Friday, October 1, 2010

The unparalleled Serbian school. Interview with coach Aleksandar Vrzina

Aleksandar Vrzina is an emerging serbian coach. At only 35 he has an impressive resume so far: in 1999-2000 he was the youngest coach in former-Yugoslavia pro leagues when he took the helm at Sabac. Then he had experiences in Bosnia with Radnik Bjieljina while in the last five years he has been in Ukraine where he was the head coach of Khimik-OPZ Yuzny and Gryfony-Symferopil in the ukrainian Superleague and european cups as well.

Coach, when did you first know what you wanted to do for a career?

I was a promising guard when due to a spinal surgery I had to stop playing when I was only 21 year old. I didn't have any other option, I had to quit my pro basketball career as a player. One year later, I had the chance to talk to my former coach and he asked me if I wanted to start coaching assisting him. It was a fascinating opportunity and that is how I started my new career. Later on that same season I got a chance to coach a team by myself. And in my first game we won. Some veteran players told me it was a great game managing. I had a great feeling during the game and..that was it..I got caught.

Was any top level coach who particularly inspired you at the beginning of your career?

I can't tell there was one coach only who inspired me. We in Serbia have a lot of big-time coaches. The list of great serbian coaches is very long and lasts for decades. So it is hard to tell you only one name. Basketball is more than a game in Serbia and it's like a way of living, I would say. I think I got inspired with that special atmosphere and enthusiasm for basketball. Or, as I often say "I've got infected by everlasting virus"

Aleksandar, tell our readers about your professional experiences so far and also what makes the former-Yugoslavia basketball school so successful at any time?

I have been coaching at high level in the last 8 years. I spent the last five years in Ukraine. It is amazing when when you work abroad, in a foreign country. Your responsibility is much higher than in your home country. And I love coaching young team, with perspective guys with talent and work ethic: in that case you really can focus on trying to improve your players and work hard to develop their basketball skills. But I definitely like to teach my players also how to behave as adult people off the court. We are living in very tough times. Nowadays it's not easy to keep youngsters in the gym: there are so many things, and some of them even dangerous round every corner. Our task as coaches is teaching and point the right way, not only on the court. I can tell you moreover that, in my experience as professional I have coached a lot of great players and they always are very helpful, because they want to improve, they want to work hard and they want above all win. Trouble makers are often average players. To me, not always while building a team you take in mind you do need positive players. You really do not need bad people in the locker-room. Having kids with bad attitude it will be like a cancer, especially when in tough times (and everybody passes through though times) . Choosing players for your team, you have to consider many stuff: every team has players coming from different countries and it is very important to find soon the right chemistry, on the court and also off. You as a coach and your organization must be able to let the player feel themselves like at home. That is the key for a successful season. Our destiny, you know, depends on our players. We should stick all together all the time. But about former yugo school.. hmm.. a lot of people have tried to figure out that success and the reasons and fundamentals around that success is built. First, our coaching school was no doubt the best: our gifted coaches have changed the game, set new standards, rules, methodologies that have become trendy. I think that we are made for basketball. Our people are very strong, tall and creative. Don't forget then that Serbs have built their winning mentality through decades. There is something in our winning mentality, I can't describe it. Each generation has a clutch player, able to decide a game and take the big shots:  in the 70's and 80's they were Kikanovic and Dalipagic, in the 90's and early years of 2000 Djordjevic and Bodiroga and nowadays Teodosic.
One friend of mine has interesting opinion: "we are good in basketball cause it is a highly intelectual game and you have also to cheat both ends, offensive and defensive, to hide your intentions. When it is about cheating, the Serbs are the best in the world! - he laughs - I do not know, but maybe there is a little bit truth in this sentence.

What's your next big challenge as a head coach?

I have a few challenges but the one which attracts me the most is to coach a perspective young team like diamonds in the rough. And help these kids to become great players and good men off the court.

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