The Spaniard preaches mantra of "basics"

by Rex Clementine
Only John Wright, the Indian cricket coach, spoke highly of returning to the basics at the highest level, we thought. But no. There are others too, although not from cricket, who want to stick to the basics even at the highest level. Joseph Lluis Corte, the basketball coach who was involved with the Spanish national basketball team for 20 years and in four Olympic Games is here in Sri Lanka to conduct an IOC solidarity coaching clinic for coaches in the country. The 10 day programme conducted by the Sri Lankan Basketball Federation together with the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka ends today.

Throughout the coaching camp Lluis has been telling the 50 odd coaches, who are taking part in the event, to stress on the basic disciplines of the game to their subordinates. "Basics are important. They donít change too. When I played basketball, one plus one was two. Even today, one plus one is two," says the 65-year-old from Barcelona. Lluis has been involved with the game for over half a decade now as a player, coach and an administrator and wants those who are under his wings to be the best in whatever they do.

Heís also confident that his country, which has produced the likes of Rahul Gonzales, Fernando Hierro and Fernando Morientas, in soccer, would produce champion cagers in times to come. He has reasons to believe in that too. "Four years ago, in the World Junior Basketball Championships, we beat the United States," he says assuredly

Lluis is outstanding not only as a coach, he made his mark even as a player as he was awarded the "Most Valuable Player" award in the year 1956. He also represented the national team in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. "During those days we were very weak. There were 16 teams in that competition and we finished eighth," he recalls.

"But we missed out on the next Olympic Games in 1964. The Spanish Government said that they didnít have the finances to send the team for the games and we had to forego it. When I was playing we didnít get that much of assistance from the government as our economy was not doing that well. But nowadays, thereís a healthy response and the players get substantial government patronage.

During the four Olympic Games he was involved with the national team, the Spaniards finished fourth in the Moscow Games in 1980, then won the Silver in Los Angeles in 1984 going down to a United States team which consisted of Michael Jordan and was coached by Bobby Knight. Then in the Seoul Games in 1988, they were seventh. Following that, when Barcelona hosted the games, Spain were placed fifth in 1992. Together with that Lluis finished his coaching stint with the national side.

Since quitting coaching of the national basketball side, Lluis has been closely associated with the IOC and FIBA, the global body for basketball. Heís been conducting programmes in Germany, Angola, Spain, Estonia, France, Wales, Mozambique, Portugal, Senegal, Switzerland, Turkey and a host of other countries doing his coaching duties. After the Sri Lankan assignment, heíll be going to Egypt to conduct a programme there too.

Lluis was also impressive about the skills exhibited by the Sri Lankans. "Your girls in particular look very impressive. Your country has got everything thatís needed to be one of the best in the world. But the area youíve got problems is on your infrastructure. Youíve got just a solitary indoor court with highest standards I hear. Most of the clubs seem to have got one ball to do their practices. Itís a miracle that your players have been able to perform at this level with these facilities," he observed.

"Sometime back I was taken to Galle. It was surprising to see the enthusiasm of the young kids who turned up at the beautiful coastal town the other day. There were over 200 children taking part in the event and thatís a good sign. Your coaches too look keen and do a good job. These are all good signs for a country thatís coming up," he ended on a positive note.