life changed to Pablo Garcia (Malaga, 1989) Five years ago. He trained in the Unicaja quarry and worked in a downtown cocktail bar. Basketball was his passion, but he had to live. Degree in Law, was preparing his entry to a law firm when a proposal came that summer. Go to the LNBP of Mexico to be a Spanish assistant coach Iván Déniz in Mexicalion the border with USA. The logical fears of a big change lost before the possibility of prolonging a dream. There he made a name for himself and was rewarded with a contract as head coach of the lion bees. In his first season he put the team in the playoffs. In mid-June he will cross the pond again for a new campaign. And he will do it with two ‘signings’ on board, Carlos Alonso (Málaga, 1990) as assistant coach and Miguel Aguilar (Málaga, 1998) as a physiotherapist.
A very young staff, with a Malaga stamp and with ambition to grow in this world. “When you go abroad you realize the value of the organizational structure of the training categories in Málaga and Spain. It is a luxury that in each generation eight-year-olds have three teams in a club. Malaga is a luxury, I don’t know how many clubs there are, it’s outrageous. There is a level of people with a passion for basketball, but it is complicated and there are many of us. It is difficult to grow and to grow you have to leave. The level of basketball is tremendous. EBG has 800 children, The stick 500, then in Rincon, Marbella, Alhaurin, Estepona… What is missing is paying more money to coaches, so that as they grow and have to meet their needs they can continue. There is passion and talent, but you have to give a minimum”, says Pablo García, contextualizing the situation seen from a distance of Malaga basketball.
The horizon has opened with these years in Mexico. “The level of the average Mexican is lower than that of the Spanish, it may be LEB Gold-LEB Plata. The players of the national team, Gustavo Ayon for example he has played there and now he is in Puerto Rico, they are top notch. But the generational change is costing. The level of the League is very high because there are four Americans and also Mexican-Americans, the salaries are not at the level ACB, Germany, Turkey or Italy, but you get out of there and in Mexico you pay more than in average European countries. There is a good level in Mexico and Puerto Rico, monthly the player is paid quite well. The season is shorter. Maybe in LEB Oro a player earns 2,000-3,000 euros per month, for 10 months. There you can pay a player 10,000 or 12,000, although there are fewer months of competition, although they can also play in other places during the year. It is typical in Latin America that the players rotate from country according to the seasons. Our team, with the Mexican-Americans, will have eight who come from the US and four Mexicans to whom we will give prominence.”
The development, Garcia says, goes through gaining experience not only in the field of pure training. Along with Carlos Alonso, he is working on the preparation of the team for the next season and his field of action goes beyond the limits of the field. “The big jump is integral. We are not just coaches, we don’t just prepare a training session, a calendar or workloads, nor do we only direct games. If you are able to endure a playoff in Mexico, you are capable of enduring anything here. Above all is that we work looking at all the leagues in the world, talking to players and agents, we know and deal, being a small club, with all the departments and structures of the club. And that knowledge is priceless, you can’t have it. We are fortunate to have being able to get to know the sport in all its spheres. This comprehensive training is what enriches us the most and can give us the leap in quality to be good coaches in the future”, explains the coach from Palencia, who this year worked for a couple of months with the CB Marbella in LEB Plata, taking advantage of the parenthesis of the competition in Mexico. The defaults of the azulón club led to his departure, when he had two wins and the average was above the relegation places. After seven final losses in a row, the team went down to EBA.
For this second year, Pablo García relies on Carlos Alonso, who has sucked basketball since childhood. He is the son of Paco Alonsoformer historical player and coach of Unicaja, and brother of Francis. He was a player, champion of spain junior in a generation led by Manolo Trujillo con Augusto Lima, Rafa Luz, Ernesto Diaz (Albert’s brother) or Michael Lawrence. Later, as a trainer, he has worked in the EBG and El Palo and had four years of experience in USA. “Last year Pablo suggested it to me, but he was committed to the EBG, I had a junior and the mini-basketball plus the technification and I don’t like to leave things halfway. At the basketball level, Pablo has a brutal talent and I think we make a good tandem. My weak points can be his strong points and vice versa. I think I can help you with the experience that I spent four years in Missouri (United States), in Link Year, which this year they came second in the high school competition. there was carralero or this year Paul Avalos. The level was quite high, every year 10-12 players went to play NCAA Division I”, explains Alonso: “We have been seeing players. I think that, for example, I can bring the experience of having dealt with many universities and knowing how the NCAA. If you know the coaches, the culture of each program, you can even know what a person is like. If you have played in Michigan State o St John’s has played for Tom Izzo y Chris Mullin, this guy can’t be a bad person. That helps when it comes to recruiting players, because of the importance of the American player in Mexico.”
The third leg from Malaga of the staff of the Bees of León is Miguel Aguilar, young physiotherapist who is also embarking on the project. “I finished Physiotherapy three years ago. While I was doing my degree, Rai López [ex canterano del Unicaja y ex jugador de ACB y LEB] introduced me to the project Basket4Life to continue training as a physio while working. I was there for two years and the world of basketball and sports physiotherapy is what really calls me. I work here in a clinic in which I am very well and happy, but I also wanted to try that level of sport. When Pablo and Carlos presented me with the project, I said yes. I have requested a leave of absence for the months of the competition and here we are on the boat. In Basket4Life he was First National, with two promotions to EBA League that could not be specified due to economic issues, but this is already professional basketball,” says Aguilar, who is preparing for an important and demanding leap: “It is working with other types of bodies. Height, strength, experience, wear… They are different bodies. The jump to professional is also noticeable in terms of materials, where I have worked before the material was very scarce. The time, the remuneration, the treatment will be much more direct and with more dedication. It’s what draws me to the experience, being in the professional world. It is giving 100% every day. That they feel comfortable and the demand is maximum. Before arriving I would like to have the history of the players, their injuries or problems to work on. There are players who will not play for 10 months and others who compete until the week before on another site.”
The news that arrives from Mexico and the violence are very frequent. After his experience of several years in the country, Pablo García recounts how the issue of security is approached. “There are no problems, in that obviously there are things that we take for granted here and that we should not take there. It is something that is valued when you are away. When you are at home you walk more calmly, when you are in another country you have more care and respect. But if you don’t want to look for problems, you don’t have any problems. In the five years I’ve been there I haven’t had any. Mexico is a complicated country, it’s true, but it’s a matter of areas, especially in rural areas it’s more problematic In urban cities there are fewer. Mexico is opening up as a country. The Mexican is very grateful, it is what I like the most about the country. It is much more familiar than us, the value of family was lost here, but not there. People help you there, they see you as a foreigner and they turn to you, they treat you better than the Mexican himself. There he is called malinchism. When I arrived I was afraid of seeing how they accept me for being Spanish. They value us and are very fond of us”, assures the coach from Malaga, who explains what the Mexican competition is like: “There are 12 teams for next season. Before the covid there were 14 and with the expansion project to 18. But with the covid came a downturn. For the next one, 2023/24, it is expected that there will be 18 and that from four months it will go to seven-eight of competition. There the Spanish and Argentine coach is highly valued. Is it so Eduardo Torres in Jalapa; Sergio Valdeolmillos, in Jalisco; Iván Déniz, in Suns; Manolo Hussein He is also there, it is possible that someone else will arrive… Almost half of the coaches are Spanish. They are much more experienced. Based on knowledge, work and enthusiasm, we will try to match them. The League has improved institutionally and organizationally. The level of the referees, which was the biggest problem, is growing even though it has to be improved. There is also a solidity with the players, five years ago there were more doubts about going there, with security, with the problems that there could be money… It’s a FIBA League and that gives you the guarantee that you end up getting paid. Beyond that there is a baggage and word of mouth is spreading. Txemi Urtasun, for example, was there last year. If he transmits the positive experience, that they pay well on time and there is seriousness, then that spreads.”
Pablo Garcia, Carlos Alonso and Miguel Alonso. It is the trio of young people from Malaga who are passionate about basketball and embark on a joint adventure in mid-June in Mexico, in Leon, state of Guanajuatoabout two hours northwest of the capital.