Read below Jack Majewski speaking to Aito Garcia, one of the most celebrated Spanish Coaches.
JM: We are running events which attract top young talent from around Europe, so it is only right that we start our conversation with questions about young players. You have almost built your career on introducing super talented youngsters to the professional game and achieving with them an international success. Which of the numerous Spanish young stars that you nurtured are you most proud of?
AG: I am proud of any player who I helped to reach a full potential. It is not necessarily important whether they reach superstardom or not. The most famous players I have coached in the early years of their careers were: Joaquín Costa, Andrés Jiménez, Jordi Villacampa, José A. Montero, Rafael Jofresa, Roberto Dueñas, Juan Carlos Navarro, Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernández and Ricky Rubio.They all have played for the Spanish National Team and it was a fascinating experience to work with them.
JM: In the late eighties you won several Spanish titles and were very successful on the European scene with players like Epi, Andres Jimenez, Sibilio, Audie Norris and Solozabal .Over 2 decades later you are still coaching top world class players. Basketball has changed radically recently, what are the main differences between stars of the eighties and current crop?
AG: Present basketball is played with a much higher intensity and requires more strength and athleticism. There is no question about it, but trust me if these players were playing now they still would be very good too.
JM: There are a big number of young talented players who somehow don’t succeed in the senior game. What are the most important conditions which must be fulfilled to allow young players to fully develop their talent?
AG: It is notoriously difficult to predict which juniors will succeed on a professional level. Some very promising and well coached players are not able to make this adjustment. Sometimes they cannot because of their physical limitations like lack of strength, speed or height. Sometimes they are not able to cope mentally with the demands of the game.
JM: In Turin 2008, your team won the Euro Cup led by the breath-taking duo of young guards Ricky Rubio and Rudy Hernandes. Was that the most convincing vindication of your philosophy of successfully using young players on an international level?
AG: They so deserve to be there, they had fantastic fundamentals and they knew how to use it. They were very active on both ends of the court and foremost they are very clever.
JM: In the same year, quite unexpectedly you were offered the chance of a life time, to coach your National Team at the Olympic Games. You achieved incredible success, coming second just behind a very strong US team. The final was a fascinating encounter which in fact could have gone either way. How do look back and reflect on this game, knowing how close you were from one of the biggest upsets in the history of basketball?
AG: I was very happy to be in charge of the Spanish Olympic team and to play the final game against USA. Undoubtedly I benefited from the fact that I have previously worked throughout different stages of my career with players like: Gasol, Navarro, Alex Mumbrú, Rudy Fernández and Ricky Rubio and I knew them very well. All of them are absolute stars with great attitude and work rate. Actually, the entire team was very focused and it was a real pleasure to work with them. When it comes to the final game a lot of experts voiced their opinions about the referee. They were perhaps too liberal when it comes to penalising Americans for a travelling violation. But in my opinion we had a fantastic game and we do not need any excuses. The Americans were a very good team.
JM: You have achieved remarkable success with both clubs and your country’s national team. What is your next challenge? There are rumours linking you with a several jobs including the Head Coach position with Puerto Rico. Is coaching another country’s national team something which would really excite you?
AG: I don’t know what I am going to do for next season. My friend Flor Melendez will be the coach of Puerto Rico so obviously I’m not going there.
JM: During your seasons with Malaga you had some experience working with successful GB players like Joel Freeland and Robert Archibald. However despite recent developments, British basketball didn’t fully integrate into the European scene. What is preventing British basketball from fully developing their potential?
AG: Well, I don’t have a deep knowledge of the GB team. Archibald is a good experienced, dependable player. Freeland is also a very good player and I’m very impressed how quickly he improves. For England to succeed on a European level they need a better organization of the team, starting with the contribution of the playmakers.