The 2023-24 season will not be another one for Barça. The departures of Sarunas Jasikevicius and Nikola Mirotic inevitably led to a revamp in the squad.
The two great idols of the Palau in recent seasons are no longer in the Barça team, but others have arrived to assume their roles. We will have to wait to see how Montenegrin’s absence is solved, but it is clear that the new head of the team is Roger Grimau, who will have to replace Saras.
The man who lifted the second (and so far last) Barça’s Euroleague is now the coach of Barça, his first experience on a top-tier team that faces with nothing but enthusiasm.
Eurohoops: We are now a few days away from the start of the Endesa League and some weeks away from the start of the Euroleague. How do you see the team at the moment?
Roger Grimau: The team is fine but we have to assimilate some new mechanisms. It has been a relatively short preseason, with many players out who have done little training with the team, and following the process of building the team.
EH: I understand that the fact that Barça has so many international players, with many playing in the World Cup, greatly affects the planning of the season.
RG: For a team where there have been changes, both in players and staff, perhaps it is a little more complicated, it requires a little more time than if there was continuity for everyone. But I think we have done a very good job these weeks, we have to take advantage of these remaining weeks to finish consolidating some things.
EH: We talked about how there are still weeks to continue working, but the first title of the season, the Super Cup, has already been played. Things didn’t go well because the title was not won, but do you think positive things can be taken from Murcia?
RG: Yes, I am a person who tries to see the positive things in life and circumstances. There was a moment when we were not good and Real Madrid gave us that run, but until then we showed a good image. It wasn’t enough and I’m not happy about that, obviously, we wanted to win and we always wanted to compete, but I try to see the positive things.
EH: Despite the defeat, the team showed a much more solid image than in the Catalan League. In those two games, the team improved a lot after halftime while against Real Madrid the game was different: good start, bad ending. Is it possible that this is due to the lack of mechanisms and adaptation that we talked about before?
RG: It’s a process, we’re talking about three preseason games and we’ve already gone directly to fighting for titles. The team is not as it will be and I think that is part of the process, so it makes sense that we are like this right now.
EH: This is your first experience leading a top-level team, after many years with youngsters, and is with a big club like Barça. How do you handle all the pressure that this has?
RG: No one will put more pressure and demands than what I put on myself. I know that I put it on myself with good intentions and that other pressures are placed externally, that are not with good intentions, but it is impossible for someone to put more pressure on me than I put on myself. This is good and bad, but this is why the staff is there to help me manage this situation. One good and bad thing I have is that I have been a culé since I was a child, I know the culé fans perfectly well, the fans from the Palau, from Camp Nou, from everywhere and I know exactly what happens in some circumstances and what happens in others. Absolutely nothing will surprise me and I am prepared.
EH: I precisely wanted to ask you about this: Do you have the feeling that many people are waiting for the team to do poorly so they can go against you?
RG: I have the opposite feeling: there are many excited people, at least those closest to me. On an external level, since I don’t have social networks nor am I going to look at them… If there are these people, may their lives go well and I hope I disappoint them and that things go well. It is not something that worries me: I have had, have, and will have an absolutely clear conscience because I will give my life for Barça, I have always done so and I will do so. I will not receive any complaints in this regard.
EH: As we mentioned, it is your first experience on an elite bench after many years in the quarry. Is there a difference when it comes to approaching basketball in training and in the senior stage or is the only difference that in the first team, they are taller, faster, and better? Are there differences at a tactical level?
RG: It’s completely different. At a training level, you have to focus more on technical things, player growth, and more in general. In the first team you also have to put emphasis on technical aspects, even though at 37 years old I learned a lot, you never stop learning. But there is a demand and an immediacy required in the many senior team games that you don’t have time to work on some things, you have to go a lot tactically. But I am convinced that you can and should always improve, no matter how many years you have been in the league. At the training level, you have to focus on other aspects.
EH: The summer was very busy at Barça, with profound changes in the squad of both players and coaches. But Barça is still Barça and there are no gap years.
RG: Barça always has to compete, in all sports. You wear the Barça jersey and everyone demands you. From this point of view, you can take it with the pressure that we mentioned before or with enthusiasm and ambition. I try to take the path of joy and excitement, rather than obligation.
EH: Undoubtedly, the great objective is once again the Euroleague, a title that no one knows better than you what it feels like to win. You were in charge of raising it in 2010 and if you win it this season, now on the bench as a coach, you would become the first to win it as a player and as a coach. Is this another incentive?
RG: There is still a long way to go, we have to build the team, the foundations that allow us to compete. This is still very far away for me.
EH: Many new faces in this Barça 2023-24… Could we see some last-minute additions?
RG: At this moment the roster is closed. We are Barça and we are always aware of market opportunities, but as of today, the squad is closed.
acb Photo / Mariano Pozo