Long before they were walking the sidelines in suits and ties, the head coaches of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague were first fans, players and basketball lovers themselves. EuroLeague.net asked them to cast their memories back to when they discovered the sport and tell us what about that discovery made basketball the game of their lives.
"Basketball, as is logical, came to me through my family, as my dad was a well-known player who then became a coach [Jose "Pepe" Laso]. I always had a basket in my bedroom, so I guess one could say that basketball was in my veins since I was very little. Then I started playing in San Viator, my school, in Vitoria and after that I went to the States for a year. Then I was back and started playing with Baskonia and it lasted for 11 years. Those are more or less my memories but, coming from a basketball family, it's normal that I was into it since I was two or three years old.
"It's hard to say what lured me in to basketball. It's funny because I started playing soccer in my school, but then I just switched. Everyone in school assumed, and so they told me, that I had switched just because of my background and I had kind of been forced to do so. But it was not true. Inside of me I had basketball blood running, and it just grew up inside me. I think turning to basketball was well worth it! I don't know how it would have ended if I had stayed with soccer, but somehow it was not inside of me, but basketball was. It was not a hard decision to make, but it's true that everyone in school told me that I played really well and they all wanted me to keep playing soccer: 'Stay with soccer! Stay with soccer!' they told me.
"It was not a difficult decision for me, personally, but it was not seen the same by everyone else. Now, at 50 years old, I can look back at my career and I am happy it all went that way. I am happy that I can make a living with basketball, something that was so precious to me.
"My first coach in San Viator was Juan Pinedo, he was a former player of Baskonia for many years. He ran the basketball program, a very good program, at my school, and we played in the Spanish championships. I have great memories from my first years in basketball. It helped me, probably, to understand that basketball could be something in my life.
"At that point, my goal was to see if I could play for Baskonia, the team of my city. You know, at that point in your career you do not think that big, you just set small, attainable goals. But when I made it there, I thought about the national team. Little goals that you achieve, step by step.
"I had more references in my career that helped me along the way. Many players that played alongside me in my playing years, I still keep contact with and also coaches. I have good memories of all the coaches I had in my career, and some of them are even my rivals now! It's funny that in the end, after so many years your connections are all related to basketball. I also have friends outside basketball, of course, but my career and my life always revolve around this area. And I am happy about it."