There is no one in Europe who can boast of having spent more than five decades training among the elite. After winning the German league with Alba Berlin, Aíto García Reneses, at 74 years old, lives a period of reflection on his continuity.
A satisfactory season for Alba ends in difficulties …
Indeed, many difficulties. Combining the German Cup with the Euroleague and the League is already very difficult when you go on regular flights, and more so when this year there have been fewer. We also had six team members with Covid and we went 17 days without training. Then, the matches that were suspended in that period we had to get them back. There were also many injuries. Hence we use regular league games to ‘train’. That worked out well for us in the end.
Has the club’s situation improved since your arrival?
The club has improved. In these years we have been champions or runners-up in national competitions and the Eurocup. In the Euroleague we have not qualified at the top but you have to take into account the level and the circumstances. Grigonis, Giedraitis, Hermannsson left and now Simone (Fontecchio) is leaving … The players progress and have greater offers and as the Alba cannot arrive they take their way.
Does having two more years in the Euroleague give you peace of mind?
Open the doors to the future. The maximum income that Alba has is through members who are very loyal and many in number. That fan support exists when the game is enjoyable to watch and people try hard, as it has been. In the structure of Alba, 50% of the budget is used for the first team but the other 50 is to maintain the structure and have a quarry that extends to all the schools in Berlin. That is why this season it was pointed out that at times there were five players born in the city on the court. That means that young people are rising and that identifies the club more with the city.
It must be very satisfying for someone who has always had a tendency to give opportunities to young people …
More than giving opportunities, which is true, it is about being fair with the players. He who is worth plays and he who does not, does not. It is not because it gives opportunities and that’s it, but because they deserve it.
There are many other technicians who do not want to take such risks.
Veterans must be respected but you must not give them minutes of play when their physical condition is very low. That’s when physically growing young people come into play.
Has the German league improved?
Yes. Before it was much more methodical in terms of systems and now it is more open to play depending on how the attack and defense are. There is a difference with the Euroleague in that most of the time in the Euroleague there are bigger players. In Germany sometimes a ‘four’ plays out of ‘five’, a ‘three’ plays out of ‘four’ and a ‘two’ plays out of ‘three’. The teams play very well but the physical level that high budgets provide is lacking. When a player plays as a ‘five’ and they take him away, it is to play as a ‘four’ in the Euroleague.
Anyway, basketball in general tends towards more mobile players and adapts to different positions without so much stature …
It’s true but I disagree with that line because there is the influence of the NBA and everyone wants to play with the ball to shoot a triple or finish with a dunk. I think you have to play with the interiors because that way basketball is more spectacular. But for that it is necessary that the outsiders be whistled the same as those inside. You touch the outsiders a bit and it’s a fault, and the insiders you push a lot and no. That must be recovered by whistling fairer for the inside game and perhaps adding some rule to make basketball more spectacular.
How do you see the future of the Euroleague?
I see it well but there is a danger: that it happens like in the NBA. That by playing 90 games in one more year then playing with national teams that leads to playing like the regular NBA league, walking. Thus basketball loses spectacularity. The solution is difficult because FIBA pulls on their side and wants to do more competitions, the leagues and federations also want more competitions with their teams … This leads to an excess of matches that will cause them to be played on foot. You can do great marketing like the NBA but you can end up walking. I fear that it is very difficult to get everyone to agree to solve it.
With the Olympic Games just around the corner, what options do you see for Spain?
I have seen only one game and I hope it is good. It will be necessary to see how all the teams of ambition and intensity arrive. Some Games without an audience are a bit decaffeinated but let’s hope they give a good result and Spain too.
What do you think of the players who emerged under your influence: Pau Gasol, Ricky, Rudy …?
Pau has been surprising because his intelligence has allowed him to play at a high level despite being unemployed for a long time. Ricky has changed his game a lot according to what the NBA is, although he is still on the good line. The same as Rudy who, although physically he is somewhat worse and no longer does those flights, is very intelligent defending and with his game in general.
What do you think of the division that the group of coaches is experiencing in Spain?
I lived it at the time and warned it. When it happened he was already more unmarked. I live it from afar now but it is a pity because any union gives more strength.
What do you think of Barça?
I don’t know because if they can’t sign players to sign Messi, it will be difficult. I think that with Jasikevicius they may have other problems but they play with intensity. He was already doing that at Zalgiris and continues like this with Barça.
Have you already defined your plans? Will you continue training the next course?
Right now I am in a period of reflection on what sabbatical time I am going to take. I do not know if two months, six or five years … I do not want to decide yet because it is good to realize that physical effort takes time to stop.
Are you being squeezed at the club?
They want him to continue but, on the other hand, Israel González is perfectly prepared to lead the team and, in any case, things will continue to work.
What does not stop is the Foundation that bears your name. How do you see its development in recent years?
At a level of 10 within the circumstances, what happens is that the circumstances just don’t like me. Doing things online is better than doing nothing but I am hoping that they can be face-to-face which is always much more rewarding.