The Coach: Pablo Laso, Real Madrid

May 04, 2014 by Print
The Coach: Pablo Laso, Real Madrid
Pablo Laso, Real Madrid

It is not every day that successful players become top-flight head coaches, but Pablo Laso has made that transition look easy. As when he was a record-breaking point guard, Laso's ability to value every player on his team and keep them all involved is one of his main skills. At Real Madrid, Laso so clearly defines each player's role that he has used the same starting five throughout this season, even while giving his second unit a lot of responsibility. His success is apparent in the fact that even though Madrid broke the Euroleague single-season points record this season, Laso's was one of best defensive teams in the competition, too.

Laso seemed almost predestined to sit at the head of a basketball team’s bench, following his father, Pepe Laso, was a first-division coach in Spain during the 1970s and the 1980s. Pablo started his pro playing career in 1984 with Saski Baskonia – now Laboral Kutxa Vitoria – and stayed there for 11 seasons. Laso helped that team take the Copa del Rey trophy in 1995 and reach back-to-back Saporta Cup finals in 1994 and 1995. When he moved to Real Madrid, Laso reached the Euroleague Final Four in 1996 and won the Saporta Cup in 1997. He finished his 19-year playing career in 2003 as the Spanish League's all-time leader in assists (2,896) and steals (1,219) – records he holds to this day.

After he started coaching in the Spanish third division, Laso soon joined Valencia in the first for part of one season. He proceeded to work with Cantabria and Gipuzkoa Basket, helping the latter win promotion to the Spanish League before Madrid called him in summer of 2011. In his debut season in the capital, he marched Madrid to its first Copa del Rey trophy since 1993, and soon he and Madrid were aiming for every title within their grasp. Last season, they reached the club's first Euroleague championship game since 1995 and also won the Spanish League title. Another Copa del Rey trophy came earlier this season, setting the stage for Laso's next great aspiration: to take Madrid's first Euroleague title this century and ninth overall.