In January ambitous Iraqi team Duhok made the change at the bench and signed successful coach Vladimir Bosnjakas new head coach. We had a chance to make an exclusive interview with coach Bosnjak just after he arrived to Iraq.
Eurobasket.com: For the start, tell us your first impressions of Iraq. What are living conditions and safety at the moment? Vladimir Bosnjak : ''When we are speaking about sports and safety generally, Iraq becomes more stable every new day especially north part of country, where I'm working now. Unfortunately, we are all familiar with causes of crisis that affects mostly southern Iraq but the same situation is happening somewhere else in the world too or it was already seen in the past. Generally, situation becomes better and better.''
Eurobasket.com: Did you had a chance to evaluate potential and infrastructure of Iraqi basketball? Vladimir Bosnjak : '' Well, I didnt had a chance to evaluate so much for this short period but I have to highlight that morale and working ethic of domestic players are on high level, I would say even European level which is interesting considering tough living conditions in this country in last 20 years. Of course they are not on Euroleague level but they do not have lower morale than some local leagues of countries like my Serbia is.''
Eurobasket.com: You're coaching for almost 30 years. You have a lot of success in countries like Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, etc. Could you compare training methods or mark off somebody from this region? Vladimir Bosnjak : ''There shouldnt be any difference if you're bringing foreign coach. You're bringing foreign coach not to become Chinese or Arabian, you're bringing him for Chinese and Arabians to become Serbians or Americans, in basketball terms speaking. Unfortunately, some foreign coaches are already too much in Arabian countries, they are practically naturalized so we have situation that Abdul Hamed (UAE), Ghaith Najjar (Jordan), Adel Tlathi (Tunisia) or Fuad Abou Chakra (Lebanon) have much more harder practices, bigger discipline level and they are more strict. Its absurdly! Where is the point of bringing foreign coach then? By my opinion, money is the biggest problem as it comes like the only motive for foreign coaches to come and work in this countries. There are also low basketball educated GM's that lead the team instead of coaches. I never had an interest in such things and I was always coming to make some results and to make changes, not just to make some money. That's why I have big respect for coaches I have mentioned above.''
Eurobasket.com: You have brought Iran to basketball maps, thats a fact. You were involved in rapidly improved basketball skills of many players including Memphis Grizzlies player Hamed Haddadi. You have also won many awards and trophies in Western Asia. What are your new team's ambitions in domestic and international tournaments? Vladimir Bosnjak : My new team Duhok have big tradition and desire to make success. I can say that conditions in this team are European. Unfortunately, Duhok lost two important games before my arrival so we dropped to third place now. Beside title ambitions in domestic championships, we have a mission to make solid result in WABA League too. Basketball team, town and region Kurdistan are in expansion and I have some positive pressure to push to the end! I do not think that Hamed Haddadi would be the last player from this region that I have coached to play in NBA so I'm inviting scouts to look for some at Duhok too!
Eurobaket.com: Are you the only one Serbian in Iraqi basketball at the moment? Vladimir Bosnjak : ''No, players Milan Medvedj and Aleksandar Belanovic were already here. Bratislav Djordjevic worked here as coach in the 1980s and he made biggest impression and results.
Eurobasket.com: What do you think about Serbian players? In your team you have only US players. What is your view on small number of Serbian players in this region? Vladimir Bosnjak : ''Quality of Serbian players is definitely not the reason. We shouldn't forget that we are a little bit old nation with around 8 million people. Our best players are playing in European best teams. In this region, teams need the player that will make difference, score when others stop or can't do that, to solve situations in defense and offense not just in 1 on 1 situation, it's often in 1 on 2 or 3 situations. Unfortunately, we do not have that number of quality players to export them to other leagues. I see our poor demography as one of the reasons and basketball progress in other countries as well.''
Eurobasket.com: So Serbia definitely records crisis in basketball, like a lot of basketball people notices. Do you think that we do not work well anymore in Serbia or our coaches are not so dominant like in the past? Vladimir Bosnjak : ''Well I would say that the way of thinking of most of our coaches brought us here. For example, few years ago one of our coaches took one team and brought the team from 11th place to playoff finals in second year. Next year team owner openly criticized him because of one defeat and our coach resigned. People were questioning him why he left the team and didn't got all of money he should upon the contract.Instead of having character to be a leader some of them are just happy to stay with the team and get paid no matter who leads the team, him or GM or someone else. This way of working got us to the point that we are not idols anymore that win trophies.''
Eurobasket.com: You had a chance to cooperate with some of the best Yugoslav and American coaches as you worked with NCAA teams and Milwaukee Bucks from 1991 to 1996. From whom did you learned most? Vladimir Bosnjak : ''I have learned a lot from all coaches I had a chance to work with. I should mention late Aca Janjic, who was a youth categories specialist, Dale Brown, a personal coach of Shaquille O'Neal and Gene Smithson. Many Yugoslav players and coaches were visiting him to educate in 1980's. At that time I think our coaches were more fanatic while US coaches were more organized. However there are some other differences now...''
Eurobasket.com: You're mentioning differences again. What should be a role of foreign coach by your opinion? Vladimir Bosnjak : ''This job we are doing represent a life for somebody, somebody do it as hobby while somebody do it to make good money. When I was a basketball player, I was an average player in junior team and I started coaching very quickly. Sporting motive is at first place in my case and I was already looking to make first place with my team or to make players good and win medals. My former team in Jordan and Iranian National Team are the best example if we are considering results. Unfortunately, coaches who know how to earn money are now more suitable than coaches that want to win trophies. If you have a good agent and if you're ''cooperative'' with GM or team owner, it doesnt mean you will lose a job if you have average or low results.''
Eurobasket.com: You have made most of your success in Asia and Africa. Do you plan to come back to Europe? Vladimir Bosnjak : ''I have a motive to come back to Europe and my natives. It's not easy, competition among coaches is very big but most of my colleagues that work in Europe didnt had a chance to work in such tough conditions like I have worked in. I think most of them wouldnt make results in this region and I will try my best to start coaching in Europe again.''
Eurobasket.com: Starting from 2000 in Beijing, you held a lot of basketball clinics around the globe. Do you have in plan something similar to organize in Iraq? Your experience will probably help a lot to domestic coaches. Vladimir Bosnjak : ''Yeah, I held it in Teheran, Beijing and other places but now I have a goals with my teams and I didnt considered it yet to be honest with you. It's my 14th country I'm working in now (counting Yugoslavia, Serbia&Montenegro and Serbia separately) and there are not too many coaches that achieved the same. I'm hoping one day I will become FIBA Instructor!''
Eurobasket.com: You have two sons - Jovan and Vuksan. How would you describe your relationship with them? Vladimir Bosnjak : ''My two sons are great kids and I'm very close to them. My older son Jovan is training disciplines like Krav Maga and MMA and he is very focused. I recognize same passion in Jovan like I had in his age so I think he would be very successful. He is Jean Claude Van Damme type of person! Younger son Vuksan started training basketball, he is left handed and I think he will be really tall guy but I do not want to make any judgement in his case.. I want to follow his progress.''
Eurobasket.com: Thank you for your time coach! All the best in Iraq with wishes for you to come back to Europe and make your career goal! Vladimir Bosnjak : ''Thank you for your time and best regards to followers of Eurobasket.com and Asiabasket.com too! Despite winning a cup or national title every single year, I still didn't had a real chance to prove my work in Europe. Hope so this will become real next summer.''
Al Shurtah Police (Superleague) agreed terms with 31-year old American guard DeAndre Rice (191-85, college: Florida Atlantic). It is actually his comeback to Baghdad as he has played here before. Rice played last season at Al Nizwa in GCC. He also played that season for Al Shurtah. In 2007 Rice was drafted by Tulsa 66ers (D-League) in fourth round (46th overall). He attended Florida Atlantic University and it will be his tenth season in pro basketball. He was also voted Asia-Basket.com Al... [read more]
Al Shurtah Police (Superleague) agreed terms with 31-year old American guard DeAndre Rice (191-85, college: Florida Atlantic). It is actually his comeback to Baghdad as he has played here before. Rice played last season at Al Nizwa in GCC. He also played that season for Al Shurtah. In 2007 Rice was drafted by Tulsa 66ers (D-League) in fourth round (46th overall). He attended Florida Atlantic University and it will be his tenth season in pro basketball. He was also voted Asia-Basket.com All-Iraqi League Honorable Mention in 2016. Rice won Iraqi League championship title in 2015. Rice is quite experienced player. He has played on four different continents (Asia, Latin America, Africa and of course North America). Rice has played previously professionally in Saudi Arabia (Al Ahli Jeddah), Syria (Al Jalaa), Tunisia (U.S. Monastir) and Libya (Ittihad).
Al Shurtah Police (Superleague) added to their roster 31-year old American small forward Justin Hawkins (201-100kg-85, college: New Mexico State). He played last season at Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League) in the U.S. In 46 games he recorded 9.6ppg, 4.2rpg and 1.5apg. Hawkins helped them to make it to the final after they ended regular season as second best team. Part of previous (2014-15) season he spent at Al Ahli Jeddah (Premier League) in Saudi Arabia. Hawkins contributed to his team m... [read more]
Al Shurtah Police (Superleague) added to their roster 31-year old American small forward Justin Hawkins (201-100kg-85, college: New Mexico State). He played last season at Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League) in the U.S. In 46 games he recorded 9.6ppg, 4.2rpg and 1.5apg. Hawkins helped them to make it to the final after they ended regular season as second best team. Part of previous (2014-15) season he spent at Al Ahli Jeddah (Premier League) in Saudi Arabia. Hawkins contributed to his team making it to the semifinals. He also played that season for Duhok. A very spectacular season in his career as he was voted to Asia-Basket.com Iraqi League All-Imports Team. Last year (seven years after he left the college) Hawkins was drafted by Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League) in second round (36th overall). The former New Mexico State staris in his ninth season in pro basketball. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others Hawkins' team won Belarusian Cup in 2012. He was also voted NABC All-NCAA District 15 2nd Team back in 2007 at his college time. Hawkins' career allowed him to visit three different continents. He tasted the life as pro basketball player in Europe, Asia and of course North America. Hawkins has played previously professionally in Finland (Kouvot and Loimaan Korikonkarit), France (Strasbourg IG and Boulazac Basket) and D-League (Northern Arizona Suns, Springfield A., Iowa Energy and Maine Red Claws). On Hawkins:
Can play both wing positions and guard three positions defensively.
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