The curtain has just fallen on a new season. The beginning of the post-Mumbrú era is gone, a legend that covered nine years as a player and four as a coach. Ponsarnau wanted to enjoy himself again because he came from turbulent years in the always difficult chair of the Valencia coach and from the dismissal in Zaragoza. After freshening up by lending a hand to Marc Gasol in Girona’s ascent, he has returned to being Manresa’s in a very healthy environment. The squad has had the end-of-season lunch today at the Bascook and a large part of it has already left the Biscayan capital. Yesterday’s bump against Unicaja should not tarnish the work of a whole year. Bilbao Basket is waiting for the end of matchday 34, if Breogán falls to Valencia, and remains in eleventh place. In any case, the objective of maintaining the category has been met with ease. What’s more, they fought for the Cup and the playoffs for both the Champions League and the ACB. It’s time to think about next year and the possible invitation by FIBA to the BCL. The Tàrrega coach talks with Radio Bilbao and AS about a year to get excited.
He has a face of satisfaction, of duty accomplished. The last thing always remains, but this time a bad game cannot cover up an unforgettable year.
Yesterday (against Unicaja) there were many details to make you angry, but you have to make the effort to focus the overall assessment and we deserve to be happy and I also deserve to have a good face.
Have you ever had a very angry moment? In Fuenlabrada, for example.
Yesterday was a hard day, of anger, of pushing and seeing that we couldn’t get it right. There has been anger, I have found a very good level of training on a day-to-day basis.
He already knew when he arrived that the priority was to continue saving the debt.
When we decided that he should be the coach of Bilbao Basket, we knew the circumstances and we accepted them. I saw a context of honesty and having things clear. And the question was whether we could all go together with these objectives. I have found a very positive surprise, well, half a surprise, because I already imagined that Miribilla would help. Everyone has rowed in the same direction and more than anything it is a goal achieved in the first person plural.
The season has gone well above expectations.
Yes, and, above all, taking into account the injuries. Having fought for the Cup and the playoffs in the Champions League and ACB… if at specific moments we had been healthier, we would have fought harder.
He has enjoyed again as in Manresa. Was that the purpose?
In Zaragoza things went wrong and he was coming out of a bad experience. When the Bilbao option came along, we thought it was very good, because it was a very suitable place so that, being who I am, I could continue to be like that and fit in and connect. It was a success and, above the expectations that we could have, everything is super confirmed. And the involvement of Miribilla has been a very pleasant surprise.
Seeing so much satisfaction in a coach with more than 400 matches in the ACB makes it clear that Bilbao has something that is magical.
One value that the work dynamics has had is enthusiasm. The players helped. After the defeat, they came for an argument to put that enthusiasm into training and prepare themselves in the best possible way for the next commitment. It has been an enormous satisfaction and a surprise, because I have met him too many days, the team has responded very well.
Miribilla is one of the assets of this team. And the stands have fallen in love with their players.
Almost the first two proposals when I spoke with Rafa (Pueyo) to make the squad were Rabaseda and Sule, because they would help us connect with this idea. Plus the continuity of a player like Tomeu (Rigo) was important. We value him for the following season because he is cured of the injury and can help us on and off the track.
It was key to quickly find Smith when the reference player, Goudelock, was injured.
In preseason there were two key factors. One, replace Andrew (Goudelock) aptly with Smith. It was a difficult time to sign because the Americans who were on the market were fictitious, because they were waiting for options in the United States, in the NBA during the season. And Adam was left on the market due to a misunderstanding with his previous club. We got it right, he fit in perfectly, we adapted his virtues.
And the other key factor?
It was having an uncomfortable defensive proposal for the rivals. Some days we have not found all the efficiency we wanted, but most of the time we have been behind an important value. It was seen in the days that we won over everything.
Europe is worth it, right?
We have done well competing in Europe. And many players, the team, the club, the city… it has been represented by different places and basketballs. It has caused us some difficulties, which we have taken note of for next season, but in general terms it has been positive. With a view to going to the market, we are a more desirable club, and with that continental participation, we have the possibility of signing better players.
The idea is that Radicevic, Hakanson, Rigo, Andersson, Rabaseda, Reyes continue and see if Smith and Sulejmanovic can be renewed. And he is going to sign Pantzar. What do you want to promote?
There are three values that we seek: the continuity of the greatest possible number of players, understanding that there are some who will not be able to continue. That forces us to change some profile. And it is about improving aspects related to physique and quality. As we have seen, we understand that if in order to add physique we have to sign a player who is not so established, but with talent, we see it as a good possibility to go one step further.
For example, are you considering looking for a more powerful five?
The pair of fives has made us competitive, without Jeff (Withey) sometimes we have lacked kilos, but the substitute Gio (Tsalmpouris) has been a success, taking into account the moment. Versatility has gone well for us and it is a value that we want to look for. We can take a risk with someone who is not so athletic and stronger, we will see the market, the duo is positive, one big and one more dynamic.
There are eight budgets far above, it is almost impossible to enter the playoffs or the Cup.
What I have seen this season is that the eight best budgets have been right, they have found a good dynamic between the coach and the players. UCAM is the other club in economic conditions to compete with them. They have all complied. In recent seasons there were entities that were failing and had accidents, changing coaches, players… they couldn’t find their way. The current situation is a product of the fact that in the League there are more and more prepared people who make decisions. The rest we have tried, but the differences are minimal and a streak, an injury… has conditioned us a lot and we have suffered.
Smith’s irruption was key and his renewal may be too.
We are going to try to keep it going and the proposal for it has to be important, it will be reflected in an effort in the budget. If not, we are going to try to sign a player with similar or more open virtues, who is not so manipulative.
Sulejmanovic is the other priority.
It is a priority. With Sule we find many things that identify us. He connects with the club, connects with Miribilla and is the balance between offensive talent and fighting. He covers everything and gives everything every day, it would be optimal if he continued.
Who is the player that has surprised you the most?
We have identified that Álex Reyes is a player with enormous potential, with very high maximums, but also with low minimums, his bad day is a very bad day. He has great potential, the opportunity to grow with us. He has limited experience in the League. Ludde’s (Hakanson) highs have also been very high.
Let’s see what happens with him…
We have to be vigilant. Regardless of the work that Rafa (Pueyo) has to do looking at other options, we are going to work to make a team counting on the fact that Ludde is there.