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Decade to Decade: The Nineties
Decade to decade
The Nineties: A history of European club champions!!
If in previous decades, one or two clubs almost always managed to dominate Europe, it is difficult to choose a single team to name the best of the 1990's. Confirmation comes with the fact that since 1991 no team has managed repeat as champion. But if there was no dominant team, there certainly were dominant coaches, who by and large came from the Yugoslav school. In 15 years of Final Fours, only Franco Casalini (Philips Milan, 1988), Ettore Messina (Kinder, 1998), Jonas Kazlauskas (Zalgiris, 1999) and Pini Gershon (Maccabi, 2001) have been able to break the domination of Yugoslav coaches. The other 11 titles were won by Zeljko Obradovic (5), Bozidar Maljkovic (4), Zeljko Pavlicevic (1) and Dusan Ivkovic (1). "In Europe there are many excellent coaches," Obradovic said in a recent Euroleague.net interview. "If there is something that differentiates us from the rest, it is our quick adaptation to any place we go."
What began with Maljkovic and Jugoplastika (1989, 1990) continued with Pavlicevic (1991), also with Jugoplastika, and Obradovic (1992), with Partizan. In 1993, Maljkovic was back on top with Limoges of France. Then Obradovic won two more titles with different teams, Joventut (1994) and Real Madrid (1995). Maljkovic struck back in 1996 with the first title for Panathinaikos. The following year, Olympiakos was the winner, with Dusan Ivkovic calling the shots from the bench. Eventually, Messina broke through in 1998 and Kazlauskas in 1999, but Obradovic, with two more titles for Panathinaikos, in 2000 and 2002, has reestablished the trend again. If that were not enough, Obradovic can count two Saporta Cups, with Madrid in 1997 and Benetton in 1999, as can Ivkovic and Dragan Sakota. Korac Cups were won also by Maljkovic, Dusko Ivanovic and Svetislav Pesic. The 2002 Euroleague title makes Obradovic the dean among them, with 5 European titles for 4 teams in 8 Final Four appearances, but he doesn't subscribe to the theory that where a coach comes from matters most.
"No, I don't agree with the common belief that Yugoslav coaches have something special or have something that the others are missing," Obradovic said. "In Europe there are many excellent coaches. If there is something that differentiates us from the rest, it is our quick adaptation to anywhere we go. Personally, I have worked in Yugoslavia, Spain, Italy and now in Greece, almost without feeling any change in my life. The rest is a matter of hard work, and my theory is that titles are won in practices, not only in decisive games."
Obradovic prefers not to talk about himself:
"I know that we are referred to as tough coaches who ask a lot from their players, but there aren't two coaches that work in the exact same manner," he said. "Each one has his own ideas and methods. Me, personally, I always recognize that I was very lucky to be able to work in great teams with great players who were able to put my ideas into practice. There's no doubt that, with mediocre teams, I would never have arrived here."
The Panathinaikos coach is convinced that the Final Four formula is a great success, and that it has boosted European basketball to another level:
"With time, the Final Four became the biggest event of the season, a basketball party that unites everyone. We can already talk about the Final Four spirit, and Europe can be proud of this event it has created."
About the competitive features in the last decade of the last century, Obradovic says:
"The fact that not a single team has repeated the title since 1991 confirms that the competition is stronger every day," Obradovic said. "There are lots of great teams with high aspirations. I'm convinced that of the 32 teams who started the Euroleague last October, some 24 were dreaming of making it into the Final Four! More and more, there are many more games than before, and it's difficult to win always among the domestic leagues, cups and European cups. It's difficult to win double or triple titles in the same season, and in the last 15 years, this has happened very few times. The change in the game rules has also had a good influence to basketball's development. The 24-second rule is probably the most outstanding, but I don't always agree with the idea that a 200-point game is great and a 130-point game is not. Every game has to be looked at independently and we have to try not to generalize things."
Obradovic also sees the good trends in basketball management in Europe.
"For the first time, there are league directors who listen to the coaches' opinions and change the rules," Obradovic said. "Nothing is more normal than this. For instance, the rule of only one jump ball in the Euroleague was our idea, of the coaches that played the Euroleague last season. We have to remain on this same path. If we want an even faster game, we have to change the travelling rule, and allow the first step like in the NBA. We also have to change the rule on shooting in the last second of the possession, because it is ridiculous that a fastbreak is neutralized in this way. The team who plays good defense is the one who gets the worst part of the deal. I'd also like a stable competition system that doesn't change every year."
Obradovic also agrees that the last years have been marked by the best European players going to the NBA:
"By now, it is impossible to impede that, but we have to look at it from the positive side," he said. "There is more room for the younger players and they take advantage of their chances. European basketball is an unlimited mine, but we have to struggle against the NBA in the sense that we have to achieve the conditions that allow the players to choose Europe instead of the NBA. We have to create our own NBA and not wait for the Americans to come here and tell us how we have to do things."
Friday, March 01, 2002
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