Dražen Anzulović Named New Coach of Croatia Men’s Basketball Team

Daniela Rogulj

“The nomination for the Croatian basketball team coach is the greatest honor experienced by a Croatian coach, but at this time, it is a big obligation and responsibility because our goal, despite the terrible situation, is to place in the World Championship,” said the new coach of Croatia, Dražen Anzulović (50). 

Drazen Anzulović has succeeded former Croatia basketball team coach Ivica Skelin who, after a catastrophic start in the qualifications for the 2019 World Championship in China, resigned in February this year. It is interesting to note that both Skelin and Anzulović were assistants to Alexander Petrović at the Olympic Games in Rio. Anzulović has now been given a chance to lead the team in one of the worst positions Croatian basketball has experienced, reports Gol.hr on April 27, 2018. 

“I think that being the coach is the greatest honor, but also an obligation and responsibility. I will only play those who have a desire to play for Croatia. We have a lot of work, and my goal is to return Croatian basketball to the top of Europe and create a respectable team of players in the world. I intend to hold talks with the players today, but also with people who will be on my team. We do not have much time, but we are aiming to fight as long as we have a chance to go to the World Championship,” Anzulović said, who as an exclusive professional signed just a three-year contract with the Federation, lasting only until the 2021 Eurobasket. The last of such an arrangement in Croatian basketball, which does not allow coaches to train club basketball at the same time, was with Aco Petrović in 1999. 

“It is enough to say how seriously I have understood this job because I can only devote myself to the Croatian team. As soon as I had a conversation with the leaders, I knew that I wanted the position, although I had an excellent foreign offer,” said Anzulović, who spent his career playing at Cibona and Zagreb. As a coach, he led Zagreb, Cibona, Ural, Charleroi, Donetsk and Lietuvos Rytas while his last club was the Chinese club Nanjing Monkey King.

Anzulović announced his first steps as coach before the qualifying matches on June 29 at home against Italy and July 1 in Romania.

“We will have preparations for an extensive list of players as early as June 11th, because I want to crystallize who is ready and wants to play. We will have our NBA players for this match cycle with Italy and Romania for nine days, but for now, I cannot tell who will answer from the six of them. Also, I do not think that there is an option of an American playmaker. We have to be prepared without our NBA players, but with them, we must create a united national team as this is a precondition for achieving results. Basketball has always been a team sport,” said Anzulović.

Croatian Basketball Federation President Stojko Vranković believes that Anzulović’s is the best possible solution, and maintains the claim that the goal is placement at the World Championships in China. Croatia is the last in the group with only one win and three defeats, and if they end at the bottom, the qualifications will end for Croatian basketball players at this stage.

“This time, we had far more time than in the previous elections, and I think that was good because we could do everything thoroughly. There was a lot of queries and offers, and we quickly decided on Anzulović who will have all the necessary support. This is an opportunity to bring Croatian basketball back to the top of the world, and we will struggle with all the strengths to win placement in China, despite the bad results so far. I do not know which NBA players will accept the call because the NBA Summer League starts in the US. I played in this league and from personal experience I can say that this is a third-level competition and it would be far better, even for the players themselves, to come and play for Croatia,” Vranković said.

HKS’s chief of staff and a recent new member of the Hall of Fame, Dino Rađa, also believes that Anzulović will be the best solution for the national team.

“Drazen is now in his serious training years, has experience, but also wishes to launch Croatian basketball. At any time, both Stojko Vranković and Josip Vranković, and Toni Kukoč will be available to Anzulović, who will only deal with the team. I’m glad that we had a lot of time to make a good coaching choice; we thought well and I think we’re on the right track.”

Translated from Gol.hr


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