Turkish Airlines Euroleague
May 18, 2013
bwin Euroleague Fantasy Challenge
Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
NIKE International Junior Tournament
50 Years interview: Zoran Sretenovic, Jugoplastika
Just two teams in European club basketball history ever won three consecutive titles, and only one of those did so during the Final Four era that started in 1988. On that mythical team from Split, Croatia - known as Jugoplastika during its first two title seasons, 1989 and 1990, and as Pop 84 in 1991 - only one player started all three title games: guard Zoran Sretenovic. In the third of those title games, the one that completed Split's legend, Sretenovic became the second of only three players, and the only European ever, to play all 40 minutes of a Final Four title game for the winning team. Sretenovic was perfect that night in Paris against F.C. Barcelona, scoring 7 points without a missed shot while dishing 7 assists, a record at the time that has been surpassed only once since. Many names from those teams became legendary soon after, but as Sretenovic makes clear in this Euroleague.net interview, only the basketball fervor of the times can explain how so many youngsters came together to form Split's magic teams. "There existed, as the coaches say, a chemistry between us," Sretenovic said. "It might seem very old-fashioned to say it, but I can promise you that for us, basketball came first, then having fun playing and last the money."
Do you believe that Split between 1989 and 1991 was one of the best teams in the history of European club basketball?
"Well, looking back and seeing that no once since us has accomplished a 'three-peat', I believe you can say that Jugoplastika at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s was one of the best teams in the history of European club basketball. Besides the results we achieved, my theory also takes into account the personal careers a majority of those players made after leading Split. Kukoc and Tabak were NBA champions. Radja also left his imprint on the NBA. Zoran Savic was European champion again with Virtus Bologna and played in the best European clubs. Dusko Ivanovic played successfully in Spain, France and Switzerland. Petar Naumoski was for many years the best player of Efes Pilsen. Goran Sobin, Luka Pavicevic, Aramis Naglic and I myself also played on good teams. And you can't forget that our coach, Boza Maljkovic, won two more titles and was national champion in France, Greece and Spain."
It's strange that many of those players are still in basketball as coaches. You, Luka Pavicevic, Dusko Ivanovic, Zan Tabak...
"There's nothing strange about it, to me. For most of us, basketball was everything. It gave us a lot and it's logical to stay in it. I can't be an engineer or an electrician when I didn't prepare myself for those professions. But I can be a coach because that's what I've done all my life, and what's more, I have had lots of good coaches to learn from."
Split's first title, in 1989 in Munich, was a complete surprise. No one expected such a young and inexpert team to triumph there. What was the secret?
"Probably the presence of The Professor, Aleksandar Nikolic, a true sage who worked a lot with us, asking us to go over small details up to a thousand times. He know how to prepare us and aftewards how to relax us, playing cards and joking around."
But your coach was Bozidar Maljkovic...
"Of course, enormous credit belonged to Boza, first because he had convinced The Professor to help us and to help him. Second, Boza was impeccable directing the games, like a veteran. For example, his decision during the semifinal to have me guard Doron Jamchy of Maccabi was key. Jamchy was almost unstoppable, but I had him the last 12 minutes and he scored not a single point more. In those days, it was unthinkable that a point guard defend a shooting guard and great shooter like Jamchy."
What about the final, against F.C. Barcelona?
"More of the same, but with incredible self-confidence after the victory over Maccabi in the semi. The experts say that a team usually loses its first big final, but we played well enough to win it."
There were no other secrets?
"The atmosphere on that team would be something difficult to find on today's teams. There existed, as the coaches say, a chemistry between us. It might seem very old-fashioned to say it, but I can promise you that for us, basketball came first, then having fun playing and last the money. That's the only explanation as to why we dominated against teams with budgets that were much, much bigger than ours."
How do you define each of the three titles between 1989 and 1991?
"The first, 1989 in Munich, I appreciate most. We went there as young unknowns, with only our talent and great ambition. Second, 1990 in Zaragoza, was no longer a surprise. All of Europe knew us and we finished first in the previous round, but it was saying something that we beat Barcelona in what was almost its homecourt, in Zaragoza, in front of thousands of its fans who went there. The third title, I'd say, was the triumph of the eternal substitutes. In 1991 in Paris, only Kukoc remained of the great stars. We played without Radja, Ivanovic and Sobin, but in their stead, we were able to take advantage of players who in previous years played less. I'm referring to Tabak, Naglic and even Perasovic and Savic. It was very strange, though, to see Boza Maljkovic, our coach from the previous two seasons, on the opposite bench."
How did so many great players come together at the same time in Split?
"It was the golden era of Yugoslav basketball. We had a very strong domestic league, like the Spanish League now. The favorites were never sure of being able to win in Cacak, Sibenik, Skopje. The national team was European champion in 1989 and 1991, world champion in 1990, winner of the Goodwill Games in Seatlle that same year, and had also been silver medalist in the Seoul Olympics, with huge stars. Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac and Zarko Paspalj were among a pioneer class of Europeans in the NBA. Basketball was the most popular sport in the country, and from that atmosphere, great players always emerge."
Monday, April 07, 2008