Svetislav Pesic: ‘We must be ready to be brave’

Svetislav Pesic: ‘We must be ready to be brave’

Three days before the preseason starts, FC Barcelona’s basketball head coach discusses the coming campaign and the comings and goings in his squad

Barça Lassa get back down to work this coming Friday with the traditional medical checks – and to tell us about his plans for the season ahead, here’s head coach Svetislav Pesic, who also discusses the new signings and the retirement of marquee player Juan Carlos Navarro.

There have been five new signings and Smits has returned from loan. Are you happy with the roster?

With Nacho Rodríguez and my staff we spoke in depth at the end of last season. After I joined the club mid-season, and despite the success in the Copa del Rey, it was time to decide who should stay and who should leave. It feels like there have been loads of changes, but we have only lost two key players, Moerman and Koponen, that we felt met the requirements of the club. We’ve replaced them with players with Euroleague experience, like Singleton, and others that know the Liga ACB, like Pangos, Kuric, Blazic and Pustovyi.

I had the fortune and privilege to coach Navarro and win everything with him

The nucleus has remained, and two players whose contracts ended, Ribas and Tomic, and you have also kept the same staff.

Yes, that’s one of the most important things for me. Keeping experienced players like Tomic and Pau Ribas, but we’ve also looked ahead in the mid and long term by bringing in Smits and Pustovyi. We kept the whole staff because we’d didn’t want to experiment in that area. This summer we’ve also got Oriola and Ribas back from injury, while Hanga and Séraphin are in full recovery.

Players like Aleix Font, Atoumane Diagne, Sergi Martínez and Pol Figueras trained with the first team last season. What do you expect from them?

We take special care with the players from Barça B. It’ll be a very important season for them because last season I was unable to spend as much time with them as I would have liked. I want to know exactly what potential each of them has to be in the first team.

Barça Lassa is not just about winning matches, it’s about winning trophies"

Juan Carlos Navarro announced his retirement a few days ago. What can you tell us about his career and the role he’ll play within the section’s structure?

I’m sure it was one of the hardest decisions of his life because in all my time as a coach I have never known a player who wants to play and enjoy basketball as much as Navarro. I had the fortune and privilege to coach him not once but twice, and to win everything with him. He’s a legend not just because of everything he’s won, but because of the way he plays, both for Barça and Spain.

I think it’s very important that he’s stayed at Barça. His new role is his own decision, but personally I’d like him working close to the team, to me, because his example and mentality will be useful for them, just as other legends have served their former teams.

It’s a hard start to the season, with a lot of road trips. What can you expect from the start to the season?

I’m excited about the new season, like everyone at Barça Lassa, where we hope not just to win games but titles too. To do that, we must be ready to be brave. It’s important to get the players back that have been having fitness issues, and this will also be the first year without Navarro. The players need to be mentally, tactically and physically ready for the big games. And we’re going to need our fans more than ever – they have to be our sixth man at the Palau.

As for the schedule, we don’t have the kindest set of early fixtures in the Euroleague, and most of the games from October to November are away from home. So wins at the Palau will be more needed than ever if we are to make it through to the Top 8.

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