The Slovenia Times

Time is Running Out



And just like at that tournament, it was Turkey who served as the executioner of our nation's dreams.

In the four years since the last heartbreak, Slovenia has changed coach three times. In Japan Aleš Pipan was the head coach of the team, at the European Championship in 2009 Jure Zdovc had the role, and this year in Turkey Memi Bečirović took control. Compare that to Turkey, which has had just one coach throughout the whole period - Serb Bogdan Tanjević.

Interestingly, before he signed with Turkey, Tanjević had been touted as a possible head coach for Slovenia. The National Basketball Association ultimately decided to give a chance to Slovenian "experts".

An absence of the best

Slovenia has never had problems with the quantity of great and even exceptional basketball players. Many foreign basketball experts agree that in terms of players, the Slovenian team is amongst the top four in the world. Only the USA and Spain are a few steps ahead of us. No, the main problem with which the Slovenian national team coaches are confronted is the inability to bring all the best players to championships. If we take a look at players that declined to play this year, we can see that Slovenia played without Beno Udrih, Saša Vujačič, Emir Preldžič, Matjaž Smodiš and Erazem Lorbek - all of whom would be starters for most coaches.

Which is not to say that the Slovenian "expert" coaches are entirely blameless. They have achieved good results in recent years but never in the form of medals. From a mile off you can see that those coaches are not on the qualitative level of the best Slovenian players, who play important roles for best European clubs and have won several Euroleague and NBA titles. All of the experience our "experts" have is from Slovenian league, maybe from Adriatic League or Belgian and Ukrainian clubs. Let's be honest, not the world's most developed basketball competitions.

Only Jure Zdovc is a small exception here. In Europe he is recognised as one of the basketball legends, but his coaching career is at the moment still far behind his career as a player. And he is the one who holds the best recent result for Slovenia - fourth place in last year's European championship in Poland.

Time to get it right

The next three years will possibly be the most important cycle in the history of the National Basketball Association. First up is the European championship in Lithuania next year. Then it's the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Then the European championship in 2013, which may be held in Slovenia (the other candidate is Italy).

If we want to realise the potential of the Slovenian golden basketball generation and win medals in those three competitions then the National Basketball Association will have to finally invest more funds in coaching staff. The only realistic solution is a recognised expert from the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Dušan Ivković, Želko Obradović, Svetislav Pešić and Bogdan Tanjević won European, World and Olympic titles with Italy, Turkey and Yugoslavia/Serbia. The one and only question: is the Slovenian Basketball Association willing and able to sign such a prominent coaching name? Or will the next three years be déjà vu all over again?


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