There is no doubt that European basketball owes a lot to Partizan and their tradition. The Serbian team has "produced" many top-level players who shined during the previous decades and also used to be a really tough opponent for any team that tried to grab a win in their always crowded court.
Since 2017, mr Ostoja Mijailovic has taken charge as Partizan's president and up to now he has made many moves that helped the team to get back in a direction that can make them return in European basketball's elite.
In an interview with SDNA, mr Mijailovic evaluated the team's progress until now, expressed his happiness regarding Partizan's "Hall of Fame" and explained why coach Andrea Trinchieri has his support. Moreover, he stated that Partizan is ready for a Euroleague return and revealed in which level he hopes to see his team two years from now.
If I asked you to evaluate how satisfied you are from the progress that Partizan has made since 2017, would you be more proud about the way you handled the debts' issue or about the improvement of the team in terms of sporting results?
Both. It is connected in many ways, but the key point was to show that we are capable to make this organization big again. That we are ready to face all challenges, and earn trust, which is a key of any business. The only way to do that was to work one step at a time. And by the time we made several successful moves, many people recognised that we are doing the right thing and decided to help in various ways. Former players decided to forgive significant part of the depths, some people from “business world” decided to join us and invest in our project, and we slowly started to build a solid system, which is able to function and keep moving forward no matter what. We cleared the space for our sports sector to work without tensions and to focus only on their job – results came as a reward.
How important and how difficult was it for you to rebuild the "image" of the team and finally persuade players, coaches, agents, sponsors, officials etc that Partizan are stable again and in a process to become again an elite-level team?
I believe that’s the key. Once we earned their trust, we were ready to move forward. It was hard, it was stressful, but at the same time, it is an honour to be part of Partizan’s rich history, and to lead the team of people which are working 24/7 to return the club on elite-level - side by side with the best teams, and the best organizations in Europe. We are heading in that direction.
Do you think that this season before the coronavirus outbreak was supposed to be a statement-season that Partizan is officially back? Were you confident that the season would end with you going all the way for Eurocup and ABA league titles?
As you know, in sports, you can’t take anything for granted and be sure that you will be the one standing after the buzzer. However, we were very confident and we still are, that we have what it takes to be able for a fight ‘till the end. I think we made a statement even in this part of the season: We have won ABA SuperCup and Serbian National Cup, we were leaders of ABA League with secured home court advantage until the end, and we did the same in 7Days EuroCup. So, even theoretically, no one could do more at that moment.
I was reading an interview from Andrea Trinchieri and he told how huge for him is seeing legends of the team coming to the practices and being close to the team. How is your relationship with these legends? Do you try having them close to the team, so as to give extra motivation to your current players and also help you with their useful advice?
That Hall of Fame we have…that’s something money can’t buy. That is something what makes this club special. These people love Partizan, and they are part of the family for life. And like in every family, kids always love to see their famous uncles and to get something from them. Sometimes, even high-five from their idols is an extra motivation for our young players. My relationship with them is based on high respect and trust, and I am very proud to have support form legends like Kicanovic, Obradovic, Danilovic…the list is quite long, and every Partizan fan is proud of that list.
How do you rate Trinchieri's presence in the team until now? I guess it's something very important for you having a well-established coach in the team and it seems that he also loves being Partizan's coach.
When we hired Trinchieri, some people meant it is a risky move, but it turned out that it was a good decision. Everybody knows how important the role of the coach is, and Andrea is doing his job very well. Yes, everybody at the club feel that he loves being Partizan’s coach, which is great. Having a job you love in an organization you love is rare thing in this world. And we are happy to have him as well.
I know that last year you were quite confident about getting that wild card for Euroleague. Do you think that finally it may be better for you that you played one more season in Eurocup so as to be more ready for this challenge?
Our system is made that way, that we are heading in a direction of playing again in Euroleague sooner or later. We were ready then, maybe we are even more ready now. It turned out that this year in EuroCup was not bad for us, we played great games against great opponents, and I hope we will get a chance to finish this season.
Is there any "deadline" you have set in mind regarding the return to Euroleague? How painful would it be for you if you don't have a Euroleague spot next year in case this season is cancelled?
There is many “if” in this question, and many open topics. At this point, the whole Euroleague family hopes that the season will end on court, and that is the only thing we ever talked about. What would happen is this season is cancelled, who will play, even in which format… That is something we have to leave for a case “if” it happens. There is no deadline, but I am confident that we are ready for Euroleague now. As a matter of fact, I think that we showed it.
Partizan played one year in the BCL before joining Eurocup. What is your opinion about the conflict between the two sides and could Partizan be a team who would help in a dialogue between all the sides so as European basketball to become a "union"?
To be honest, no one ever asked us to help, but my opinion is that solvation of that conflict would be good for European basketball.
Which is your vision for Partizan in terms of roster construction? We are used to seeing Partizan finding good foreigners but always having young Serbians who make huge steps and becoming top-level players, like Bogdanovic, Milutinov, Marinkovic etc recently. Would you like your team keep this identity?
Of course. We have a few very talented players who secured the spot in ANGT F8 in Cologne. Unfortunately, F8 was cancelled, but we have high hopes that these kids will develop into valuable first team players. Maybe, some of them will build their own legacy in Partizan. We will provide them with good conditions, and their job is to work hard, to gain coaches trust and to earn chance.
Do you have any dream for the celebration of Euroleague 1992's title 30th anniversary, which will be in 2022? In which level do you dream to see Partizan in two years from now?
Great dates are there to be remembered and to be proud of. I hope we will be in Euroleague, maybe fighting for a spot in Top 8.