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Interview with Lucas Mondelo, Spanish National Team Coach

After winning everything in Europe, Lucas Mondelo also started conquering Asia after winning the 2012-13 Chinese WCBA and becoming a myth.

Shanxi Rui Flame didnīt hesitate to get him back to China and signed him also for the 2013-14 season.

The current Spanish National Team coach is one of the most coveted pieces in the international market and faces this summer a new challenge with Spain, the Eurobasket in France.

In the next lines Lucas Mondelo explains her feelings about his past and future and also about the future of the Spanish National Team.

¿How do you feel after your big success in China?

I have the feeling of having overcame a challenge.  We won the Championship with a team who had just promoted to 1st division and without any national team player, which makes us proud but also with a double responsability.

Now we have the challenge of building again a competitive team and fight to try to reach aain the Finals in a maximu level league that has some of the best players in the world like Maya Moore.

The first year there is the adventure, the financial proposal.. ¿Is the challenge to win the Championship again what motivates you to travel again so far?

There are many motivations. One of them is the working and financial offer because we have good conditions and nowadays this is very important. But it is also very important for us to continue with this life experience that still hasnīt finished.  To live in Asia is a wonderful adventure and to dream with being able to be close to winning the Championship again is an extraordinary challenge.

In less than a year you move from being somebody unknown in China to be the man to beat..

In Salamanca I learnt to live with that pressure and last summer with Spanish National team I got more experience to face a difficult competition with the obligation of achieving the goal.  You know that things can go well or bad but your responsability is to do everything possible to reach your goal.  We know that again Zhejiang Zhouxou will be the favourite, because of their great team and budget but we will also have our weapons.  We beat them last year and we will try again even it is true that we wonīt have anymore the "surprise" factor.


After so many years coaching, do you think that there is still room to learn?

One of the lessons that I learnt last year in China was to put things in perspective.  We made a great team with my assistant coach  César Rupérez.  We have helped each other in the emotional and in the sports field in the more difficult moments. However, sometimes you feel alone in a different culture and with a difficult language.   Also the relation with the board is different that it is in Europe and you learn to evaluate every situation to give your best for your team.

¿And what did they learn from coach Mondelo?

I think that mainly to make them realize that basketball is a game of details.  For me giving freedom to the player creativity is very important and as a coach I try to give them their space in the court. Tactically we worked with spacing both in offense and defense and our defensive adjustments have been one of the things that have surprised more other teams about our style.

Is it difficult to teach chinese players to do different things of what they are used to?

Chinese players have been coached for many years in a certain way and with some very specific roles. So you have to advance slowly, step by step, but the important thing is to move forward.


And on the other side… Maya Moore,  ¿Has she been the perfect contrast?

She has obviously been extremely important. Only with Maya Mooreīs athletic and technical skills we would have won a good number of games but the most important thing about her hasnīt been her points or her rebounds but all she gives to the team in other areas. Iīm speaking about creativity, leadership and confidence.  Because of that, many of our players have played above their level and because of that we have been able to win the Championship.  She canīt win the League on her own, she can win games, but her main virtue is that she has made better to her teammates.

On your side, ¿Has it been important that she continues to renew your contract?

It has been important because we have a very good relation. Anyways the "chinese" draft is quite complicated.  The players belong to their owners and we had many players that arrived on loan to our team. Players that others didnīt want and that now they will want to recover.  Currently with Maya and the remaining players, if there are no injuries, we can have a good season but it will be difficult to win it again.  Of course I believe that our owner will do his best to give me the best possible roster to compete.

Forget now about you being a coach, as a normal citizen ¿What has been the most difficult thing in this asiatic experience?

The two first months are a shock. The adaptation process is not easy. The food is completely difference, there are 7 hours difference with Spain and obviously Chinese lifestyle is very different to the European.
I donīt say that it is worse or better, it is just difference and until you adapt to it you are a bit lost.
You need to adapt very fast and for some people it is not easy.  That is the reason why many american or australian coaches are fired in their first months.


First european coaches in WCBA and you win the Championship...

Chinese teams donīt look too much to Europe.  Unless until this year the big reference has been always United States.  That is what they like and what they try to copy.  You need to adjust to some things, because for example for chinese teams the rest is not important. They see basketball and as a job and therefore players have to practice six days per week, twice per day.  It is important that they will understand the importance of invisible training.

¿Do you think that after your success, now they can look more into European basketball?

I hope the do and I hope to have opened a new path for the Spanish coach.  They signed me because of my curriculum vitae.  They knew me of when I coached in the U19 World Championship, where we defeated China and United States and also from the Euroleague and the National Team.
I think though that it will be difficult that they sign many more european coaches because they think that the americans are the ones who can teach them something.
In my opinion, Chinese basketball should look more into Europe because with the bodies that some of their players have they could develop into one of the strongest national teams in the World.


¿Will it be difficult to forget about China now and think in the National Team?

One of the good things in Chinese season is that it finishes in February so I have been able to think in National Team for more than 2 months now.  I have been able to rest and to be completely focused in our National Team.

¿Clear ideas after last year?

Last year we had a goal and we achieved it, after a strange competition system -home and away games in Euroleague format- and we didnīt hae much time to adapt the team to travelling and build team dynamics.
But our players proved to have a big adaptation and the were very competitive.  Now we hae 1 month of training camp to work with one goal, to qualify for the next World Championship.
I have more time to work with the team, the players finish their leagues and will also focused in our goal. I think that we will build a competitive team.

It is a key moment for Spanish basketball…

Yes. It will be hard because there are 10 very good teams that will fight for the 5 spots to the 2014 World Championship in Turkey, but we want to be there so we will fight for that.
Step by step because we have a very difficult group. We need to do our best from the first game because we can only think step by step. If we overcome obstacles we can be close to the medals.
We were one of the best teams in the world and now we want to go back there, being humble but also ambitious.

Interview by Teresa Sánchez

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