Joe Arlauckas welcomes 2010 EuroLeague champ to a new 20th anniversary podcast episode
Xavi Pascual was still in his 30s when he led FC Barcelona to the 2010 EuroLeague championship and was named the Euroleague Basketball Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year. He has since tested himself abroad with Panathinaikos Athens and midway through the current season joined Zenit St. Petersburg. At just 47, Pascual could still be leading EuroLeague teams for decades to come. Joe Arlauckas, host of The Crossover presented by Endesa, engaged Pascual in an insightful conversation that stretched over the breadth of his coaching career.
Their chat began in the present, with Pascual explaining his recent trip home to Barcelona from St. Petersburg when the club shut down its activities due to the COVID-19 virus. They then went back in time to learn how Pascual used coaching to pay for his university studies, to hear about the day in early 2007 when he was promoted to the head of Barcelona's bench, and some of the coach's favorite moments from his EuroLeague career.
It didn't take long for the conversation to get to the 2009-10 Barcelona season, in which Pascual led a star-studded squad to an undefeated regular season and lost only twice during the entire campaign before celebrating the title in Paris.
2:30 "I feel part of one of the greatest seasons, I think, in EuroLeague," Pascual said of that team. "We remember that we played great basketball with speed and aggressive defense and in offense. So, I think in this book that one day the EuroLeague will [write], we are in one beautiful page."
Despite his passion for basketball and his time spent coaching youth teams, Pascual planned to pursue a career in engineering. Friends and fellow basketball coaches urged him to give coaching full-time a chance and after much thought, he threw himself into the game. Looking back on that period, he shared some of his wisdom with others who may be struggling with the same choices.
15:30 "What I have to say to young coaches is that, okay you have to put your feet on the floor and you have to think about every decision," Pascual explained.
It's not always easy for anyone to put his finger on what he loves about his profession and what makes him tick. Pascual, however, explained exactly what it is about coaching that draws him in.
50:20 "It’s something special for me when I have one opponent in front [of me], I have two days, three days, four days preparation [for a] game. And I start to watch games, to watch clips. And I start to feel, 'What can I do, how can I help my players to win?' This is something that is inside of me. When I feel, 'Okay, this is the way, in this way probably we can win,' this is why I am a coach," he told Arlauckas. "I am a coach because I need to feel every day that I am part of the game, I can help my players, I can help my team win. And after that to feel this job that we did was good."
After four years working in the FC Barcelona system and then becoming the longest-tenured head coach in the legendary club's history, when the chance came to test himself abroad, Pascual knew it was something he had to try in part because of some words of wisdom a EuroLeague coaching great shared with him.
59:07 "I remember one time with Ettore [Messina] we had a conversation and he said to me, 'Okay, now in Barcelona everything is perfect for you, but you will really feel [that you are] a great head coach when you will leave your country and you will go to another country and you will win something. In that moment, you really will feel, 'Okay, I am a great coach.' And really, he was right."
The Crossover debuted last season with such current stars as Vassilis Spanoulis and Kyle Hines, coaching greats like Pablo Laso and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Nikola Vujcic and Robertas Javtokas, among others. Recent guests include coach Ergin Ataman of Anadolu Efes, Stratos Perperoglou of Crvena Zvezda and Tyrese Rice of Panathinaikos Athens.
The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas is available on iTunes, Audioboom, Spotify, Deezer, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, iVoox, CastBox and other platforms.