The figure of Aíto García Reneses (Madrid, 74 years old) is omnipresent and capital in Spanish and European basketball. He catapulted from the Badalona Cotonificio, led one of Barça’s best generations, where he concluded his stage in 2001 after winning a Recopa, two Korac Cups, five cups and nine Leagues, the last leading a team in which he exploded Pau Gasol and Saras Jasikevicius also played. He triumphed in two stages with Joventut, where he made his debut for Ricky Rubio and guided the first steps of Rudy Fernández, won the silver medal as coach at the Beijing Games, left his mark at Unicaja, at Sevilla de Porzingis, Satoransky and Willy Hernangómez, at Gran Canaria, and is completing his fourth season at Alba Berlin, with whom he won the League and the Cup and whom the Euroleague has just invited to compete in it for the next two seasons.
Question. He began training at Esparreguera in 1972 while he was still playing base at Barça. He is about to turn 50 on the bench …
Answer. We can count on from when you want but long before, as a Student player, I was already training the club’s mini-basketball team. I have been training since I was 17 or 18 years old.
P. You don’t like talking about records a lot?
R. What is, is. There are the others to count. In the Euroleague it sounds to me that I have surpassed Ivkovic [era el más longevo de la competición al dirigir en su último partido al Anadolu Efes con 72 años y cinco meses].
P. And the titles?
R. There is a bit of an obsession. It is very good to win, but it is also very good to train a team that does not have the possibility of winning, to achieve good results and to see that the players are improving. That seduces me more than winning. If you also win, the better, of course.
P. Can that be confused with a lack of ambition for not having won a Euroleague?
R. At that time [en el Barça, 1985-2001] it was fashionable to say what you didn’t do. People can make the summaries they want, but you win the Korac Cup, the Recopa and a lot of Leagues when in 34 years they had only won two. But that does not matter. What matters is that we did not win the Euroleague. Well, it’s true, we didn’t win the Euroleague.
P. They played six Final Four and three finals. Didn’t it leave you a bitter aftertaste not to win it?
R. No. What satisfies me the most is that, depending on the equipment we had, it was able to get the most out of it.
P. Did they get it?
R. I think so. And not only the maximum performance but more things. You can take the criticisms that are out there written about my early years at Barça. We go from third to second, from second to first, first and first. There was constant criticism of why he was making so many changes. So for 10 years. Now who doesn’t make changes? I understand the criticism because there was no culture on how the game was going to evolve and we anticipated a little bit.
P. What took you to Germany when you were 70 years old?
R. A team project that wants to grow, with young people who want to be incorporated. We are not able to maintain it because the budget is not high enough. We have lost Grigonis [Zalgiris], Giedraitis [Baskonia] and Hermansson [Valencia]. The budget has to grow so that they don’t take away players who make a leap in quality. And the affection also decided me that now it is easier for them to have me. Before it was easier to criticize me and now, after all my history, I would say that there is an excess of respect. Pretty much anything you do is fine.
P. What can you learn from German basketball?
R. The League is getting better and better. Pandemic aside, all the pavilions are filled, although some are for 5,000 spectators. All the games are broadcast on television. What we could learn is education in the fields. It is very rare, practically impossible, for the fans to berate or insult. And it is impossible that they are not happy with their team, except if they do not fight. His sports education is phenomenal.