“Having been before gives you confidence. Winning gives you security. You know the way and you face it concentrated on the experience ”, explains Sergio Rodríguez before facing his seventh final phase of the Euroleague. Since he returned in 2010 from his first NBA experience, Chacho has only missed the great continental event in 2012 and 2016, discounting the season he was in the Sixers, with a balance in his curriculum of four finals and two titles: that of 2015 with Madrid and that of 2019 with CSKA. In Cologne, the 34-year-old guard from Tenerife aims to achieve a record that only Sarunas Jasikevicius has, winning the competition with three different teams. During his time as a player, the Barça coach won three titles between 2003 and 2005, the first with the Barça team and the next two with Maccabi. Later, also on his return from the NBA, he lifted the trophy for the fourth time, in 2009 with Panathinaikos. In the semifinals, CSKA-Efes (18.00, DAZN) and Barça-Milan (21.00, DAZN).
Sergio Rodríguez and Barça challenge each other again, for the third time in the same instance, with the classics in memory. With Madrid, Chacho played and won two semi-finals against Barça. And with CSKA another two against Madrid. An album of crossover stories that he began to complete a decade ago also with Ettore Messina. The year of the Italian coach’s resignation ended up being the white club’s return to the Final Four 15 years later, at Sant Jordi in Barcelona. An intense and fleeting memory. “It happened to all of us very quickly. We were young and we didn’t really know how things were going ”, recalls the Olimpia Milan guard, then 24 years old. “It was a very complicated season, very rare. Ettore left in March and took the Lele Molin team. For most of us it was the first time and the Final Four is very shocking if you haven’t experienced it before, ”he says.
A journey from that stroke of reality to the current competitive maturity. The seven lives of Sergio Rodríguez in the final phase of the Euroleague. Olimpia Milan returns to the event 29 years later, but does so with the experience of Chacho and the guidance of Messina (12 appearances and four titles). “We have formed a team with a lot of talent, experience and enthusiasm. We have a lot of winners capable of deciding these types of matches. We know what we are coming for. Although here all the rivals are very strong, starting with Barça ”, analyzes Sergio. Among those winners is his partner Hines, champion with Olympiacos and CSKA. One of the great weapons of Messina against Barça. “I have played a thousand times against them. I have had them by my side in great battles with the Spanish team and I shared a team with Higgins and Westermann at CSKA. So I know them as well, as they know me. I don’t know if that’s positive or negative, ”continues El Chacho. “I have also played many times against Saras [Jasikevicius], in that semifinal in London in 2012, in all the classics of that season, and also against Zalgiris and Lithuania. As a coach he has managed to instill his winning spirit. It makes the players believe in him ”, he points out. Base to base, with a final at stake.
The first three for Sergio Rodríguez were consecutive, from hazing in London to glory in Madrid through torture in Milan. “I don’t know if by winning any of the first two we would have maintained our hunger and perseverance to reach the third,” recalls Chacho, the protagonist of Lasism in that trilogy. “It was a tremendous exercise in willpower. Being able to complete the journey in Madrid, at the Palace, was very special, ”he continues. Sergio and his teammates lived that first Euroleague of the Laso era between revenge and poetic justice after flying from Stendhal syndrome to purgatory the previous season.
That 2014, Sergio Rodríguez, record holder of the competition – ninth in games played (297); seventh in points (3.126); and third in assists (1,401), behind Calathes and Spanoulis—, he was chosen mvp of the regular phase of the Euroleague. “I don’t know if it was my best season, but we really enjoyed it and people recognized it for us. We went anywhere and the pavilions were filled to see that happy game, with all the talent that we had unleashed. It was amazing to live that, ”El Chacho recalls. That Madrid was unbeaten for 31 games and won the Cup, but fell to Maccabi in the continental final and to Barça in the ACB final. “Losing against Maccabi in extra time did us a lot of damage. We were a winning team, we were hungry to have lost the previous year and it was a shame to fall like that. But you never know. Everything happens for a reason and although it was a negative experience it helped us a lot to win ”, completes the Tenerife base, who returned to the podium with CSKA.
In 2019 he raised his second Euroleague after beating Madrid in the semifinals, revenge for the previous year. “That day in Vitoria there were seven games in one, but we were able to stay up until the end and win. I signed for CSKA for that. We knew that we were playing against the best team in Europe and that if we beat them we had many options to win the title as we did against Efes. CSKA has been in 19 of the last 20 Final Four, what makes the difference is whether you have won them or not. They have only achieved it four times in the modern era and being part of that history is very important ”, he closes. In Cologne, with Jasikevicius in front, Sergio Rodríguez looks for a triplet of record.