Looking ahead with optimism

Looking ahead with optimism

Looking ahead with optimism

Since becoming the head coach of the Indian National team in June, 2007, Aleksandar Bucan has been battling to bring together the right bunch of players to make a difference on the bigger stage. He has not succeeded yet, but the 36-year-old Serbian remains an optimist.

India has moved up two places, 51 to 49, in world rankings, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is making constant forays into the country, and Bucan hopes to build on these small positives to turn a group of young cagers into a force to reckon with.  The Serbian shared his ideas about future with Deccan Herald during a chat.

It has been nearly three years since you became the head coach of the Indian basketball team and there were many changes that you wanted to bring about then. Have they all taken shape yet?
The idea was not to change anything, the idea was to improve on what was already there. I’m very satisfied with the kind of growth that we have achieved in my term as the coach. We can compare our performance in several championships that we took part in 2007 to last year and there has been a huge improvement. In order to make it to the bigger league we will have to set a strong base and make sure the right resources are tapped. We will also have to work on the selection process.

What are your next set of goals?
The idea is to take basketball to remote corners of India. We are now targeting the 8 to 10-year-old age bracket to bring about the necessary change. There is no basic basketball education in India. Most players here start late and that is not a good thing. We are also trying to improve the standard of coaches for these children. The quality of coaching and sports organisation will need to improve.

Former, and some current, players have openly expressed their dissatisfaction with NBA making its way into India...
A lot has been said about NBA being a bad influence but in my opinion, it’s not. It’s the most popular basketball league in the world and they know what to do in order to help basketball in India. They have been bringing in big coaches and former players to help India take a notice of what is in store and they will surely make a difference to the way things work here.

Has the NBA influenced our style of play?
There are only two styles of play. A winning style and a losing style. NBA has its own style; that which is based around their flexibility in rules. We on the other hand, have very stringent rules in place, but I still think we play a very attractive game. There is so much creation, there is so much character. We should also realise that Indian players have a selfless style of play, which is great. The only problem with our style is that we don’t focus on defense.

You have seen how basketball has grown in India and can you tell us about how things will turn out in the next couple of years?
Indian basketball is headed in the right direction but my emphasis is on exposure. We need to tour more countries to find the right mix of combinations in big tournaments. As we tour, we will be more tactically equipped to take decisions based on the team we are up against. The system needs a re-boot and also a National league should be formed in order to take the game to the next level. More than anything else, there is a need for professionalism. We lack it and it shows.