Realmadrid.com / Translation by Michael J. O'Donnell
Pablo Laso talked to the club's official media after singing his contract extension as the coach of the basketball team.
You extended your contract after a season in which you won the Copa del Rey. How do you feel?
I’m very happy because it means they’re satisfied with the job I’ve done. The deal has been very quick because I’m very happy here. I feel at home and satisfied with the job my players did this year. It was easy to reach a deal.
It is proof of the support the club has for this project…
I never doubted that because we’ve always felt the support of those in charge of the basketball section. We felt the players grasped our ideas and transmitted them to the crowd. I think we did a good job all year and we should be happy for everything we achieved.
The fans are once again excited about the basketball team…
That’s basically the greatest victory for me because it’s what we always wanted. We looked for that from the start. I think the team responded well to every possible situation and we value what they’ve transmitted to the fans positively.
There’s been much talk of the team’s style, its fast transitions… But there’s been little discussion of the work done in defence to pull down rebounds, which is essential to achieve the former…
We have a very talented team in offence and that’s why you have to make risky decisions in defence in order to have more possession. The team gradually grew in several aspects of the game and rebounds became increasingly important to us. We proved to be solid and capable of adapting to several situations, making opponents sometimes cater to our characteristics. We will continue using this style because we have faith in the roster.
You’ve had a very young roster in a season in which much has happened…
We started by trying to adapt our internationals to the team’s dynamic. Rudy’s arrival was important because we knew it could be a temporary situation and we hope he’s with us again next season. We also sustained injuries that allowed the arrival of Ibaka, who brought much to our game. Singler arrived after the NBA started and I think we’ve adapted our players very well, but it was a greater effort for the coaching staff. I don’t think that would have been possible if the team’s core hadn’t been this strong because everyone did something to help.
How would you analyse your first year as Real Madrid’s coach?
My duty as coach is to first talk about the team’s growth throughout the season given how solid it’s been. We received great support from the fans, which I think was a great victory for us. We did very well in the first half of the season, qualifying for the Euroleague’s Top 16 and we were then eliminated in a very difficult group due to point difference after losing only four games. It was frustrating because we felt we could have reached farther. We were solid in the Copa del Rey and it was important to win the title for the first time in so many years. We reached far in the playoffs, but had the bitter taste of losing when we came so close.
Many say Real Madrid were better in the final series despite losing…
That’s hard to swallow because many people tell you that. I believe Barcelona deserved to win because they won three games, which is what matters in such a tight series, but we showcased great character to recover from harsh moments and I feel the fans noticed.
You decided to use Llull and Rodriguez as the team’s two point guards from the very beginning and time proved you right…
Coaches have to have a clear idea of what they want as soon as they start working. It was a risky decision for many and I’m happy for both of them because it paid off. I still think they have great room for improvement and both brought a considerable amount to the team’s game. We were lucky they didn’t sustain any injuries this year.
What do you think the team should improve on next season?
I think I have a very good group of players and we will try to improve on it further. I think we need a pick & roll player who can play on the outside and is a good dribbler, to give us greater options for rotations. We want an intimidating player under the iron like Ibaka, whom we missed when he left.
Will you think about it during the holidays or will you disconnect?
It’s complicated for me, truly. I believe results are very important in sports, but you should also look to improve and correct your mistakes. I’m proud of the team’s behaviour throughout the season. I will try to disconnect to regain my energy in order to be ready for what promises to be a very excited campaign.
Which was the greatest moment of the season for you?
I liked how we got together at La Nucia. The players relaxed and hung out in the pool after one practice session and they were all there. This makes a coach proud because you value those things more than others. I obviously also liked winning the Copa del Rey or winning in Siena when we needed a 21-point cushion to qualify… The Cup title is the essence of what this club means, but small details are what truly makes a coach proud of his team.
Are unity and forming a proper team the main values of this Real Madrid side?
I think so, but we should add to this the support of the fans because that’s something you cannot just get. Their support is crucial to us, as is the support of the entire club. I want everyone to stay with us next year, which I believe will be even better.