By Lefteris Moutis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
There are two ways to create a successful team; either “buying” it, or “building” it. The first way is easier in theory. If you have money, you can sign some of the best players in the market and with a good coach you hope to be rewarded by winning titles.
But what happens if you don’t have the money to build such a team? You must create one from the start, by working for years with talented but unknown players. And the best and most faithful servant of this philosophy for years in Europe is Dusko Vujosevic. Partizan grew and became giant mainly thanks to the methodical work that is made by the Montenegrin coach who returned. home a few days ago after a two years break.
And the first transfer of “Dule” followed that philosophy. Leo Westermann was not discovered by the large scouting section of Partizan in Serbia or in another country of the former Yugoslavia, but he has grown up during the last two years in the French league with Asvel. And he chose to make the big jump at the top European level in the right way: by working with Vujosevic.
His choice wasn’t accidental. He justified it on twitter by referring to “the famous team, the crazy fans and the beautiful city”. Definitely though, the history and especially the basketball history of his new team constituted a crucial factor in his decision.
Westermann was born on July 24, 1992, when a few months earlier Partizan won the Euroleague trophy with, among others, the star Predrag Danilovic, the team’s current president and “brainchild” of Dusko Vujosevic.
At the age of 16, Danilovic arrived in Belgrade from Sarajevo and Vujosevic, the young coach of “grobari” (he was appointed head coach at the age of 27) diagnosed his talent and was in charge of him. That was it. Vujosevic, without realizing it at the moment, created the beginning of a tradition that was to evolve and led him and Partizan to glory days many years later.
After a tour in Spain and Italy, in 2001 “Dule” returned to his favorite team and began the. production. Such was the economic situation in Serbia that everyone had to turn to the pure materials. The first great talent that helped Vujosevic to grow up was Nenad Krstic. After three years in Hala Pionir, at the age of 21, he moved to NBA for seven years and then back in Europe for CSKA Moscow.
The next big stars after Krstic, were developed a few years later, but the production was in progress. Tripkovits joined the team in 2002 at the age of 16 and was sold after seven years in Badalona. The same summer, in 2009, Partizan sold also Tepic (to Panathinaikos at the age of 22 years) and Velickovic (to Real Madrid at the age of 23) after three years in Hala Pionir. A year earlier, Pekovic left for Panathinaikos, after three years of having been matured under the guidance of Dusko Vujosevic, like his successor, Maric a season later. Finally, in the summer of 2011, after three years in Partizan left the Czech Veseli, the first talent that didn’t come from Yugoslavia.
The money from sales was invested to supply the production process and not to expensive signings. The highest budget in the history of Partizan was, after all, at the 2009-10 season, when they reached the Final Four in Paris by spending less than 3 million euros.
One of the most beloved talks in Belgrade has to do with “what would have happened if all the players who had played in Partizan played together?”. No one can answer this, but no one from the team cares about it. “Our goal is to create a quality and youth team. We want to give a chance to the young players. And all I can say now is that Dusko Voujosevic is the most important for us” said Predrag Danilovic after the announcement of the agreement with Westermann, knowing that the 20 years old French fell at the right hands for the next three years of his career.
As “Dule” has admitted several times, he selects players based on their character, personality and passion for work and basketball. The talent comes after, but as it has been proved, after some years of preparation in Belgrade, the raw material is enough to help a player… fly.
The next big “specialty” of Vujosevic is to awake… players who seemed to follow the downward path in their career, with Alex Maric, Predrag Drobnjiak, Slavko Vranes and Vlado Scepanovic being grateful for their years in Partizan. Also, notable is the ability of the coach from Montenegro to “discover” unknown Americans (like McCalebb, Palacio, Roberts, House) and recommend them to Europe so that they can find later contracts with many zeros.
What more can a team require from a coach?