The picture above has been one of the most commented events of the recent Copa del Rey. It is in Real Madrid’s fans nature to focus on something else, rather than the joy of victory. And that something else is Pablo Laso and his struggle to be accepted as the right man for the job.
Pablo Laso is not the kind of coach you would expect to see at Real Madrid. He loves the game, above everything else. He believes that the genious of Sergio Rodríguez, Rudy and Llull is way more important than any tactical nuance. It is not that he despises hard work or preparation, one only had to watch his excellent work for the final, it is that he feels like a big basketball fan who’s been given the chance to manage the team of his dreams. He is a romantic, and as such he cannot be measured by the same standards as most of his colleagues. He cannot distance himself from the game. From a tactical point the job is too big for him, from the sentimental point of view Pablo Laso is too big for his job.
When one looks at Laso’s predecessors at Real Madrid it is easy to understand why he is not well understood. Maljkovic ended an era of shambolic projects and tried to rebuild Real as a powerhouse in European basketball. He could only complete two years in the job, but his Serbian style (discipline, authoritarian style) did not fit into the institution. Joan Plaza was close to Pablo Laso in many respects. He was also an outsider and he was also perceived as not fit for the job. He lasted three years, but his last was a painful one, full of unfair criticism when he actually had a roster not up to the job.
And then Ettore. Messina paved the way for Pablo Laso. His impact on Real Madrid was massive. Messina showed Real Madrid that success was a bit more complicated than hiring a handful of old stars. His resignation, despite Messina’s vanity, forced Real Madrid to think seriously about the future. And the surprising result was Pablo laso.
I am no huge fan of Pablo Laso. I think he is not very flexible and probably has too many preconceptions about his roster. But he is passionate about Real Madrid and about the game. It is almost impossible not to find an emotional connection with him. And that is a lot more one can say about him than about many other basketball gurus. He deserves to win the Euroleague this year. And he may then go home and take a good rest, enjoy the fact that he got to manage the team of his dreams.