The Real Madrid coach, Chus Mateo, highlighted the faith and unity of the white squad along the way that led him to win the Euroleague title this Sunday by defeating Olympiacos in the final (78-79). “I am very proud of my players. We knew it was going to be very hard, but we believed until the end”, highlighted the coach of the Spanish team before the Euroleague television cameras.
How does this victory taste against such a strong rival?
I’m excited, we’ve beaten a basketball machine. Congratulations to Olympiacos for having had a fabulous season and to a coach, Bartozkas, who is a master of the bench. We came back and came back against Partizán and today against one of the best teams in history, which is Olympiacos. I am very happy for my players, they deserve everything.
When Tavares has spoken as he has done about you, tears have come to his eyes.
It’s fantastic to hear something like that, it’s true, there are two awards, the trophy and those words. It’s great to hear what Edy thinks of me. I have tried to be very focused on my work. The responsibility of being a Madrid coach is very difficult, I am always under a magnifying glass. I accept all criticism, because this is all part of the game. I am happy because we won, but yesterday I said that winning and losing is sometimes an anecdote, a shot inside or outside, Olympiacos could have also won, but it was us and it was like a fairy tale. An excellent job from the whole team, I’m very happy for them, and I don’t give more importance to those who say if you’re doing well or badly. I prefer to enjoy, have a beer or two and live in the present. This job is full of ups and downs and you have to control the present.
In the timeout, were you clear that Llull should be the one to shoot?
There is no one else who scores those baskets more than him, if he could catch that ball, it was his, all his teammates would have given it to him too. I’m happy for Sergi, who has had a major injury this season and has assumed different roles and has always, always helped the team. He has given us one more European Cup. Chacho was also magnificent, Hezonja has played the entire game of four. The faith they have had is incredible. We made them hesitate with an area that we did not know whether to remove or not, but we lengthened it a little more, until the end… Fortune has smiled on us.
How can Olympiacos recover from a loss like this?
Victories are part of the sport and you don’t have to go crazy, or go too high or too low. You have to keep thinking about moving forward.
How would you explain the importance of the old guard?
They know perfectly when they should do things, what is their moment. If we hadn’t played the zone, they would have attacked Edy more. They also know how to handle themselves in these situations. They have to stay fresh to do the things they can, in fact, Chacho has played more than he had planned.
How have you seen the irruption of Chacho in recent weeks?
He has arrived at the right time, it is not easy at 37 years old to arrive at the right moment, fresh and with the magic that he has always had. Thank you goodbye it has been like that, I told you that the day we had to define the bases it was going to be like that, I told you and it has been like that. Hanga has helped a lot, Chacho has remained fresh because he hasn’t had many minutes before, but when the time came, Goss and Chacho were there doing their job, Hanga and Llull have also helped a lot, they have all played and contributed in the position .
What have the players told you in the locker room?
The players have told me very nice things in the locker room. There have been tears, kisses, all the emotions have exploded, a wonder like a single basket makes you go from absolute sadness to overflowing joy, like what we have experienced today.
Has criticism hurt you?
Today, how good Chus Mateo, they will say. And no, I’ve only done my job, right and wrong. There are people who give opinions without knowing anything about basketball, giving opinions is free, but I respect it, I can’t be worried about everything that is said. I try to control what I can control, my boys, the training sessions, the coaching staff… If someone thinks that Chus Mateo is a package, I can’t do anything, I’ll be a package. But today I’m not that good either, I want the defeat to be nothing dramatic and for the victory to be celebrated respecting the opponent.
Llull, Chacho and Rudy, would you like them to continue?
I would like him to continue all three, but we will have to ask the Madrid coach next year, the club. I would like the 17 to continue. Randolph has made five, Hezonja four full-time, Ndiaye has been very important, starting… And if it had gone wrong, well without dramatizing. Hopefully the three of them continue to give afternoons like this to Spanish basketball and Real Madrid, they are museum pieces that are still working.