Coaching fraternity, Velimir Perasovic, UNICS: 'Smart coaches taught me good things'

Dec 28, 2021 by Igor Petrinovic, Print
Coaching fraternity, Velimir Perasovic, UNICS: 'Smart coaches taught me good things'

Velimir Perasovic has roamed the benches for nearly two decades as a head coach in his native Croatia, Spain, Turkey and now Russia. He has an amazing trophy collection from his playing days as a three-time EuroLeague champion with the legendary Jugoplastika Split, a gold medalist at the World Championships and EuroBasket with Yugoslavia, as well as an Olympic silver medalist with Croatia.

He was also an unprecedented five-time Spanish League top scorer and Perasovic has translated the knowledge gained over his two decades as a player career into a highly successful coaching career, which he started in 2003.

Perasovic's success on the bench originated from a combination of how he understood the game as a player and by learning from some of the great coaching minds that he was lucky to have teach him over the years.

"I cannot name only one coach," Perasovic said. "During my playing career, I had a lot of great coaches. I can tell you Bozidar Maljkovic in Jugoplastika and the late Duda Ivkovic in the national team. Also we worked sometimes with Aca Nikolic and Kresimir Cosic."

"A player who thinks two steps ahead of the others, I think those are the kind of players who can be great coaches."

The latter two coaching greats shaped generations of young players and coaches in the former Yugoslavia who have left an incredible imprint on all of European basketball. The common denominator for Perasovic and his teammates at that time was the work ethic they had instilled.

"In that time we were coming from the coaches like Cosic and Slavko Trninic, where we learned to work a lot," he said.

Then, came the era of Jugoplastika, where Perasovic was a homegrown 21-year old when Maljkovic arrived.

"Maljkovic introduced us to a different style of basketball. In that moment, basketball was only offense. Defensively nobody cared too much", Perasovic recalled the mid-1980s. "But in that time, Jugoplastika and Maljkovic changed the perception of basketball."

With Maljkovic on the bench and future Hall of Famers Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja leading the way as youngsters, Perasovic was an instrumental piece in Jugoplastika going on to become the only club in the Final Four era to win three consecutive EuroLeague titles, from 1989 to 1991.

"We tried to try to play tough defense. We tried to play different basketball. I think that was the crucial moment in the career of every player who played on that team," Perasovic explained.

When looking at that period now, one of the most important lessons Perasovic learned was one that he did not understand at the time, but that paid dividends in the long term.

"When I was at Jugoplastika, I always thought I can play more or that Maljkovic does not respect me too much. But, you know, with the time you change your opinion and you're thinking and you're looking at things in another way. So, now I think he helped me a lot."

Jugoplastika, however, was just the start of the learning experiences for Perasovic as he, naturally, continued picking up little things throughout his playing career.

"I think everybody takes what he thinks is important", Perasovic said. "I had a lot of coaches, very smart coaches, and they all taught me good things."

After leaving Jugoplastika in 1992, Perasovic spent more than a decade playing in Spain, where he added new ideas to his Yugoslav school of basketball foundation.

"Manel Comas was a coach who was very smart in offensive basketball. He put in a lot of systems that I use also today," Perasovic confessed.

Perasovic played under the late Comas at Taugres, now Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, for four years from 1993 to 1997.

They both became legends in their own right there. Comas as a head coach and Perasovic as a scorer, helping the team to the 1995 Copa del Rey, its first-ever domestic crown, and three consecutive Saporta Cup finals, winning the last one in 1996 against PAOK Thessaloniki.

Interestingly, Perasovic was there a teammate of Pablo Laso, the current head coach of Real Madrid who guided Los Blancos to a pair of EuroLeague titles. Seeing many of his former teammates in the same role as him, coaching, and having coached so many players, does he find any hints to any of them becoming coaches?

"There is no rule, but you can see in the players something different and for a lot of players you can see it very fast," he said. "I'm sure that Marcelino Huertas can be a great coach. But you never know, maybe he does not want to do it, maybe he does not want to work like he worked as a player.

"But we talk about player's mind. You see a player who thinks two steps ahead of the others, I think those are the kind of players who can be great coaches. Pablo Prigioni was my teammate and later also my player. Everybody knew he can be a great coach.

"Often, they are point guards, but that is not a rule."

Coaches also spend hours and hours with their assistants. Perasovic was never an assistant coach himself, but the list of his former assistants who became head coaches includes Carlos Duran, now with Joventut Badalona; Ibon Navarro, now with MoraBanc Andorra; and Augusti Julbe.

"My assistant coaches are very successful coaches", Perasovic said proudly. "I'm always happy if they have success because we have always had a great relationship together. I think it's a good thing and satisfaction for a coach when his assistant coach goes on and becomes a head coach and has great success."

"We will always have something from Jugoplastika, and it is discipline and hard work."

Obviously, either by getting into coaching after a professional playing career or turning to coaching early in life, every head coach's path is different. But some have the same starting point, like in the case of Perasovic and his fellow Jugoplastika teammates from more than 30 years ago.

"There is Dusko Ivanovic, Zan Tabak, Luka Pavicevic, Zoran Sretenovic, Teo Cizmic. And Zoran Savic is in basketball as a general manager", Perasovic explained. "It is probably our character and love for basketball because if you want to coach, you must love this sport. It is not only businesses, you need to love this."

All of them might have different coaching styles because there is so much more than Xs and Os that go into coaching, but when trying to get to the origin of it all, Perasovic believes it does go back to his time with Jugoplastika.

"After Jugoplastika, everyone went in different directions and we developed our own styles," he said. "But together, we will always have something from Jugoplastika and it is discipline and hard work. I think everybody got that. And after that, we created our own philosophy."