The mastermind of Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz's surprising march to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four this spring, Jose Antonio Querejeta, has been chosen as the Gianluigi Porelli Euroleague Executive of the Year for the 2015-16 season. Querejeta was selected after a vote among his fellow executives from the Turkish Airlines Euroleague.
He is honored with the award for the second time, following his selection as its first recipient in 2005.
Laboral Kutxa's long-time president has been at the heart of the club's success, both as a player and an executive. Querejeta spent the bulk of his playing career with the club, even though he achieved his greatest feats during a stint with Real Madrid, with whom he won the Euroleague in 1980. After retiring as a player with the club in 1987, he became team president shortly thereafter and has held that position ever since.
Querejeta was the architect of the 2015-16 squad that returned Laboral to the Final Four after an eight-year hiatus. The team was years in the making, with several key players, including Adam Hanga and Fabien Causeur, first joining the club at least three years ago. Querejeta took the core of a competitive team from the previous season and added veteran center Ioannis Bourousis and swingman Jaka Blazic. The result was a roster that captured the imagination of fans throughout the Basque region and beyond as Laboral won games, packed its home arena and made it a season to remember.
Querejeta has overseen Laboral Kutxa's growth both on the court and around it in his nearly three decades in the front office. Under his watch, the club has been to five Euroleague Final Fours and played for the title twice. It's four consecutive appearances between 2005 and 2008 are the third-longest streak in Final Four history. He has witnessed Baskonia – as the club is also known – win three Spanish League titles, six Spanish King's Cups and the 1996 Saporta Cup. Querejeta also oversaw the building of the club's home, Fernando Buesa Arena, in 1991, its nearly doubling in capacity from 5,200 seats to 9,923 near the turn of the century and a further expansion to its current capacity of 15,504 seats in 2012.
The Gianluigi Porelli Euroleague Executive of the Year award is one of the competition's two annual post-season honors, along with the Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy. The award recognizes those who make their efforts off the court and sometimes behind the scenes to build the clubs of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague into success stories both in basketball results, marketing achievements and community involvement. Mr. Porelli, who served as president of Virtus Bologna for more than two decades, was among the founders of ULEB and later its president. He passed away in 2009.
Querejeta joins last season's Gianluigi Porelli Euroleague Executive of the Year Marco Baldi of ALBA Berlin as the only two-time winners of the award. Baldi won for the first time in 2009. The other Executive of the Year winners are: Sergey Kushchenko of CSKA Moscow, in 2006; Juan Manuel Rodriguez of Unicaja Malaga, in 2007; Ferdinando Minucci of Montepaschi Siena, in 2008; Przemyslaw Seczkowski of Prokom Gdynia, in 2010; Pavlos Giannakopoulos and Thanasis Giannakopoulos of Panathinaikos Athens, in 2011; Panagiotis Angelopoulos and George Angelopoulos of Olympiacos Piraeus, in 2012; Tuncay Özilhan of Anadolu Efes Istanbul, in 2013; and Livio Proli of EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, in 2014.