The relevance of Maria Planas (Barcelona, 84 years old) for Spanish basketball is intertwined with that of the legendary Pedro Ferrándiz, with four European Cups and 12 Leagues with Real Madrid, and Antonio Díaz Miguel, coach for 27 years. The three coaches were chosen in the first promotion of the Hall of Fame in 2019. The merits of the only woman who has served as coach are also defined by her magnificent track record in the teams she coached, with seven Leagues and six Cups, and for the boost it gave to women’s basketball.
Born on July 12, 1936, five days before the start of the Civil War, she looks in her memory for how her love for a sport began in which she was going to leave a mark and which continues to excite her. “This girl is very good! And when I was a girl, I already told her coaches at the Picadero ”, she exclaims while watching on television Laia Palau, 41, the current player of reference, during a match between the two great teams of the moment, the Spar Girona and the Perfumerías Avenida de Salamanca.
During his childhood and adolescence, the sport was practiced in very poor conditions, in dirt plots, barely supervised by some schools and parishes. “Those were difficult times, the years 48 or 49, I was about 12 years old. A lady from the women’s section (a branch of the Spanish Falange party that controlled all the activities organized by women) encouraged us to practice a ‘very beautiful’ sport. I tried it, it got me excited and we started playing at the parish. ” Basketball was an escape route, one of the few meeting and entertainment points for the kids, in their case, the one from the Barcelona neighborhood of Horta-Guinardó. One of those adolescents was Eduardo Portela, who was to be her husband and one of the most relevant people in Spanish basketball, technical director of Barcelona from 1971 to 1981 and founder together with José Antonio Gasca of the Association of Clubs (ACB) in 1983, which he directed until 2011 and of which he continues to be honorary president. Maria Planas was also dedicated to Catalan dance. When the dilemma was raised, it was Portela who encouraged her to opt for basketball, despite the inconveniences, those dirt pitches in the open where they literally left their skin and dilapidated changing rooms where in winter they had to shower with ice water . The worst, however, was the misunderstanding of a part of society that abhorred women’s sport. “One day two girls came to my house and told my mother that it was immoral for me to play basketball, that they couldn’t allow it. My mother told them: ‘you, to your house’. They didn’t like us playing or meeting the boys. “
He stopped playing when he was just 21 years old. “I suffered a problem. I was very thin and my mother was worried about it. We would train at seven in the morning, and from there, to go home, to change and study or work. The Picadero came to look for me, one of the best teams in Spain. Playing with them would have allowed me to be international. But I had to go to the other end of Barcelona and at home they did not agree ”. As an alternative, she trained the girls of the club linked to the neighborhood parish, Penya Esportiva Montserrat, known by the acronym PEM for two years. He married Portela and left his job as a clerk. “So women, once married, would withdraw from everything. But the house was falling on me. They detected a very unknown disease then (endometriosis), and I could not have children. I wanted to undertake some activity ”. Portela encouraged her to organize the PEM teams. “They were girls, teenagers. Every year we went up in category until we reached the Second Division. We were champions and we had to go up to the National League. There was no money. We resign. Soon after we found a sponsor, played the promo, and went up. Very good players came out of that team ”. One of them was Rosa Castillo, 113 times international, a Spanish basketball legend who spent most of her career under Maria Planas.
“I didn’t have a model coach to look at,” says the pioneer. “My intention was to help the girls to play and succeed, to give them an incentive, to train as people, to acquire another vision of life. Then they thanked me. I was going my own way, learning. Obviously she was not trained to train. He was self-taught. I remember Ita Poza, coach of the CREF of Madrid (the best women’s team of the time, winner of seven of the first eight editions of the League that began to be played in 1964 and that was in the vein of Real Madrid), but only the I met when we played in the National League ”.
The players he had sent from the PEM to the Picadero, with Rosa Castillo at the helm, asked him to go and train them again. “I told them: ‘Please, if I’m not ready.’ But they convinced me, I went and we won everything ”. It was the 1977-1978 season, and the Picadero had lost the sponsorship of Evax, a brand of sanitary towels. “Except for Tenerife and the Canary Islands, we went by car, with the sandwich prepared at home. We did everything for free. We had a terrible time, but we won the League despite the fact that Celta had a team based on a checkbook. I think he had the support of the football club and had stars like Marisol Paíno or Rocío Jiménez ”. Josep Lluís Núñez, when he became president of Barcelona in 1978, offered his facilities and structure to the Maria Planas Riding School. They disputed their parties before those of the masculine Barça. She is grateful that Barça players, such as Manolo Flores or Gregorio Estrada, played them sparring in training.
The Federation proposed to her in 1979 to carry out the position of selector. “Ugh, that was hard. I doubted a lot. But the players asked me and I accepted. They did not help us like men, we did not feel so supported. We went with a shoe and an espadrille. Doctor? Well the first year we did not have. And if I had been able to nationalize as the men’s team did with players like Luyk or Brabender, we could have taken a leap because there were very good Americans playing in Spain like Kym Hampton or Pamela McGee, who by the way, while playing here, wanted to hide that she was pregnant. of his son, the one who now plays in the NBA [JaVale, de Denver Nuggets]”.
Her uniqueness as a coach led to absurd situations. “It was rare to see a selector. Once the referee came and took me out of the way. He reproached me and told me what was I doing there, that I couldn’t talk to the players. Until the delegate came and said: ‘How can she not speak if she is the coach!’ The referee asked me for forgiveness ”.
In the seventies and eighties, Spain was in a second or third rung, surpassed by the Soviet Union and numerous eastern countries, Italy and France. “They were stronger. But we made a good impression. There is a somewhat unfortunate, but significant example of his superiority. All the players of the junior team of the USSR died in a plane crash when they were going to compete in a European in Lugano. They sent a second team and they won anyway ”. One of the problems of Spanish basketball was the lack of height. Rosa Castillo, the best player of the time, was the tallest, at 1.85 meters. “He was super smart and had other abilities,” says Maria Planas. An added problem arose. “In the Pre-European we played at a good level with Marisol Paíno, who was a great player. He shot well, caught a lot of rebounds … But there was a lot of controversy because of his physique and he stopped coming to the national team ”. The Valladolid player, who triumphed at Celta, had suffered hormonal disorders and was subjected to enormous pressure by questioning her femininity. He retired when he was only 27 years old. “For us, in that sense, it was one more,” says Planas.
Discrimination was noticeable. “Sometimes the players would tell me if I hadn’t seen that they had told me this or that. I did not realize. I was doing my thing. Interestingly, I had a lot more problems with lower-level coaches. They could not bear that a woman could lead a large team or the national team. I had some dislike. If they could trip you, they would. Instead, the elite coaches accepted and helped me. Díaz Miguel invited me to the concentration in Atlanta prior to the silver medal in the 1984 Games. He explained to me why he was doing this or that. I was doing great, I learned from him, and from Nino Buscató, Lluís Cortés, Jaume Berenguer, Manel Comas, Aíto… they always helped me ”. His departure from the national team in 1985 was bitter. The one who was to be the new president, Pere Sust, had assured her continuity, but was ultimately pressured and fired. He returned to direct clubs and win Leagues and Cups with Tortosa and Masnou.
Today, Planas regrets the very few presence of women in the direction of sport. “I am very sorry that there are almost no female coaches. I always asked my players to do other things, to train, that they could reach the top. Anna Junyer is in the Spanish federation, Silvia Font is with the little ones in the Catalan team, Pili Bilbao, too, Carmen Fraile… I, without any ambition, just working, had arrived. I’ve always said the same thing: women don’t have to wait for men to come and help us. We are the ones who have to work. Yes, I fight for women, so that there is equality, so that there is no machismo, but above all I fight so that women reach the top. And she insisted: ‘if you can’t be coaches, because of your children, because of work, because of travel, you can be referees, managers …’ We have to aspire to direct ourselves, that women take care of everything feminine. It is what we need. The president of the federation, Jorge Garbajosa, is turning to the girls, trying to give them facilities and bet on them. But we have to fight, progress and occupy positions of responsibility ”. She led by example.