebook and watch games. A great coach has to be like the players and referees, to be in shape. To have games every three days, to coach, to travel, to be with the players and make them mature as a man and as a sportsman. I said to myself there would always be time for that. I would only consider it if a team would offer me something that would surprise me, and Slovenia did that. However, had I known that I would not have six or seven players, I honestly don't know if I would have signed."
fibaeurope.com: Has the tournament lived up to your expectations?
Maljkovic: "It has been very good. I've had wonderful players. We have veterans in the team and five very young players. This team has played together for the first time and I think we have achieved a good result. We could have also beaten Lithuania or Russia by just one shot. To do something important you have to have luck and that I had during many years but not here."
fibaeurope.com: You have 40 years of experience as a coach, can you talk about the level of refereeing at this EuroBasket?
Maljkovic: "You could not have asked for better refereeing than we had in this tournament. The game between Lithuania and F.Y.R of Macedonia was an example of that. We saw very honest officiating, very good refereeing. It's another sign that when you want to, you can have great officiating. There has been no favoritism. FIBA Europe must continue on this path. I have always respected professor Miguel Betancor - former international referee and Head of Operations at FIBA Europe - for many years. Whenever he refereed I would sleep well at night knowing that he was referee, before and after the game. I know he would not give me something or take anything away. Now he is educating referees and I've seen new talents. I've seen many new faces who are very good."
fibaeurope.com: Have you been impressed by the high standard of the game?
Maljkovic: "The level of play has been beautiful. There are teams that are not here like Ukraine that have everything. It's a pity about Croatia considering they have a very talented group of players. But not all of the teams can get here. I've seen a very high level. However, it's been hard to play for three weeks, it's too much. The tournament should be shorter, I don't know how but it should be."
fibaeurope.com You are expected to be on the sidelines when Slovenia host EuroBasket 2013. How challenging will it be for the country to follow the footsteps of Lithuania?
Maljkovic: "Lithuania has a great basketball tradition and lives for basketball. They carry the game in their blood. I know the passion and the love for the game here. One thing I know for sure is that Slovenia will organise better than anyone EuroBasket 2013. It's a country that also loves basketball."