Joan Plaza’s conversation with Eurohoops

2014-12-02T15:39:43+00:00 2015-05-24T20:27:31+00:00.

Aris Barkas

02/Dec/14 15:39

The coach of Unicaja Malaga, Joan Plaza, met Eurohoops at Berlin and talked about everything! His team, the ACB, the issues of European basketball and the rumors about him and the Spanish NT. A must read interview with a charismatic person

By Stathis Trapezanlidis/

On the occasion of Unicaja Malaga’s game against Alba in Berlin for Euroleague, we met Joan Plaza outside the locker room of the Spanish team and he didn’t refuse to talk us about every issue. The Spanish coach despite the defeat, looked quite calm and confident for the work he has done in Malaga and the way his team grows, as he says step by step.

The discussion extended beyond the team of Andalusia on issues related to European basketball, the highly competitive and “hard” Spanish league and how this competition affects the Spanish teams in Euroleague. The best Spanish coach for the 2006-07 season talked also about the recent failures of his country’s national team, the changes which may be needed and also about the very demanding program and the ongoing games of athletes both with their national teams and clubs.

– We want to start this discussion on different terms, but the way Malaga lost the game against Alba brings up once more the question about how a defeat like this can influence the psychology and the progress of a team in the future.

“Basketball permits to lose the game in last seconds. You can’t have the capacity to win everywhere and always. We beat them in the last second, we lost in the last second. In your picture like a professional player you need to understand that this can happen and you need to continue. For me the worst thing is not that. We would like to win because we would be in next round. But we are in a balance of the things. We are not in a stressed situation. We would be happy to win but it didn’t happen”.

Chapter Unicaja Malaga

Core and chemistry are very important elements for every team. Last season, the Spanish coach laid the foundations for a long-term plan with many new players on the roster and a great effort to install his philosophy. But during the summer some things changed and the situation turned to be a little bit different than what he thought, since had to change six players. However as he said, the team is still in a good direction.

“We didn’t expect to change 6 players. We wanted to maintain at least two or more players of them but the power of another team or even the NBA brought us in this situation. It happened but I am not stressed for this. We become better. We are growing. Malaga had a lot of changes in faces last seasons. We have a very challenging project. We lost the games against a very expensive team like CSKA, Maccabi Tel Aviv, the champions, and tonight from Alba. Ok it could have been better but we are not the most powerful team in Europe. I am happy with how we are growing and how we fight every game even when we lose”.

About the next step and the ambitions of Unicaja: “This year we try to be a part of Top-16 and after that, to the Top-8. If we are able to be in Top-16 then we want to be also in Top-8. Last season we were close but we didn’t manage to do it. We need to improve a little bit our numbers, so we can do the next step. Also in Spain we want to play in the semifinals, something not easy because there are teams like Real Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Vitoria, Gran Canaria, which is undefeated until now in Eurocup. A lot of good teams. This is the way, making short steps each time”.

The effect of the strong competition in ACB in Spanish Euroleague teams

“Of course things are different compared with other teams which taking part in an easier domestic league. I coached in Lithuania, so I was able to see the difference when I was there. I think it’s better for the competition, for the ACB because the first team can lose to the last team. The difference is not as big as is in Greece or in Russia or in Lithuania or in other countries. In Spain all the games are on Saturday and Sunday. There is no option for another day like Monday for example as in Greece or Russia. But this is the rule and we don’t need to look for excuses. We also play during Christmas. If we participate in Top-16, we are going to play about 9 games in 15 days. This is the rule. It‘s not time to cry and looking for excuses. The ACB is an old competition like the other domestic leagues and in past Euroleague had to adapt to this. But right now as Euroleague is growing, it is quite tough for some teams”.

– Coach we don’t know if it’s coincidence, but if you look at the teams that have won the Euroleague during the last ten years all are groups with no particular competition in their domestic leagues. Apart from Barcelona in 2010 there are the two Greek teams, CSKA and Maccabi

“That’s true, but you don’t need to look for excuses. The players need to understand the meaning also of all this. It’s better to try not look at this difficulties, the different situations. In NBA they play every two days, although they fly with their own airplanes etc. All the authorities, federations, FIBA, Euroleague and domestic competitions need to find the way to avoid creating difficult schedules, even in summertime or now. I hear that FIBA is going to have games during the season. What I want is for people to sit on the same table and think. If we pushing players too much, they are going to break down. I am not in politics, I’m just a coach but I think the players need to rest, the competitions need to adjust to each other, because if not, there will be one competition which is going to break all the Europe competitions for us. They need to be smart and reduce the tension and effort needed of some competitions for the best of the basketball”.

The “bonding” with Zalgiris

“My first experience abroad (Zalgiris-Lithuania) was incredible, although it was quite bad for my salaries because we had the problems with the banks which are well known. In any case, even If I knew that I would have these problems, I would make the same choice because everything else were very good. We had great chemistry. The chemistry with the fans, the chemistry also inside the club was unbelievable. And even when we were facing problems with the salaries, we talked with the players and most of us decided to stay and won the championship. The way we did it was incredible, the people were really friendly with me and my family. What I wish is not only to play against them, maybe in Top-16, but also in the future to have the chance to coach them again and create a really good new team. Maybe it is just a dream, I don’t know! I had a really good time and I will never forget this club”.

Chapter Spanish National Team

The name of Joan Plaza has been heard as a candidate to take over the coaching of Furias Rojas. He denies having spoken personally with the federation, but he is openly explains how he sees the situation in the team right now as a fan, outside the locker rooms.

“Many many people talk about this, about 2-3 persons who could coach this team. Like before, I told you maybe 20 years ago if I knew that some journalists on radio and TV were talking about me and the Spanish national Team, probably I wouldn’t sleep at night! But now I have a great project in my hands with Unicaja Malaga and I want to bring this team to the top, as higher to the top is possible, trying to reach their limits, their historical limits. If the Spanish Federation thinks that I am the guy to coach them and this well known rule about ACB coaches disappears, it would be great. There are talking about this, so it could be possible. But also I can tell you ten different names like Martinez, Pascual, Laso, Casimiro etc. There are many good Spanish coaches they could coach the Spanish national team and maybe they deserve it more than me. I don’t dream about this. If finally the door is open for me, it could be great, but if not, I have big challenge in my hands already”.

“When you win too much, then you relax too much “

– What would you change in the national team? Or it was just two failed tournaments and no changes are needed?

“You know, nobody knows. You are not inside the locker rooms, to know what are you going to switch. From outside you can look a game, you can see some practices. I know some players because I coached them in past but in any case till you are not into the situation, you can’t know exactly what you need to change. I’m hearing many things, many people told me about many things, but I need to feel this kind of options in my skin. It’s true that the last years we are not in the same level, but I don’t know exactly the reason. In Spain we say that when you win too much, then you relax too much. Maybe we don’t have the same attention. I’m taking like I fan, I don’t know. I am not inside the gym and the locker rooms. If I was I could know what happened. Maybe, I would have been worse, I don’t have magical powers. I’m just a simple coach who tries to do his best even in Spain, in Greece, in Lithuania or wherever in a club or in a national team”.

About the rumors about the Greek National Team last summer

“The things that don’t happen is better not to talk about them. If you had asked me last summer, I could say for sure that it could be a very big honour for me to coach the Greek national team. It is a great team with great players. There are also a lot of good Greek coaches who may deserve more the chance to coach their national team. In any case it is big honour for everyone when some people from another country (even for a club or a national team) believe that you are able to coach their team”.