Interview with Momir Ratković – Coach at Basket ZaragozaMrCrossover
Momir Ratkovic is a basketball coach born in Herceg Novi in 1987. He has been in this profession for 14 years. He started in BC Sava in 2006 and worked there until 2013 when he was given the chance to go to work abroad as an assistant coach of BC Politekhnika from Ukraine. He stayed there for only the first part of the season, while the second part he returned to Serbia and tried in women’s basketball as Partizan’s assistant coach. After 6 months working in women’s basketball, he decides to return to the club where he started, BC Sava. He also worked in Serbian’s U16, U17 and university teams as conditioning coach from 2013-2016. After almost four years of good work at the Sava and a big number of talented players who came from this club, a call came from the big ACB club, Basket Zaragoza. Momir is working successfully there for the second season now, and we decided to talk to him a little about the conditions and work in Spain, his beginnings, the period in BC Sava and the main differences between Spain and Serbia when it comes to the young categories.
Let’s go back to your beginnings. How did you decide to become a coach?
My love for basketball started when I was 8 years old and when I started playing in my hometown Herceg Novi, on Karac court. I played there until I moved to Belgrade, to attend University of Sports and Physical education after which I became a coach in the basketball club Sava. Alongside that, my brother Jovica is also a coach, and he was a huge influence in my decision to become a coach.
You spent the longest time as a coach working at BC Sava from Belgrade. What memories bind you to this period?
The most beautiful memories. If I’m not mistaken, I spent 11 years in club Sava, working with amazing people. With a lot of hard work and patience, we managed to bring this club from not very good in youth programs to one of the best in the Country, right next to the huge teams from Serbia. The fact that a lot of players that played in Sava are now playing for the Serbian International team and for some of the best teams in the country.
During that period, when you were a coach, many talents from Sava came out such as Arijan Lakic from FMP, Luka Tarlac from Partizan, Nikola Jovic and Dusan Marjanovic from Mega Bemax, Vuk Dobrasinovic and Dusan Radosavljevic from Zvezda and Dusan Raskovic from Varese. What was it like working with these young guys who represent the future of Serbian basketball, and for which individual development you are most creditable?
These are great guys and great talents, I’m still in touch with everyone, in some ways I still feel the need to care for them. They often call me and ask me for advice. I am glad to see and hear with them. I follow them as much as I can and see that they are the leading players on their teams and have plenty of space in the game, so I am very happy because of them. I must mention that they are not by accident where they are. In addition to their talent, behind them is a huge amount of work that was well organized and a great commitment, not just my dedication, but everyone in Sava is dedicated to help the kids be successful
You were also part of the U16 and U17 Serbian national team that won silver at the European Championships in 2013, as well as bronze at the World Cup for one year later. What opinion do you have about that generation 97/98?
Great generation. Great guys. I am still in touch with many of them and follow their careers. I see that most of them play in the strongest leagues in Europe. Stefan Peno (currently in the recovery phase due to a knee injury), Vanja Marinkovic and Borisa Simanic play Euroleague. Voja Stojanovic are playing great in Italy, and Radanov has been phenomenal in the ABA league, some of them continued basketball and schooling in USA. We will see how their careers develop in the future. Still time works for them. So a brilliantly selected generation.
Since the the last summer, you are part of the ACB team, Basket Zaragoza. How did the call from Zaragoza came and what prompted you to take that step?
Two years ago, I was invited by the leading people from BC Zaragosa to be their guest and make some training to their players. I went to Spain and spent five days working with them. They were very satisfied with what they saw and heard and shortly they give me an offer. Their idea was to reform the work and organization and raising it to a much higher level of the youth categories. I liked the idea. I saw myself in that project and we agreed very quickly and easily.
In Zaragoza you are in charge as a development coach for young players. Please tell us a little about the working conditions there and what is your job exactly?
“First of all, I am in charge of the individual development and improvement of players, the creation of plans and programs for players who are projects of the club. I’m also in charge of scouting and bringing players to the club. Together with the sports director of young categories, we scout a large number of players throughout the year and make selections for bringing to the club. And I’m also a assistant coach for Zaragoza B team that plays EBA league. For the B team mostly cadets and juniors who are club’s projects are playing and with whom I work individually 3 to 4 times a week. So I have complete insight and control over what they do and how they evolve day by day”.
In addition to being one of the most pleasant surprises at the start of the ACB League, it’s fascinating number of young players who get a chance
in the first team like Carlos Alocen, Vit Krejci, Javier Garcia. Obviously behind that is a good system and work in the young categories?
“The first team is playing really good basketball right now. We are currently in second place just behind Real Madrid after eight matches played. It’s fascinating that in one of the strongest leagues in the world we have one eighteen-years-old and one nineteen-year-old playing … but really playing! They are not there to fill the numbers, their role is very important on the court. One sixteen-year-old also recently made his debut. Carlos, Vit and Javier are guys I worked with a lot last season, this season it’s a little rarer because the first team plays on two fronts, ACB and Europe, so it doesn’t leave much room for work. Carlos Alocen was named Spain’s best young player last season, which is another confirmation of the club’s quality work. The aim of the young categories of the club is to develop and form players for the first team. Without the resultant pressure, we use games in young categories for the purpose of player development. We work very hard on individual player performance. 3-4 workouts a week we do basketball technique plus 2-3 workouts we do physical training. All of this is aligned with teams practices and player development needs. I have to mention that we have a phenomenal first team head coach, Mr. Porfi Fisac, who has sense for young players and very skillfully incorporates them into senior basketball, and also achieves a great team result”.
This season Zaragoza will also participate in the ANGT tournament in Kaunas. What are your expectations and how far can Zaragoza go against
teams like Zalgiris, Rytas, Fenerbache, Venice, Nanter?
“We are very happy about the invitation to participate in the strongest European tournament such as ANGT. I am glad that people recognized our work and gave us a chance to weigh up our strengths with the best teams in Europe. The expectations are that we want to make every game as good as possible and use this tournament to give our players tail wind for further development. I do not know so well the teams that we will play against to compare them to us, but overall I believe we will enjoy good basketball for those three days”.
How do you recognize talent and what is it that you usually look when you are looking at player?
” The abilities I look at are:
1) Understanding the game – feelings for spacing and timing
2) Learning ability – how he adopts new techniques
3) Physical predispositions – anthropometry of the body and motoric skills
4) Character – Is he brave, dedicated, wise, how he treats teammates, coaches and referees, controls emotions, is he a team player …
And based on all these indicators, I estimate how much space he has for improvement and whether it is sufficient for professional basketball”.
This is your second season Spain, could you possibly compare the work with the young categories in Spain and Serbia and what are the biggest differences?
“It doesn’t make too much difference. What would stand out is that the Spaniards play fast-paced basketball, which is based on a game of transition and space without much tactical tasks and positioning systems. While we have many more tactics. And the other thing is training conditions that are far better than ours”.
And at the end of the interview, tell us what are your plans and wishes for the future?
“I am very pleased here, I have great associates in the club and big freedom to work, which is very important to me. I can see myself progressing and developing and therefore I see myself in Zaragoza in the coming years. The current plan is to make Zaragoza one of the best clubs for working with young players and we are well on the way to making it so. And as far as my wishes and ambitions are concerned, they are always the big”.