Read below Jack Majewski speaking to Aito Garcia, one of the most celebrated Spanish coaches who shares his thoughts on the Euroleague season so far and the use of young players at an elite European level.
JM: The group stage of Euroleague is approaching its final stage. What are the success stories so far and who has caught your attention? perhaps do you see some early favourites?
AG: Of course I can only talk about teams I’ve seen so far. So far I have been impressed by teams like, Cantu, Bamberg, Barcelona, CSKA, Madrid and Efes. I would be very reluctant to talk about favourites of entire Euroleague at this stage as the situation can change very quickly. Kirilenko is examining his options and his departure would make a huge impact on CSKA. Also the situation with Navarro at Barcelona is far from certain. Certainly there are a few teams which I think should at least qualify to the Final Four but I prefer not to make any predictions
JM: You mentioned players’ movement and significant changes to the team’s rosters. That was mainly caused by NBA’s lockout and the very late beginning of the NBA season. What was the impact of the short stint of NBA players with Euroleague clubs this season?
AG: Each team has its own philosophy, it cannot be judged negatively that some teams decided to go for NBA players with little chance of keeping them the whole season. A good example of this situation would be comparing Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barcelona opted for continuity and working with their current squad while Madrid was of the opinion that NBA players will bring an immediate improvement to the organisation and they simply can’t pass on such an opportunity. They had the chance to get Rudy Fernandes and Serge Ibaka and they did it. It is not for me to judge which approach works better. However from my coaching point of view, the ideal situation is to have players all year and work for a progression throughout the season. I wouldn’t like to have impact players just for a couple of months at the beginning of the season and then build the team almost from the beginning again without them.
JM: Let’s switch our attention to the main object of our interest which is young players. Which young players are making impact on Euroleague so far this season?
AG: Unfortunately I did not see any. To be honest I don’t recall any young players, apart from Ricky Rubio and Jan Vesely who would play important roles in their teams.
JM: Why is it so difficult for young talents to make an impact on Euroleague or even Eurocup teams? The situation in the 80’s and 90’s was very different when teams like Partizan and Jugoplastika freely and successfully used young players?
AG: I don’t really know, but it is true that there is much fewer young players than years ago when Partizan, Badalona, Jugoplastika and Barcelona, produced and utilised a lot of young players. Perhaps now teams or coaches do not have the patience and expect more immediate results using experienced players. Another side of the story is the fact that there are no players who can immediately make an impact on such a high level like Euroleague. If you watch the U-18 European Championship last summer, there was literally no one single player ready to be a starter in any of the Euroleague teams.
JM: So maybe junior coaches are to blame. They simply don’t produce good enough players?
AG: That would be a far too simple approach. Player development is a very complex process and doesn’t depend only on coaches. To successfully introduce a young talented player into the professional game requires the cooperation of coaches, managers, club presidents and sponsors etc. Such a situation happens very rarely. Sadly nowadays everyone seems to be concerned about surviving the immediate future and no one has the time for long term projects.