The Slovenia Times

Olimpija Replaces Its Star Coach



Less than a year ago, Olimpija went through some drastic changes when it became clear that the deficit had increased so much that the team would have to be re-structured in order to pay the debts, which reached four million euros. This became the top priority of the management and results appeared to be of minor importance. The management, led by Gregor Fric and Andrej Lah, both only in their 30's, set up an equally young team, including Tomo Mahoric, 38, who was the youngest coach in the Euroleague. The expensive and experienced players were replaced by young, cheap, unproven but talented guys, mainly from the republics of former Yugoslavia. However, it soon became clear that this team had a lot of potential and at the end of the season they only narrowly missed the final four tournaments in Barcelona. The debt was also reduced by half. Most of the credit went to Mahoric and that's the main reason why his replacement came as such a surprise. The official reason for Mahoric's replacement was Olimpija's defeat in the national championship against Krka Novo mesto, which apparently led to reduction of sponsorship. However, Mahoric doesn't agree with that: "National championship is only a matter of prestige. We didn't lose anything vital and Olimpija will still play in the Euroleague. The current system of the national championship makes the season too long and it is only natural that the level of fitness and motivation falls after 70 matches. I was willing to stay under the same conditions as last year, although I was the worst paid coach in the Euroleague. As a matter of fact, I have no idea why it has happened. The whole season was like a dream. We won 12 games in the Euroleague and lost eight. Since I had a pre-agreement to continue until July 2004 I turned down offers from other teams as I had no intention to leave Ljubljana. Basically, I am an unemployed worker now. I had already been negotiating with players who might join our team. I simply don't deserve to be treated like this. Just remember the situation in the club less than a year ago...," said Mahoric, who learned most of his tricks while working for nine years as an assistant to the legendary coach Zmago Sagadin. Another youngest coach Mahoric has already been replaced by Saso Filipovski, Mahoric's assistant this year. With only 29 years of age he will be by far the youngest coach in the Euroleague. At first sight it appeared that he had also been behind Mahoric's replacement but he categorically denied that. He had already been on his way to Wroclav, Poland, but he broke up the negotiations when he was offered the top position at Olimpija. "I don't know the reasons behind Mahoric's replacement and I have a tremendous respect for him. My priority for next season will be maintaining the core of the team. It will be difficult, though, as the value of our key players has risen a lot. We hope to keep more than half of the players. We want to build a stable team and bring the national trophy back to Ljubljana. Regarding new players, priority will be given to young Slovenian players," said the newly established coach. However, the hottest Slovenian talent, Uros Slokar, 20, has already been lost, when he signed a two-year contract with the Italian team Benetton. Interestingly, there were only three Slovenian citizens in Olimpija this year. It is very likely that Jasmin Hukic and Vlado Ilievski will leave the team, there is not much chance for Josko Poljak to stay, Ratko Varda has already left and there is also strong demand for Goran Jurak.


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