By Niki Bakouli/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrey Vatutin, in many peoples’ minds, has the easiest job in Euroleague. CSKA Moscow can spend enormous amounts of money, in order to build the best possible team. But ask him and he will answer that this is just an “illusion”. The man behind CSKA speaks about the decision of Kirilenko and Shved to chose NBA, the return of Messina in Moscow, the new season and the teams financial plan about the future. .
- What happend with Andrei Kirilenko’s opt out clause? Is it true that he should have decided about his future until the 15 of July, but you decided to let him return to the NBA, respecting his status as a national sports icon?
“Andrey had the NBA opt-out, that’s the main thing. Besides we enjoy the trust and understanding between the players and management in our club. If somebody is sure that he can show himself in the other team, we are ready to discuss it. We had similar situations with Theo Papaloukas, then with Sergey Bykov, some other guys. And, of course, you’re right that Kirilenko is a special person in our country’s basketball; our relationships were based mainly on personal sympathy and friendship. We were ready to wait for his decision. And we are grateful that Andrey did not delay his decision, he has left CSKA enough time to make our roster moves for the next season”.
-At Istanbul, last May, you told us about Alexey Shved, that you prefered for him to stay at CSKA Moscow, for one more season and then to try his luck at the NBA. But he left past summer for Minessota. What happened after all? Is he ready to survive at the NBA?
“I am still thinking that Alexey could play one more season in CSKA though he is ready to play on the highest level right now. No doubt, his departure is a serious minus for us. Still we all understand that every pro basketball player dreams of NBA, and I know how badly he wants to play there. That’s Alexey’s dream, and he deserved to fulfill it. We are happy for Alexey and we are sure he will manage to show himself in Minnesota”.
-As Messina said, you had the way to bring him back. Except mutual respect, what else you needed to sign him?
“Obviously, mutual respect is not enough. We were close all this years, we were on the phone, talking on personal issues, discussing professional topics, consulting each other sometimes. Ettore saw that CSKA remains the high-profile organization and he will have all the possibilities to express himself, to build the winning team, to realize the ideas he accumulated”.
- Do you still think about the Euroleague Final in Istanbul and what happened? Do you think that it was a similar case with the Final Four of 2005 in Moscow?
“I don’t think of it too often, and I remain calm in my memories. That’s the experience life gives to us, though it was negative experience. The team deserved to win the title. And two Final Fours are similar in just one thing: everyone expected us to win, but we could not. Other than that there are a lot of differences. Including the main one: the loss in Moscow was a tragedy, failure, collapse. The loss in Istanbul was painful, not more. We were building the team from zero last season, all the leading spots were taken by new players. We understood that we have very good team, but not automatic, not consistent. Final Four format has no mercy. One loss leaves you without title. That’s what happened. And you can’t name one reason for that – there were multiple reasons”.
-After Euroleague’s Final you were devastated. What was your first decision, that day?
“To conduct the team meeting in the locker room, to thank for the Euroleague season. To support the players, coaches and staff. To let them know that are altogether. To tell them that we got even more motivation to work, that we will be even hungrier in the next season. To realize that 2011-13 season was not a failure, that to lost just 3 times in all the European season is a success”.
- In a time of economic crisis, CSKA spends a lot money and there seems to be no roof in its budget. This is really what it happens, or is there a financial plan behind your moves in order to be ready for the financial fairplay rules?
“The time when all the European grands spent unlimited money are long gone with the crisis of 2008. CSKA had to relive difficult years but fortunately we still receive the support from our owner, Norilsk Nickel. Unlimited budget is an illusion. The budget is approved by the owner and we can’t go over the limit. I can note that we are grateful to crisis: it regulated the market naturally, teach the clubs how to live within their means, not to inflate the budgets and salaries. Usually the budgets were approved for one year but this summer the Club’s Board approved 3-year development program and that makes our strategic work easier. We are far from the times when CSKA signed the players and approved the budget after. Yes, we are not poor, we are rich club but we spend the money rationally. Budgets themselves never win the titles”.
-You have many new players, so it’s only natural for you to need time to find your chemistry. BUT teams like CSKA doesn’t have this luxury, as people demand results… from the first day. What would you say to your fans?
“First of all, most of our fans are the smart people, they understand that the time is needed to build the team. Critics are always loud. But they keep us alert. As Ettore Messina used to say, you have to know how to play under pressure if you want to play on highest level. The same rule is true for the management. You cannot please everyone and you should not”.
- You are moving in a much bigger gym this season. Are you hoping also for a bigger support from the Moscow crowd?
“Definitely. That will be the absolutely new experience for Russia – to play basketball games on 10+ thousand arena regularly. The preparations for this games are even harder than the main team’s practices. But we are optimistic”.