Juanan Morales (Bilbao, 54 years old) represents a lineage that no longer exists. Canterano del Joventut, with the Penya was double champion of League and winner of the European Cup. The combination is almost impossible for a training club that struggles to compete in the elite in inferiority of economic and sporting resources. Morales, today president of the green-and-black entity, reflects on that model in the middle of the ACB semifinals against Madrid. In the first duel, the little one bit the big one (83-93). This Thursday (21.00, Movistar Deportes), second round at the Palace.
Question. What times yours?
Answer. Yes, what times, today are different. Winning those titles now is complicated. Before the qualification for the Euroleague was by sporting merit, the ACB were the first three, and the economic differences were not of the magnitude of now. Today there are many interests involved and wasting energy in complaining will only lead to frustration. It's not crying. It's reality. Madrid does not double or triple the budget, it multiplies it by seven. But we are ambitious, we are going for the final.
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Q. What do you miss about your time?
A. Several generations came together. We competed at the top but without finishing. They even called us a losing team. Obradovic gave us a different point. What I am most proud of is that we won the European Cup as the Penya. Except for Corny Thompson, Mike Smith and Ferran Martínez, we were all Joventut academy players. We won't see that again in a European champion. Today to continue being the Penya is very difficult, as professional sport is mounted, with no protection for clubs that dedicate resources to generate talent. If we lost that identity, we would stop being the Penya and we would be just another club.
Q. How do you survive?
A. On a sporting level, because we have it very clear. Institutionally, while we want to be sustainable on our own, we are coming out of a very big pit thanks to our majority shareholder, Scranton. We want to be self-sufficient at this level of competitiveness, but we are not there.
P. 28 March 2018. In the Board the dissolution of the club was proposed. The team was last in the league and players and employees had not been paid for three months. How did you experience it?
A. It was very hard. We were days away from liquidating the Joventut. Everything was going wrong, the situation was critical. The players made an incredible effort even though we owed them money, the fans helped us and the model was saved. When we were desperate, we resisted.
Q. Joventut has a budget of about six million. The big ones can exceed 40. How do you compete?
A. In our squad there are very involved players probably earning less money than in other places. Some because they are just starting and this is a good place to develop, and others who have been trained here and come back to make us great. That gives us a plus that in normal market conditions we would not have.
Q. Is betting on people in the house profitable?
A. Economically, if we talk about the money you invest and the return you get from it, no. Athletically, we can have players we couldn't catch. Investing in quarry to obtain return, as the legislation stands, is not very attractive. We can ask for involvement from players to whom we have dedicated a lot of time, but not heroics. If their sports level exceeds what we offer, or they have a better economic offer, it is normal for them to leave. What we do ask is that they give us a few years, that is not stepping on the first team and leaving.
Q. What happened to Conrad Martinez, the academy player who is going to the University League of the United States?
A. Next year is his first year as a senior and we offered him a project similar to that of other players. Due to the physical issue, it is very difficult to make the leap from junior to ACB basketball. Cases like that of Ricky Rubio are very few. Conrad has decided to pursue his career elsewhere and in a different way. We already have enough problems and competition for American universities to take off their masks and pay directly. Although it is complicated, because it involves establishing professional relationships with minors, we will have to start shielding our players at younger ages. I hope this is well understood by agents and families. We do not want to exploit anyone, it is not slavery, but to defend the work of the Penya.
Q. It also happens with Aday Mara and Zaragoza, Jan Vide and Madrid...
A. The problem is that this exceeds sports regulation. It belongs to the FIBA world and U.S. universities make its standards. The Spanish players for the selection are generated in the clubs. And if training clubs are not protected, this will be a problem. We train players by philosophy, but to perform in the first team. If there is no such possibility, the motivation to continue training players is greatly reduced.
Morales, in a hotel in Madrid.Luis Sevillano
Q. What can I do?
A. If we bet on a player, it is not so easy for him to leave without compensation. We need a minimum of protection. Training clubs are unprotected. Before there were training rights, which were eliminated, the player today can break a contract unilaterally, there is the termination clause but a judge can rule that it is disproportionate and invalidate it ... There is a very big legal uncertainty for the clubs that bet on the quarry. It is an issue for the CSD and for the legislator. We must reflect on whether this is a model that we want to protect or not.
Q. What do you remember about your time at Madrid?
A. Two magnificent years. I was with Pablo Laso, Herreros... I wasn't a star or a talented player, but what I'm most proud of is that the coaches who coached me later wanted to sign me. I stood out for my size (2.11m) and for my defensive and tactical ability, following the game plan. Scoring was not one of my fortes.
Q. How has the pivot position changed?
A. The pivot as we understood it in my time, the five, no longer exists. Before a player of 2.10 could be slow. Not today, the field has become small, the players are bigger in all positions. The center needs to have outside threat. Although, and do not get angry my forward friends, it is worth that maxim that a good team is formed by a good pass and a good center.
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