The job title is head coach, not travel agent. But one reality of coaching a pro basketball team is taking full responsibility for the team's preparation even though moving up to thousands of kilometers or more the day before half of the games. To travel right as a team requires planning as precise as that devoted to running plays on the court. FC Bayern Munich sits on the playoffs bubble with three road trips among the five regular season games left. And even though this is the team's first 30-game EuroLeague season, head coach Dejan Radonjic has done it all before, and so he came to the task knowing exactly how he wanted his team to travel.
The basketball season is full of trips. To get ready for them, we make plans before the season and right at the beginning of the season. We try to come up with a basic plan. Then, during the season we adapt to specific situations. We try to be very precise and plan every detail of every single day – not just the travel itself. We worry about everything, because we know there are many different obligations and commitments we have during the season.
My experience is that we have to be ready for something new every day. There are many things, details to think about, and there are many games. You can always expect something unexpected to come up.
In my last with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, we traveled back from Kazan, and because of the bad weather, we spent 15 hours – the whole night and part of the next day – at the airport. When we finally boarded the plane, we flew directly to play in an Adriatic League game against Cibona Zagreb. That surely was not something we planned, not something that you can prepare for in August or September. It is impossible to prepare for everything, but you have to be there and ready to make changes and adjust. You hope you never have to go through anything like that, but you have to be ready as if you were expecting it.
In planning for the game, every element is important for a team to perform well. Not just practice and meetings. For example, before every trip to play games on the road, we want to prepare every minute of the trip, every possible detail. From going to the airport, on the plane, on the bus to the hotel. Lunch, dinner, rest, meeting, practice, return to the hotel, shootaround: everything needs to be prepared before the trip.
I like to hold a practice in the arena where we play the night before a road game, but that is not always possible, for several reasons. Maybe because of the time of the game, or the flights we have. So, if something like that happens, we practice at home before we leave.
But we always hold shootarounds the morning of the game, even if we have practice in the same gym the night before. We always have a plan for what we do in a shootaround. My philosophy is that it's normal to have a game-day practice, regardless of whether we play at home or on the road. The only time we don't do it is if we have a German League game at 3 p.m., but that's a different situation and too early to hold a game-day practice. In the EuroLeague, we always have a practice on the game-day.
When on the road, our players don't really have free time to go and do something in the city we are visiting because they have a lot of obligations during the day. There is a meeting, practice, rest, meals and couple other things. They might have time to go for a cup of coffee in or around the hotel, but nothing more than that.
Eating on the road is also very important. We have our plan before the trip, in communication with the hotel. We ask to have prepared certain things on the menu. And I have to say that it always works. I cannot remember having a problem with that.
Of course, just like there are many different situations during the course of the season, things also change as the season goes along. And the season goes from late September until June. For example, we do not have same plan at the beginning of the season as in middle of the season, or during and after EuroLeague double-round weeks. There are also domestic league and cup games. We adapt, and have to be ready to adapt, to prepare everything that we think is most important for our players.
As for one of the big questions of traveling as a team, who decides the roommates in the hotel, that's easy: I do.