Tamil Nadu basketball to go the Serbia way

In a novel move, the Tamil Nadu Basketball Association has engaged the services of foreign coaches – Milan Opacic and assistant coach Aleksandar Virijevic from Serbia — for the state team. This is the first time that foreign coaches have been recruited for a state team.

Milan Opacic in Chennai on Saturday. This is the first time that foreign coaches have been recruited for a state team.   -  K.V. Srinivasan

In a novel move, the Tamil Nadu Basketball Association has engaged the services of foreign coaches – Milan Opacic and assistant coach Aleksandar Virijevic from Serbia — for the state team. This is the first time that foreign coaches have been recruited for a state team.

Ahead of the senior nationals that commences in Chennai on January 16, the coaches have worked with both the men’s and the women’s team for 45 days. Opacic and Virijevic have exuded confidence of the team’s good show in the upcoming championship.

Opacic said the team is looking in great shape and he hasn’t had much of a difficulty in adjusting to the team. “The players aren’t new to each other and have been playing the sport for sometime now. So it wasn’t a tough task to get used to it. The team, from the last year, has almost been the same. What we have changed is the mindset. The team had hiccups beating some of the best national teams like Punjab, Railways and Army teams and we have instilled confidence and tried out some new systems to put us on the right track. We are raring to go,” the head coach said.

Elaborating on the new system, Virijevic said it was Serbian way of coaching that could work wonders for the team. “We must say the team is very strong in its defence. The European system is different than the one followed in the US. We have worked on positioning and how the forward players should move in different situations. The camaraderie in the team is fantastic and we have been persistent with our principles and approach. It is all about being honest to the players and to get the best out of them. Although we had a short time in inculcating this, I hope we had done a good job,” he explained.

Both Opacic and Virijevic are here on a short-term contract and they hope to extend it further and also have also chalked out a plan to take the sport to greater heights. “We just agreed to work together in December and we hope to extend the contract by about four years after the National Championship. We also discussed a lot about an academy for the youth, for the coaches and for the referees. We, in Serbia, have one of the biggest academies in the sport and have churned out the most players in the NBA after the United States. So, we are focussing on expanding and inculcating methods and exposure from Serbia too,” Opacic added.

For the coaches, the stint has been a memorable one so far. “We have had a wonderful opportunity to experience a different culture, thought process and a different game. It has been a good learning experience for us too and we have also gotten better by the day,” Opacic noted.