You know a player was loved when fans invent a song by putting his name to a Beatles tune and then remember it almost a decade later. Such remembrances were among the Fan Mail received by RheinEnergie head coach Sasa Obradovic, who has left a trail of happy supporters from three capitals - his native Belgrade, Berlin and Rome. It was at that last stop that fans sang "Obradí-Obradá-Obrado-VÍC....la la la la la la" However much he was loved as a player, the Fan Mail makes clear that Obradovic is already making his name as a new-generation coach from the Serbian school on the bench of RheinEnergie. And as he asserts in his answers, Obradovic intends to honor that tradition for as many years as possible. "I am planning to do this a long time," Obradovic said. "This is me. With my personality and emotions, it would be really hard living without basketball, and fortunately, this is the job that will keep me alive in the sport after a long playing career."
Hello Sasa. German teams have traditionally competed respectfully in the Euroleague, since the era of Bayer Leverkusen and later Alba Berlin, however they have never managed to provide a serious challenge for Final Four places. Can you see this happening in the near future?
Angelos Georgiou - Pireaus, Greece
"I definitely do see a chance, but they need to be patient and work consistently. Alba had a time when they were close, but it's very hard to compete against big teams when they invest much more money than in Germany. With money, you can buy quality. For us right now, it is more important to have one team on the highest level and produce young German players so as to have something in the future. Without those young German players, it's going to be hard, unless someone invests much more money than now: then, you might have a chance. But money alone is not always a good solution, because you have to have German players being produced, which is a problem the last few years. If you look at the national team, without Dirk Nowitzki, competing would be much, much harder. If you don't have that base of good German players, it's always going to be hard. But it can't happen tomorrow. It's all about time and patience."
Dear Mr. Obradovic. Your transformation from a coach's right hand and mind on the court to a great new coaching name from the former Yugoslavia has been really fast. Do you know what is the recipe that brings out so many great coaches from the republics of former Yugoslavia like Maljkovic, Ivkovic, Obradovic and Ivanovic - just to name a few - with yours hopefully being the next great name?
Mitja Krizan - Slovenija
"There is no recipe. First, OK, there is good dedication to the work, thinking and living with it well enough to succeed. But that's only one thing. There is also your temperament - how players beleive and commit to you. The most import thing is the practice, of course, and then in the games, the reaction to good or bad situations. There is also setting up good programs with good players and good competitions. All this goes into making a coach better. It's a job like all others. You need experience to be on a high level, and knowledge that grows each day. Those depend on how much you invest and want to know. What makes the difference? There is not one pure recipe for being a successful coach: it depends on many factors. A final one of them is being lucky. But even that comes from you, I think: what luck you get back depends on how much work you put in."
Hi coach! What do you think is easier, coaching or being a player? Aufwiedersehen!
Spyros and Antonis - the capital of basketball, Athens
"To be a player, without a doubt. First of all, you are thinking about yourself: how to be healthy, how to practice well, while also thinking about the team. But when everything is finished each day, you go home and do other things. Right now, I have no time for other things. It's all basketball and thinking about all those players, the team psychology, how to handle and how to talk to different players. There are many, many different and complex things that make coaching definitely much harder."
Coach Obradovic. You were part of the Euroleague last as a player with Buducnost. What can you say about the growth of the competition since then?
Antanas - Lithuania
"At that time, I was more injured than I was playing, so it's hard to compare, just like when I was with Alba and playing in the Euroleague. A lot has changed, both the teams and the basketball itself. Very few are left from all the players since the time I was there, and even the tactics that I am using now as a coach, then I wasn't doing as a player. All that makes it hard to answer. It's also a difficult situation in that some of the quality players go to the NBA, now more than when I was a player. But there are still quality teams around, especially from Spain, which I consider the best European national league, together with teams like Panathinaikos, Olympiacos and others. There is enough quality, for sure, but it's not extremely high as it could be right now, or like it was with teams from my country before."
Hello, Sasa. What will it take before German teams in European competitions become more competitive?
Martin - Germany
"It cannot happen over night and not by changing the teams completely. We made it, Bamberg did, Alba did, so a different team isn't the solution. It cannot happen in one year, not competing against the higher budgets elsewhere in Europe. That and the quality of the German players, which has to be better and better. You just can't compete in the Euroleague with 10 foreigners. You need German guys to be a main part of it and right now there aren't so many who can compete on a high level. If the teams rely more on German players, we might have that eventually. It'll take time, no matter what team is competing."
Regards from Belgrade, Sasa. We are happy to see you start your coaching career successfully. Is there any chance you will want to coach Crvena Zvezda in the not-too-distant future?
Ivo Colovic - Belgrade
"You never know. Of course, there are many people I know there. But coaching jobs are always unpredictable."
Hi Sasa. Here in Rome we still remember you with love. I hope that one day you will coach our Virtus, because you are great. Thanks for all the great moments that you gave us. How do you enjoy coaching? Good luck,
Alan - Rome
"It is definitely the job I would like to keep working at and find myself in this profession. I am planning to do this for a long time. This is me. With my personality and emotions, it would be really hard living without basketball, and fortunately, this is the job that will keep me alive in the sport after a long playing career. So this job makes me happy and I am really happy to get this chance to be a coach for RheinEnergie. Getting the chance is not easy for young guys."
Hiya Coach Sasa. I would like to ask you which is the biggest talent in ex-Yugoslav basketball today? Thank you.
Vasilis Katsafados - Greece
"It was a really amazing experience to be at the World Championships as an assistant to Dragan Sakota. Our people should not be scared about the future and our young players. We have a lot of them, plenty of people, and at each position I can choose one that could become a great player. And I'm convinced of all these players now. Guys like Marinovic in Girona, Tripkovic at Partizan, Jorovic from FMP Zeleznik, some of them are still young and already established. Even in NBA, guys like Krstic and Darko Milic are names already well known. Plus all the guys from the other countries. Those players can make our basketball successful again and live long and well. There are so many names. I am quite sure most of them want us to be one of most import basketball nations again. And we can forget the teams winning junior championships, either. From those players will come the guys who will dominate in future years."
Dear Coach Obradovic. I would like to know whether you were aware of the significance of psychology during your brilliant years on the court? Now that you are on the sideline coaching RheinEnergie, did you ever felt the need of knowledge in psychology in order to improve the quality and influence of your communication with your players, or club managers, or even with the referees? Thank you,
Ismail Yalim Ozdinc - Turkey
"I did not study psychology. I know it just from my experience, an advantage of having worked as a player with so many coaches, the big Yugo coaches, and having seen the way those coaches handled players. That is a big experience and an advantage for me. It's not like being a psychiatrist who can get into someone's head. You don't know until practice is over what's going on there. There is one line players have to follow, that all of them have to follow, but there are different reactions from each guy. Mine are different, too. Some coaches need hard words; some use another way to get what they want on the court. However they do it, it should always be with reason. Without reason, it's hard to convince anyone that what you are doing is right."