My first professional Coach
June 2004, I was 17 years old, and I just signed my first professional contract at KK Koper, the club of my hometown in Slovenia. All my sacrifices started to pay off. Not all the long days shooting and shooting the ball under the hot sun of Istria were useless anymore.
I was so excited just being in the first Team! I mean, practicing and playing with all my “heroes”? Priceless. One year before I was watching them from the stands, and now I was part of them. Unbelievable feeling!
On July 2004, the Club announced the new Coach. Slovenian legend and ex Slovenian National Team Player Dušan Hauptman. One of my childhood heroes (see bio). He led Union Olimpija to the Euroleague final four in 1997 and won the FIBA Saporta Cup in 1994.
He was a great coach! Moreover, a lot of what I am today as a player I learned it from him. However, one episode really impressed me a lot. After one of many practices, he asked me to stay and play with him 1 on 1. At the time, he was 44. Therefore, I was thinking: “Well, maybe I have a chance!”
He gave me the ball and said to me: “You start. Game to 11!”
I scored the first baskets easily, and he did not seem to be able to stop me. After some minutes, the score was 9-0 for me. I thought it was over. He took the ball after my score, watched me in the eyes, and said: “Now you will have a taste of Euroleague!” I did not understand at that moment what he really had in mind.
I still had the ball, ready to finish the game. Wanted to cross him over… STEAL!
He checks the ball and shoots from 8 meters. Swiiish!!! The ball went in and didn’t even touch the rim.
He started to score threes from 9 meters yelling after every shot “Euroleague! Euroleague!”
And I never got the ball back. He won 11-9.
At the end of the game he watched me again in the eyes and said: “I know that you thought it was over. I let you believe it. But the game is not over until it's over. Remember that!”
Thank you Dušan. Another lesson learned.