Sergio Scariolo feels that his team has not only achieved depotive successes, but also “has demonstrated values of great depth, even social”. The Spanish men’s basketball team is nominated for Laureus Award for Best Team of the Year, after proclaiming himself world champion for the second time last September in China. The transalpine unveils the secrets of his team on the eve of the Laureus World Sports Awards, where the Spanish basketball team will have the Toronto Raptors, the first Canadian team to conquer the NBA ring; the women’s soccer team of the United States, winner of the World Cup played last year in France; Liverpool, current Champions champion; the Mercedes team, winner of the Formula 1 Builders World Championship; and South Africa, champion of the Rugby World Cup.
The 2019 World Cup, a new milestone for Spanish basketball. Is it perhaps the title you are most proud of?
It is a very important title that has had tremendous value because of the circumstances in which we have achieved it and the impact it has had. But I honestly have a hard time ranking titles and putting one ahead of others. It is certainly the most recent, and we still feel the impact.
The strength of the human group has always been highlighted as one of the great virtues of the Spanish team. How would you define this wardrobe?
It is a dressing room that understands the roles, very disciplined towards coaches, that has a great companionship when it comes to helping a partner who is in a difficult time and young people to soon gain experience in important moments of competition, of maximum pressure. It really is a locker room in which it is rare for a player to feel uncomfortable.
Do you think that the compliments received by the Spanish basketball team go beyond the purely sporting aspect? Why?
I think that the selection has demonstrated values of great depth, even social. The ability to know how to wait for the right moment and not be anxious to succeed, the ability to know how to fall and get up by supporting each other, also to know how to overcome absences and problems of any kind and maintain confidence and faith in the possibility of doing something well, the ability to play in an intense way, lasts sportingly speaking but always extremely respectful of the opponent and the game. Obviously there are many values that go beyond what is the mere sporting fact.
Have you checked the admiration raised by the Spanish team there in the NBA? What does it feel like to be nominated for a double reason (Spanish team and Toronto Raptors)?
For me it is a tremendous satisfaction to have lived this incredible year with two world titles in a narrow margin of time. I can only be grateful to those who have helped me and allowed it to be possible. I know this has only happened to one coach and there are many great coaches who have not been able to enjoy it. That is why I am of course proud, grateful and lucky.
What does it mean for this team to be nominated for the Laureus Awards with such important teams and the relevance of Liverpool, the South African rugby team, etc.?
Of course, the Spanish team has been an important reference in world sport for years and not only in basketball. Measuring the importance of the teams based on the successes achieved in recent years I do not know if it is an absolute scale but it would put us well above many teams that have competed during these years. But at the same time, all of us who have won know how difficult that is and the respect that all who have achieved it deserve, including those mentioned in the question.
Calderón, Juan Carlos Navarro, Felipe Reyes, Pau Gasol … How is the legacy left by these legends in Spanish basketball?
They have been those who have built a before and after in Spanish basketball. They have known not only to coincide in talent but in the winning mentality, in not complying with getting something good but trying to do something big, in not content with having done something big but wanting to repeat and make it even bigger. They have not only been a turning point for Spanish basketball but for all Spanish sports, the competitiveness with which Spanish athletes faced and faced competitions, their ambition, their ability to go not only to look good but to really try to be the best.
And on the horizon the Olympic Games, what can you tell us?
It is a super-attractive competition for any athlete for the sporting event itself and of course for the environment and the special situation that comes with being in the Olympic Village and participating in such an important event, with such an impact and in an environment of pure sport in the that there is a communion of athletes of all sports, all nationalities. I have had the opportunity to live it twice and all this seems already a reason ‘per se’ to want to be there. Of course, we had the ability to win a medal in the last three consecutive Olympic Games and it would be great to get another. We know that this time will be more complicated than ever but we have grown up in humility but at the same time in ambition and challenge.