“Basketball with passion since childhood. I don’t want to be too annoying, I just want to be happy and help those around me to be happy.”, is what Chus Mateo writes about himself in the profile of a social network. Phrases that define his character, that of one of the protagonists of the Eleventh, as much as it always subtracts importance from everything, the good and the bad. “To de-dramatize”, he usually says. A good way to face the extreme difficulties of a bench like Real Madrid’s, in which whatever you do there will always be harsh criticism and you cannot go out and fight them all, not even the unfair ones. That happened to Messina, for example; he was not the only one. You have to live with the arbitrary to embrace success, take the trance out of the matter, know that you won’t be able to control everything.
The coaches who have triumphed in white basketball have always been hometown people who grew up inside and knew how to stay calm in the middle of a storm, who knew how to deal with the board, with their superiors, with the pressure. People like Lolo Sainz and Pedro Ferrándiz, like Pablo Laso. “He showed us the way”, recognized Mateo himself, Jesús Alfonso, by full name, by the way, born in Madrid 54 years ago. Chus spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for the man from Vitoria, a close figure for the players, with whom they could work individually or show any concern so that he could convey it to the boss, even vent.
He returned to Madrid in 2014, in a turbulent summer, in which Laso was about to stop being the coach to be replaced by Katsikaris, it did not happen, although the two assistants from Vitoria did leave. He returned to the club, where he almost got his first teeth, to fill one of those vacancies. Since 1990 he has been linked to the merengue entity. Previously, he had trained at the Colegio Agustiniano with which he was Madrid Minibasket champion, always as a coach, he also liked to play chess. In the white club he went through all the categories and contemplated learning some of the older training sessions when Obradovic, with Sabonis and Arlauckas, won the Eighth in 1995.
In 1999 he became an assistant to Scariolo, that Djordjevic League…, and then he worked with Imbroda and Lamas. In 2004 he went to Malaga, repeated his success with Scariolo, and from there to Zaragoza, Malaga again, Fuenlabrada, the National Team (European champion in 2009 and Olympic silver in 2012 again with Scariolo), Unicaja again, now as first, also in Fuenla, China… On April 30, 2015, he made Doncic’s debut because Laso had been expelled and, last June, he took the reins of the team in the league conquest after the heart attack of the man from Vitoria, which ended with his departure for “health reasons”, this is how the official announcement read, but with some forms that are still not understood. In fact, his relief was suspected in the previous months.
Madrid’s bet was Mateo, who thought about it and answered yes; because it was almost impossible to say no to his life club. And so the course began, with a magnifying glass to scrutinize his work, each step. He won the Super Cup, which gave him some calm, little until the first defeats in October against Barça, Olympiacos, Baskonia, Virtus and, above all, the loudest, on November 6 in Zaragoza. The team then traveled with a balance of 10-5 (now 58-20, about to exceed 80 games). In the Cup there was a setback in the semifinals and the quarterfinal playoff against Partizán looked bad (0-2), very bad, the block did not start, they played well only at times, it is true that with difficulties in the base position.
Those who blamed him for having replaced Laso intensified their criticism; At the club, at the same time, he looked to the future, he talked to other coaches with the tie still hot. And Chus, meanwhile, on his own, without dramatizing, you know. He managed to make a pineapple in the team after the tangana and the sanctions, the squad came together, brought out all its character, the old guard transmitted the competitive gene of the club to the youngsters, the coolest Chacho emerged from the waters in the middle of a storm, Hezonja matured another five years in a month, Tavares played injured and became the colossus of Belgrade. Chemistry was visible, the feat was accomplished, the comeback, they passed over Valencia and Gran Canaria, the group believed in their chances, yet another comeback against Barça and to the final.
Chus Mateo governed the ship; His basketball, with Tavares as a Herculean piece that articulated all the gear, worked; the team looked and clung to the games. The end is already known, the Eleventh, Madrid continental champion, again with a coach from the house, the sixth that joins his name to the European Cup after Joaquín Hernández, Pedro Ferrándiz, Lolo Sainz, Zeljko Obradovic and Laso. Of them, only the maestro Obradovic was unaware of the entity, but he is the best ever, and even so it cost him horrors. Three years and no League or Cup. Glory now embraces Chus Mateo, who could not help crying after hearing what his players think of him. He has deserved it, without dramatizing, surely he adds.