Xavi Pascual, FC Barcelona Regal

May 03, 2013 by Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net Print
Xavi Pascual, FC Barcelona Regal
Xavi-PascualXavi Pascual has FC Barcelona Regal in its fourth Final Four in his five years as full-season head coach. Pascual brought Barcelona close to perfection for many months, winning 23 of their first 25 Turkish Airlines Euroleague games this season. When the going got tough – down 1-2 in the best-of-five playoffs series against Panathinaikos Athens and with signature player Pete Mickeal out for the season – Pascual managed to get the best from his team to overcome the Greens and get to London. Pascual is the only Spanish coach to have won the Euroleague title in more than three decades; Pascual and Barcelona captured the trophy in 2010. Barcelona has already won one title this season – the Copa del Rey – but Pascual wants much more, starting with the most important. It will not be easy, as archrival Real Madrid await for a very special edition of El Clasico in the Euroleague semifinals. Pascual expects it to be like no other Barcelona against Madrid games he has ever been a part of before, as he said in this Euroleague.net interview. "I don't know how it will feel to play against them outside Spain, in an unusual environment, but this is always a special game," Pascual told Euroleague.net. "We are top sports rivals in an important game to win a very important title."

Hello, coach. Congratulations on reaching your fourth Final Four in five years. Has this been the most difficult road to the Final Four since you are at Barcelona?

"When I first I got here is was also tough because we played a five-game playoffs series against Caja Laboral. I believe that we managed to beat one of the best teams that Caja Laboral had ever put together. It was really difficult to get to the Final Four in Berlin, too. It is at the same level, but since this one is more recent, it looks like the most difficult one."

Your team had to overcome Panathinaikos in five tough games to make it to London. Does that playoffs series give you the mental strength needed to do well in the Final Four?

"The Final Four is always special in itself. Many of the mental aspects go down to the final moments - how you feel, how you start the game and many different things. On the other hand, I think it gives us some extra mental strength even though I am sure that all other three teams which managed to get to London also have it. When you get there, everyone gets the same special feeling."

Of course, it must have been tough to lose Pete Mickeal in the middle of the season. How difficult was it for you to adjust to the new situation?

"It has been tough. Pete is a unique player due to his own particular skills. A lot of things that we did were based on those skills, so we had to adapt and do different things and find another way to win. It is obvious that we cannot replace him, but what we can do is, like I said, find another way to win."

You did a great job at distributing minutes and controlling each player's physical shape until now. In what physical and mental condition does Barcelona arrive to the Final Four?

"Mentally, I think we arrive in good form in general. There are particular cases that must be determined in these final days. Physically, we will arrive really balanced, too. We will be in good condition even though the series against Panathinaikos wore us down a lot. Contrary to other years, there is less time to recover, at all levels, for the Final Four, but I think we will arrive in London in good shape."

You face Real Madrid in the semifinals. It is these teams' first Final Four meeting since 1996. How special is to play Madrid in a Final Four environment?

"Well, I don't know because I have not been through that. I think that a Euroleague semifinal is already special by itself. I don't know how it will feel to play against them outside Spain, in an unusual environment, but this is always a special game. We are top sports rivals in an important game to win a very important title. Of course, it will be very special."

Xavi Pascual - FC Barcelona Regal - EB12It's no secret that both clubs are big sports rivals. How would you explain this rivalry to someone not living in Spain or not familiar with it?

"In this game, the winner gets a lot of credit and the loser is in a tough situation. That would be the recap; the winner wins a lot and the loser loses a lot. The deception is always bigger when you play a game like this. The happiness is also bigger when you win, too. This is a maximum sports rivalry and everything that comes with it."

Real Madrid is really strong at the wings, especially with Rudy Fernandez and Jaycee Carroll. How difficult will it be to contain them, especially now that Mickeal will not be there?

"Well, both are very special players. We are talking about two of the best players in the competition and therefore, it is really difficult to play defense against them. Sometimes you need to attack them in order to play defense against them and that is not always easy to do, especially without Pete. We have faced each other and the good part is that we know them well – as well as they know us, logically. We have to make up some aspects tactically or individually."

Final Four experience is on your team's side. Jasikevicius won four titles and Navarro is the perfect leader for your team. How important is to have these two players, who won several Euroleagues, in a situation like this?

"Obviously, these two players are members of our roster, among many other things, for moments like these. On the other hands, if we don't count Navarro and Saras, the rest of the team has relatively little experience in games like this. Maybe by having these two players, we start with some sort of advantage, in the sense of being more experienced, but globally, everything is very balanced."

CSKA Moscow will face Olympiacos Piraeus in the other semifinal. You faced both teams this season. How do you see that game? What will be the keys to that game?

"I believe that both teams are really different. Olympiacos creates through the pick and roll, in different situations. Its game is based on what their backcourt players can generate off the pick and roll. They don't use too much low post or blind screen situations for shooters, but different pick and rolls. On the other hand, CSKA is a different team. They use the pick and roll, but just as another resource. They use blind screens and especially the low post to create a lot of options. Offensively, we are talking about two very different playing styles. Defensively, they are also different, when it comes to structures. It will be their first game since last year's final and that is always special. It is very important to visualize the game when you haven't faced an opponent and that is always difficult. Anything can happen in the Final Four, as we saw last year. It will be an attractive game to watch, a rematch of last year's final, there are a lot of pending issues."

You are the only Spanish coach to win the Euroleague in 30 years. Barcelona is the only Spanish team to lift the trophy since 1995. What would it mean for you and for the club to win another Euroleague title?

"It would be the greatest. It is the biggest title you can win in Europe, for any club. It would be fantastic for everyone in the club. It sounds typical, but it is true; what we are thinking right now, what's in our heads is to earn the right to play the final. We are trying not to think about anything else, but it is obvious that right now, all four teams are two wins away from winning the title, as close as two wins. It means that you have gone really far in the competition. We have maximum expectations. Winning the title would be awesome!"