Sasa Obradovic enjoyed an illustrious playing career with the Yugoslavian national team in their Golden Era winning the World Championship in 1998 and 3 European titles in ’95,’97 and ’01. He also won Olympic silver in Atlanta ’96. After retirement he immediately switched to coaching and became a Head Coach at Rhein Energie Koln. His carrier also includes successful spells at Kiev and Donetsk and he is now charged with the task of establishing Alba as a permanent feature in Euroleague.
After enjoying a dream start to thier Euroleague campaign winning their first two games then lost some closely contested battles and are now facing a tough challenge to progress into top 16. Sasa Obradovic speaks to Future Stars on Albas progress.
F.S: You were a whisker away from the biggest upset of round 5 in Euroleague. You came agonisingly close to beating Maccabi, you must feel quite elated and also disappointed in the same time?
S.O: Yeah you are right, there is an element of disappointment because we felt very strongly that we could win this game. We started far too slow giving them too much respect, we managed to catch them up but we made too many mistakes in the last stage of the game. However this type of game should give us more confidence for the future. If we managed almost to beat Maccabi surely we can compete with everyone in this group.
I don’t think our situation in the group has changed that much. It was rather obvious that Maccabi and Malaga will battle for the top positions with the remaining 2 spots open to the rest of us and we need to battle every game. I don’t want to make any predictions ,I don’t even know whether having home court advantage in certain games will be enough to qualify for Top 16.
F.S: In Bundesliga you have already lost twice. How do you assess the effect of playing in Euroleague on your performance in domestic competition?
S.O: The German league is very difficult and tough. The other teams are very well prepared to play us and certainly more motivated by the fact that we are playing in the Euroleague. Because of our schedule it is very difficult to make some special preparation for particular opponents in the German league. We have to rely on our qualities and intensity in these games. Sometimes we don’t produce the same intensity in Bundesliga as in Euroleague and we have paid the price for it. Perhaps after some tough loses in Euroleague it is difficult for us to re-group and present the same level of energy almost the next day in Germany. Defeats in Europe are leaving too big a sense of emotional emptiness in us. We need to learn how to cope with it very fast. It is also my challenge to make more players involved, we have played with too short rotation so far. I have expected situations like that and we have always known that playing in Euroleague will put us under enormous pressure. We are still learning how to operate in our schedule and I, personally still learn what are the true qualities of our team. One thing is for sure; we don’t have any divine rights to dominate the German league, we need to earn every victory.
F.S: One person who doesn’t seem to be affected by the hectic schedule is 22 years old Nihad Djedovic who has had very good performances in Europe. How do you see his progress?
S.O: He is young and enthusiastic and so is Deon Thompson. Both of them are learning fast basketball on this level. I really like how they progress in terms of individual skills and also how they are helping our team. I’m sure that the experiences from this season will pay dividends in the future and they are far from reaching their full potential.
Photographs courtesy of Alba Berlin