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Joan Plaza, Unicaja: 'For everything, there is a reason'

Feb 06, 2018 by Joan Plaza - Malaga, Spain Print
Joan Plaza, Unicaja: 'For everything, there is a reason'

Unicaja Malaga head coach Joan Plaza is a man for all seasons, not just basketball. Besides being a two-time 7DAYS EuroCup champion and long-time bench presence in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, he is a twice-published novelist with another work of fiction on the way, and he engages fans of both his professions with his own website (www.joanplaza.com). In this edition of Coaches Corner, he talks about the benefits of taking all his many interests public and hearing back from all kinds of people who follow him.

We live in a day and age where media, internet and the like give us instant access to all kinds of information. Basketball is no exception to this. Clubs, coaches and especially players have Twitter accounts and can be in touch with anyone at any time. It's almost impossible to turn your back on this reality and isolate yourself, but some people find it easier to stay in contact with fans through social media than others. That's the reason, for instance, why I do not have a personal Twitter account. I just can't have that constant feedback from fans or people who follow me. People want to know about you every day and I just can't keep up with that.

To be able to dedicate myself to what I have always dreamed of leads me to want to convey some of the knowledge that has led me to this point. That is why I have my website (www.joanplaza.com). I have worked hard to be a basketball coach, I have done other jobs in the past, but in the end, I have been able to earn a living doing what I like the most. So I have heard that I should give back something of that happiness, either through basketball exercises, my thoughts, or my experiences in general -- things that I would have liked to have in the past -- and explain them to young coaches, to help prevent them from committing the same mistakes.

I made a commitment to respond to everything I can -- suggestions, comments, questions, etc. -- once a month. I have a lot of respect for the people who communicate like this two or three times a day, but I cannot do it. But I think it's good that we coaches are aware of our place in this media world. For example, here in Malaga, they have the idea that I am a bit introverted, that I am a serious person. But I do not think of myself in that way. Yes, I try to be strict and, as someone who has worked hard to get here, very professional. But on my website, I think people will also discover that -- apart from basketball, my passion -- I like literature and music. I also recommend places to visit. In short, it is a different side of me, without the work attire, which can only be positive.

Since coaches are the authority figures on teams, it's possible that the opinions we make known in the media maybe are more respected than those of players. It's true that coaches are normally taken as more serious and adult individuals, and that perspective is normal. But I also think that how people see us, in general, depends on the personality you show them over time, not just during one game or two. I don't think that a new coach would be taken more seriously than a veteran player just because he's the coach. There is a process, a long career, that can grant a person credibility or not.

Everything has its process, and I am also new to this world of social networks and I do not want anyone to write or tell me what I can say or not say. That is why I make an effort to decide what comes out publically, whether writings or thoughts or drills for new coaches, curiosities ... I am constantly finding new drills from other coaches around the world, and as consistently as I can, I adapt those to my style. So, once a month, I collect the content that I like and share it with everyone. When I recommend a drill or when I share my feelings before a game or after a season, it is for people to acquire this knowledge and make it easier for the future.

When my website started a few years ago, it was through the publishers who published my first book. Then I could not say everything I wanted and everything was a bit restricted. I felt that I had a responsibility not only to people who like basketball but also to those who like books, motorcycles, dogs ... Now, I also have a desire that people see that behind every coach there is also a person. He may seem cooler, harder, humbler, more experienced or less so, but also perhaps sensitive and not as self-sufficient as people think, or as in my case, someone who is always learning about everything and everyone.

Even if having a website is a useful tool for people to have another vision of you, I really do not expect people to love or understand me more. Maybe someone believes you say things that you do not really apply or that you are self-assessing. It is true that the media always tries to tell the truth: I do not say that it is incorrect, but it is their truth. And therefore, we often feel that we cannot express our feelings sharply in a press conference. The only thing I hope is for people to understand why I do the things I do. For everything, there is a reason. For example, sometimes people do not understand why I have not placed a specific player in a match, and perhaps they do not know that the player was ill, or that he had been fined, or he was late to practice or that I simply tried to prevent the player in question from being injured. This is what I want people to have so they can see the whole image.

I like to write a lot. I have written two novels and the third one is on the way and I hope it is a habit that lasts, because it is something that makes me feel good. Especially because I think it gives me a more solid base to be a coach, because it allows me to explain myself better with players and the media. So I really want to continue writing and reading as much as I can.

They always say that the creators of anything -- music, paintings, texts, sculptures, etc. -- they do it, at the beginning, for themselves and for the people who surround them. This is usually something that you have done, that you would like to do... So yes, there is a part of what I write that is for me, that will allow me to not forget the things I have experienced or would love to experience. But I also think there are indirect influences from those around you. I am surprised when I go to a conference in Belgrade and at the end of the talk people approach me to ask me about issues that are not just basketball. What I am trying to say is that, while it is true that we have a certain influence on some people who see in us a mirror to be followed, in reality we are as fragile and little experienced as those who ask us.

I do not pretend to be an example for anyone. Perhaps someone honest who has persevered much to reach a dream, yes, but I do not consider myself as anyone who has to give advice to anyone about anything. Nevertheless, there are people who want to know my opinion about professional or personal matters that are not strictly my specialty and that still surprises me a lot. For example, I understand that -- although it is difficult for me to believe -- that people who have read my books have gone to New Orleans, Paris or Menorca to visit places where parts of the novels have taken place. When your words generate emotions such that someone wants to take an airplane and wants to see things in situ, it is a powerful thing.