Turkish Airlines Euroleague
June 19, 2013
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Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
NIKE International Junior Tournament
Interview: Zan Tabak
The city of Paris, where the 2009-10 Euroleague will crown a champion on May 9 at Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, has seen some of the best basketball in European history. Indeed, some would say it was privileged to host the final game in European competition of arguably the best club team in continental basketball history. Back in 1991, Pop 84 Split of Croatia downed Barcelona of Spain 70-65 in the Euroleague title game at Bercy. The victory marked the Split team's third consecutive Euroleague title, making it the only club to with a three-peat in almost 50 years, since ASK Riga of Latvia did so from 1958 to 1960, the first three years of European club championships. One of just five players on Split to win all three of those titles was Zan Tabak, who later became the first European to win both the Euroleague and NBA titles. Like many of his Split teammates, Tabak has continued successfully in professional basketball beyond his playing days. Now 39, Tabak has risen to the level of lead assistant coach in the prestigious Spanish League, and ready for an opportunity to lead an elite team soon. "Almost everyone from that Split team is working in basketball, and most of us are high-level coaches," Tabak told Euroleague.net. "We learned a lot in those years, got to know how to do things properly. We were really demanding of ourselves and sacrificed many things to work hard...I don't know about others, but it is not just my work. It is my way of life."
First of all, let's go back to 1991. Despite being the reigning Euroleague champions, you has lost three key players and the coach before that season. Did you expect to win the title when you got to Paris?
"This is something I really wanted to point out. I have heard a lot - especially in Spain, since I have been living for a long time here - that we were a much more talented team than the others. This is not true. We won our first Euroleague title in Munich being very young, shocking everyone. I must admit that the 1990 team - with Dino Radja, Toni Kukoc, Dusko Ivanovic, the last year of Boza Maljkovic as a coach - was surely the most talented team around. But in Paris the next year, we didn't have Maljkovic, Radja, Ivanovic and Goran Sobin. If you remove three starters in any team, things definitely change. We also had a new coach, Zeljko Pavlicevic, with a very different style than Maljkovic. We brought different things to the table. I don't think that we were big favorites, as we were in 1990. We made it to the Final Four by hitting a last shot against Scavolini in Pesaro. I will always remember that season because we won three titles - the Yugoslav League, the Yugoslav Cup and the Euroleague - and also because I never saw any player as dominant as Toni Kukoc did back in 1991."
Talking a little bit about the title game against Barcelona in Bercy, Toni Kukoc played well but Zoran Savic was probably the biggest contributor. Avy Lester also had a great game. What do you remember about that final?
"I can't say I was surprised about Zoran Savic because I knew he was a great player. It is not the only great game he had in his career. When it comes to Avy Lester, however, I have to agree with you. We signed him as a rotation player, because we only had Aramis Naglic, Savic and me inside, plus Kukoc, who played everywhere. We needed one more big man and decided to sign him. He helped us a lot in the final against Barcelona. Lester did a lot of good things in that game and helped us to win."
Nobody has won three consecutive Euroleague titles since 1991 and only ASK Riga (1958-60) did it before Split. What did it mean for you, as a team, to win three straight Euroleague titles?
"First of all, it doesn't take just three years to win that many Euroleague titles. You have to work hard for many years before winning the first one. Split is a basketball school that brought out a lot of good players before us. I don't want to leave anybody out, but Jugoplastika had previously lost a Euroleague final against Ignis Varese on the last shot. Jugoplastika had won a Korac Cup and the Yugoslav League before we even started to play. The club always had good players like Zeljko Jerkov, Rato Tvrdic or Damir Solman, among many others, players who joined the national team, very important for this club. What I am trying to say is that our generation of players wasn't spontaneous. Split is a small club but one that worked close to perfection, on and off the court. Back then, we didn't have to worry about anything but playing basketball. When a team wins three Euroleague titles and features only one foreigner - Lester - in just one of those years, it speaks wonders about its farmy teams and the quality signings the club made during those years."
In 1989, the year of the first title, everyone thought Barcelona or Maccabi would win the title in Munich. Instead, Jugoplastika started to change European basketball history. What was it like?
"I remember a moment in that Final Four, against Barcelona. At some point we were beating Barcelona. Our coach, Boza Maljkovic, tried to calm us down and make us keep playing hard. Nobody expected that. We knew we were a good, young, talented team but didn't go to the Final Four expecting to win for sure. We were really happy to be there as a young team. Practices in our team were incredible. We had two great players at every position and everybody competed to play. We were a team in which nobody contributed 20 points per game, but every player could step up at any time."
In 1990, the title game was against Barcelona in Zaragoza, Spain. With thousands of opposing fans there, Jugoplastika held off a Barcelona rally to win. What do you remember?
"I must say that I had to go to the army that season and could only play Euroleague games. I didn't play a lot but was happy to be on the team and contribute as much as I could. I remember that the final was in Spain and everything was ready for Barcelona to win its first title. They were once again favorites but at the same time, out of the three years we won the title, we had the strongest team and played a good game in Zaragoza. Of course, it was very special to win again."
You went to the NBA soon after winning the third Euroleague titles with Split and won the NBA title with Houston, becoming the first European to lift both trophies. Are you particulary proud of that achievement?
"Well, a lot of people remember me for winning an NBA ring, but it is not the most important thing in my career. I didn't play much, was a rookie playing behind the best player in the world at that moment - Hakeem Olajuwon. He was one of the greatest centers of all time and I rarely played. Back then, being a European rookie was not as easy as it is nowadays. I was happy because I had the chance to be part of something big. The best benefit for me as a player that season was the daily work with Olajuwon and individual workouts with him. He spent a lot of time teaching me, before and after practice. I am prouder of other moments in my career than this one."
Most Jugoplastika players of that era are still involved in basketball. Velimir Perasovic, Ivanovic, Zoran Sretenovic, Luka Pavicevic and you have become successful coaches. Why?
"Everyone loved basketball in that team, so I cannot say I am surprised. You have to add Zoran Savic, who has become a general manager, and Dino Radja, who is also working in that field... Almost everyone from that Split team is working in basketball, and most of us are high-level coaches. We learned a lot in those years, got to know how to do things properly. We were really demanding of ourselves and sacrificed many things to work hard. I must say that it is also an addiction, at least for me. I tried to stay away for basketball for a year, not 100 percent, but just step down a little bit. I worked as a scout for the New York Knicks, but I missed the competition and the adrenaline that comes with it. I have been involved in basketball since I was a kid and once I stopped playing, I found out I cannot live without it. I don't know about others, but it is not just my work. It is my way of life."
The Final Four is going back to Paris, a great city, next spring. Having won in the same city and building almost 20 years ago, can you recommend the trip?
"As a Final Four player, as you can imagine, I didn't see much of Paris. I had to focus in something much more important! But I had the luck to go back to Paris with my wife. I think it is one of the best cities in Europe to visit as a tourist, along with Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and Jerusalem. Those are the best cities to visit in Europe, without having to go far away, to the United States or Australia. All these cities are relatively close, so I really recommend to go to Paris any time. And if it is with the chance to see a Euroleague Final Four, then even better."
Friday, December 04, 2009
Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net
Regal FC Barcelona
NIKE International Junior Tournament
FINAL FOUR TEAMS
REGAL FC BARCELONA
FINAL FOUR SCHEDULE
SEMIFINALS - FRIDAY, MAY 7, 2010
Regal FCB 64-54 CSKA Moscow
Partizan 80-83 OT Olympiacos
3RD PLACE - SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2010
CSKA Moscow 90-88 OT Partizan
FINAL - SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2010
Regal FC Barcelona 86-68 Olympiacos
Final Four Slides
PAST FINAL FOURS
TEL AVIV 2004