INTERVIEW | 23/03/2019“The fans are proud of their team and that is important for me”, stated the coach, who will reach the milestone when Real Madrid face Barcelona.
Pablo Laso is on the verge of overseeing a landmark number of games as the decorated coach prepares to take charge of his 600th match since his appointment at the club in 2011. Eight seasons at the helm, during which the team has secured 16 pieces of silverware: two EuroLeague trophies, an Intercontinental Cup, four LaLiga titles, five Copas del Rey and four Super Cups, the last of which came this season. The coach sat down with Realmadrid.com and Realmadrid TV to reflect on his tenure: "It's very difficult to talk of formulas for success".
What does reaching this figure mean to you?
Reaching milestones speaks volumes of your work. Achieving this number of games means that we've been capable of doing a really good job, not just me but all of the players and everyone else who works at Real Madrid to ensure that this project is recognised by people. Having been in charge for 600 games means that people value your work and that makes me very happy and satisfied
You've been Real Madrid coach for eight season, a feat only achieved by Lolo Sainz and Ferrándiz? What's the formula to success?
"It's very difficult to talk of formulas for success". I'm someone who focuses on my day-to-day work, in making daily improvements, whilst being aware that we're going to have some good and bad days, but trying to keep on the same track and following the path. There's no better formula than the following: work hard and try to be competitive every day and for people to appreciate the team's efforts. We've obviously got a lot of quality in the roster and we try to improve each year.
You now only have Lolo Sainz ahead of you as the only Whites' coach to have taken charge of more games than you. Did you think you'll overtake him?
I'm not really thinking about that, right now I'm thinking about tomorrow's game. That's not the way I operate. I'm not someone who thinks long term, because I don't think that does anything for you. Daily work is what puts you in your place and I'm very proud of the work being done by the whole team and the club, which really pushes us on to continue to compete at the highest level and I'd be mistaken if I was to focus on my personal challenges. I just think about how we can improve each day and I've got great respect for the great coaches that this club has always had.
You've lifted 16 titles to date. Which one would you pick out?
All of them were special in their own way. But it would always be the first won: the Copa del Rey that we won at the Palau Sant Jordi. It had been many years since we'd last won a trophy and it was on their floor and against Barcelona. The fact that we were competitive and were capable of winning boosted the team's morale.
Talking of the players, what quality must a player have if they're to make your team?
Hard work is a must. A player who isn't capable of coming in every day and rolling their sleeves up for me is going to have a hard time. I'm sorry to be so direct about it but that's the way it is. All of the players are different, they've all got their technical and physical abilities and their strengths. Ultimately as the coach what I try to do is get the team to improve and to do so I need all of the players to be committed and that's something that I appreciate in all of my players.
Over the years there have been a lot of “Clásicos”: CSKA, Fenerbahçe, Olympiacos… Which are your most memorable ones?
In my second year we played Olympiacos in the Euroleague final, and if at the start of that season they had told me that, I would not have believed them. But the team has always developed and we stay competitive. If you look at teams that rival us, we always look at it as a player to player thing. Beating such teams is always tough, we have faced strong rivals in every competition and each game has a certain importance for us. That's part of Real Madrid, everyone at the club wants to win. Fenerbahçe, CSKA, Efes, Baskonia, Barcelona ... they are all great teams that want the same thing as us, we have always taken that competitive nature in our stride.
With you as coach, Real Madrid win on average two titles per season. Having won the Super Cup, are you hoping to win the treble?
If two is the average, I'm not sure we'll manage that. I don't like to focus on titles too much but obviously in sport you compete in order to win. I am happy with the titles and championships, I focus on the day to day, the team's development, and winning or losing, because it is a “cheap” reward for your effort. As a coach, I have to get the most out of the team, sometimes you win, sometimes you don't, but I feel like people are proud of the team, they always work hard, and for me that is important.
You have given debuts to twelve youth team players, what role does the youth team have for you?
Without the youth team we wouldn't be who we are. The idea of the club starts when a child comes in at 12 years of age. You have to know how to compete and what wearing the jersey means. I cherish what all of our players put in and the great work of Alberto Angulo. Thanks to him and all the coaches of the club we get competitive players who then go on to play in the first team. Not everyone will get there, that would be impossible. I wish they could, but we are proud of the work the youth team does, we have achieved many titles in recent years and great players have come out of the youth categories due to the hard work they put in.
The link between the team and the fans at the Palacio is inextricable. Some of that is down to you ...
I always look back to the day we lost against Fenerbahçe and we were knocked out of the Final Four. That day the team fought so hard, but it was a magnificent symbol of what the fans do for us. The fans saw the work the team put in and that is something that is not achieved just by winning. Obviously, winning helps but the fact that people support you through the good times, the bad times, and days like that when you lose and people still back you, recognising the work the players put in, it speaks volumes about that harmony we have. They want to see the team fight, persevere, win and always give their best. From the very first day we tried to show it back to the fans because they show us support and the proof is that the Palacio is always full.