Former Fenerbahçe Beko assistant coach Josep Izquierdo made a statement. Josep María Izquierdo, who now sits next to Obradovic on the Partizan bench; He talked about his friendship with Obradovic dating back 30 years, the championship of Joventut Badalona, his days at Fenerbahçe Beko and more.
Josep Maria Izquierdo, who was an assistant coach at Fenerbahçe Beko during the Obradovic era, answered questions about the legendary coach in an interview with SportKlub. Expressing that their relations did not deteriorate even during the period of separation, Izquierde said that Obradovic felt more comfortable in Belgrade than in Istanbul.
‘I can say that you feel more comfortable in Belgrade than in Istanbul’
“Nothing has changed in our relationship. I can say that Zeljko felt more comfortable in Belgrade than in Istanbul last season. Here, Zeljko gets together with his family and friends at home, goes to his favorite restaurants… He is more comfortable here, so to speak. This also translates into the way he leads the team. The situation was different in Fenerbahçe, but our relationship has never changed. Our business is serious. We went for dinner, lunch or family visits. We are good friends, but if we have practice or a game that day, there are no emotions. Business is business. We must do our best. This is one of the first things I learned when I started working with Zeljko in Badalona 30 years ago. It’s a method that works.”
Josep María Izquierdo and Zeljko Obradovic met 30 years ago in Badalona. At first there was a language barrier.
‘We became European champions under Zeljko’s leadership’
“We had an interpreter, but only in the first term. Just three months later, Zeljko spoke Spanish. I think he has the same energy and the same passion now, but with a lot more experience than he did then. At that time, I was an assistant coach at Joventut Badalona. I joined the club in 1988, Zeljko came in 1993. We had almost the same squad and eventually became European champions under Zeljko’s leadership. The way Zeljko worked initially shocked the players.”
An anecdote perfectly evokes Zeljko Obradovic’s debut at Joventut Badalona.
‘The players told me, ‘He must be crazy!’ They looked like
“I will give you an example. We had an excellent American actor: Cornelius Thompson. When Zeljko arrived, Cornelius was 32-33 years old and had problems with his knees. From two hours of regular training to full-court pressure, we’d try and run. Zeljko gave the players a new exercise. Do you know what the Pavello Olympic hall in Badalona is like? It is very large, with a capacity of 12,500 spectators. After practice, Zeljko said to the players: ‘See the stairs? We’ll go up and down two or three times.’ The players said to me, ‘He must be crazy!’ they looked like. At the beginning I said to Obradovic: ‘Let’s be nice to Cornelius, his knees are bad’. Zeljko used to say to me: ‘You don’t understand.’ True, at first I did not understand. I realized later that we became European champions in 1994 precisely because of such things. Meanwhile, Cornelius Thompson brought the trophy with his three-pointer in the final against Olympiakos.”
So, how did Zeljko Obradovic and Josep María Izquierdo reunite in Fenerbahçe after 20 years?
‘He called me when he signed a contract with Fenerbahçe’
“After the season in Badalona, Zeljko went to Real Madrid and I stayed at Joventut. Then we parted ways in Italy and Greece. However, Zeljko has a house in Barcelona and used to come there every summer. We kept in touch and I visited him wherever he was. We kept saying that we should work together again. When he finished his tenure in Panathinaikos, he took a year off and went to Barcelona for a few months. We talked there about how nice it would be to collaborate again. When he signed a contract with Fenerbahçe, he called me and said he had a new club. He asked me: ‘Do you want to work with me?’ I told him to give me two hours to pack my things and I would come to Istanbul. It was July or August 2013. We have been working together ever since.”
Erdem Can, who currently runs Türk Telekom, worked with Obradovic, Izquierde and Androic at Fenerbahçe at that time. After a short NBA adventure, Erdem Can took over his own team and is currently getting great results with the Ankara team. Does Josep Maria Izquierdo have a similar ambition?
‘I am very comfortable working at Partizan and Zeljko’s coaching staff right now’
“Yes. But right now I prefer this situation. I’m not stupid, I know what kind of teams would want me as head coach. [Partizan gibi] I’d rather be in a top team, be in the EuroLeague and be on a winning team. Winning changes your daily life, your state of mind. When you win, you go out with a smile, this is extremely important. I would rather win as assistant coach than head coach of a team at the bottom of the Spanish League. Now, I prefer to be with Zeljko, but I want to be head coach again in the future. Zeljko always says he will only work for a few more seasons and tells me ‘Don’t think you will always work with me’. I am very comfortable working at Partizan and Zeljko’s coaching staff right now.”
In Coach Izquierdo’s rich career, which basketball player was easiest to work with? Was there anyone who understood everything “from the very beginning”?
‘Players must first understand what coaches want from them individually’
“I was lucky. I have worked in teams with great players: Jordi Villacampa, Bogdan Bogdanović, Ekpe Udoh, Jan Vesely, Gigi Datome… They are not only great players, but also great workers and have the right mindset for basketball. This is really important. However, nothing is intelligible from the first second. Players must first understand what the coaches want from them individually, but also what they have to give to the team. It is a great pleasure to work with such basketball players.”
Who was the most devoted and passionate player to basketball among the players Izquierdo worked with?
‘Bogdan used to shoot 500 shots after every practice’
“Bogdan Bogdanovic. We had many more valuable basketball players. Gigi Datome, Kostas Sloukas… But Bogdan stands out. We’d come back from an away game at noon and get up at six in the morning. As soon as Bogdan got some rest, he’d call me right away: ‘Hey Izqi, let’s go to the gym to take some shots. He would call not only me, but other assistant coaches as well. He would shoot 500 shots after each practice. It’s no surprise that Bogdan is at this point today.” (Eurohoops)