Preseason tournaments are different. Somewhere it’s just sport and nothing more. But in St. Petersburg, for several years in a row, attempts have been made to organize a holiday in honor of local legends. The Kondrashin and Belov Cup is not just four games. There is a place for history and honoring basketball veterans. And all the teams (except the local Zenit, of course) live in the same hotel. And this also allows you to feel the atmosphere of the upcoming basketball season.
We arranged an interview with Vasily Karasev in Moscow. For an MBA coach, trips to St. Petersburg are always special. He was not only born here and began to take his first big steps, but also worked at Zenit, where his son still plays.
Last season, MBA made a great debut in the VTB United League. Although before its start, few people believed that a team without foreigners would be able to successfully fight its competitors. We were wrong.
But we begin our conversation with the most surprising event of September: the World Cup final.
— Vasily Nikolaevich, did you see the World Cup?— Yes, I managed to see quite a few games. We met with the coaching staff and watched some interesting games. Somewhere we followed those teams whose style interested us. And the playoffs, of course.
—Will you reveal a secret to us: which teams came closest to the MBA in style?— We were interested in Latvia and Italy. There is a lot of movement. There were no stars clearly visible. We played fast, defensively aggressive, with active transitions and many three-point shots. There was a lot to reflect on and interesting moments for us.
Vasily Karasev and his players during filming.
Photo: PBC MBA
—Did Latvia’s performance in the World Cup cause a sensation?– I think it’s a sensation. But this is a very good job by both the coach and the players. It is clear that when everything started to go well, they also cheered up. They were quite difficult to stop. It’s always easier to play when no one bets on you. There is no pressure, the game works. Even the last match of the tournament, when they beat the Lithuanians by almost “+30”, speaks for itself.
— Germany is world basketball champion. Sound unusual?– It’s not that unusual. The Germans have already deprived us of victory in the European Championship once (in 1993, the Russian national team lost a point to the German team in the Eurobasket final. – Note from the “Championship”). So no one believed in them. And now Germany has an excellent team, everyone is happy to go to the national team, everyone gives everything. Each position features experienced players who, in most cases, are still in NBA school. The most important thing is that they got the best from there, maintaining the European style: team, collective. This probably brought results.
—How do you explain the fourth place finish of the American team?— I have been saying for a long time that the NBA and the Euroleague are two different types of basketball. This was clearly demonstrated in the match between the United States and Canada teams. Both teams were made up of NBA players. But the Canadians were more adapted to European basketball. The NBA has a more open basketball game. Fewer tactical formations. Basketball there is physically strong. You can run, defend one on one and, if everything goes well, you win. And when a high-level team defends against you, then five people defend at once. As far as I could see, the Americans were unable to rebuild.
— You played in Germany and you know local basketball from the inside. What path has the country taken in the development of basketball?— After winning the EuroBasket, the level of the national championship only grew. And it’s not just that such a galaxy of stars now exists there. Quantity gradually turned into quality. There are many teams there. Many of our players are growing and developing. Here is the result.
— Last season, the MBA was very similar to the Latvian team in the World Cup: there is no pressure, there is no brilliant leader, but there is a result. Do you agree?– Yes. We prepared very seriously for the first game. We couldn’t afford to start off relaxed. We managed to win three out of three games at once and confidence started flowing somewhere. Compared to Latvia, we also rode, despite injuries. We managed to complete the first stage well: we were among the top six. Afterwards we played with top-level teams, but even there we achieved three victories. I think this is good. Previously, some clubs did not earn that much in a season.
The most important thing is that the boys developed playing against strong opponents. Next season will be revealing. Everyone is already preparing for us. Everyone is getting ready. The transfer policy also shows that everyone has stepped up. Almost everywhere the positions of foreign players are occupied by quality players.
Vasily Karasev during a break
Photo: MBK MBA
— There are four newcomers to the MBA. How should they change the team’s performance?— Our task was to increase the clip. So we have 12-13 players of equal value. So that the situation of last year does not occur, when at some point we trained with eight people. We don’t need anyone to play for 40 minutes. We don’t have people like Luka Doncic, who can walk but will score 40 points from him. We need to keep our blood pressure high all the time.
Players need to progress. There are no players here who can spend the entire season at a high and constant level. If you have 12 equal players, then the failure of one in a particular match can be covered by another.
— A year ago you returned to men’s basketball. We took a new team from the VTB league without foreign players. Did you often hear doubts about your choice before the start of last season?—I think everyone doubted it. Except the management, who did everything, and the coaching staff. Even talking to acquaintances and friends, they all said: we need to hire foreigners. It’s good that they showed that the Russians know how to play. It is clear that one team is not enough for the galaxy to target the national team. Everything must develop in competition with each other.
As for women’s basketball, it’s like with a bicycle and a scooter. If you rode a bike for 10 years and then rode a scooter for a year, you won’t forget how to ride. There are many examples where a coach misses a year and doesn’t work at all. I was in women’s basketball, we played in the Euroleague, where the level was very decent. I definitely gained new knowledge and new experiences.
— Do you watch the preseason matches of the VTB league teams? What can you say about your opponents?— This year there will definitely be no outsiders. Minsk has strengthened and Astana has also strengthened its squad. The newcomers also immediately closed almost all positions with foreigners. We take quality players. Well, talking about UNICS, Lokomotiv-Kuban, CSKA and Zenit is one level. But everything will be decided by the team, the collective. History knows many examples when there were many stars, but they never formed a team. The MBA will be accepted by rotation, based on desire and dedication. We understand perfectly that it is difficult to talk about the championship now. Let’s not fool anyone. However, it is possible and necessary to do your job, do your best and fight with everyone.
Photo: PBC MBA
— You said that the MBA concept does not imply the presence of a shining star. It turns out that Alexey Shved, who is now without a contract, was not even considered for the MBA?– Definitely. I have a very good attitude towards Alexey. But all team members should have the same requirements. Everyone must give their best in defense, everyone must give their best in attack. At this point, as offensive as it may be to admit, there are no players in Russia who can decide the outcome of the match on their own. But creating this artificially is stupid. There are guys of very good level who can really become leaders of the team in the future. But this is not a one-year job; It is necessary to dedicate several years to it.
Let’s not fool ourselves: everyone who comes to the MBA was not even close to being leaders on their teams. Some people were given very little time. It takes time to rebuild and develop a winning mentality.
— Your work is similar to the work of a psychologist who must make the patient believe in himself…– Believe in yourself. Believe what needs to be done. We say that the ring must be thrown away. And he just gives it away. He doubts it. Because he always gave. There were leaders close by who had to take charge, make mistakes and ultimately give up. We all say that we don’t have foreigners, that we should leave everything behind. Let’s be real: some will be able to improve themselves, but others will not. This is a sport. Otherwise, it would be too easy for the coach to work when the coach’s 12 became stars. If 2-3-4 people shoot high and someone becomes a good player, it will be our victory.
— Last season, MBA defeated Zenit at home, losing during the match by almost 20 points. They then defeated Zenit in the first game of the playoffs. Are the games with this team special for you?— Once again we lost here in St. Petersburg at the last second. But this season Zenit is completely different. The team has become very strong. The arrival of Dubljevic, Kuric and Hunter is a great advantage for the club. The next Russian players, Zhbanov and Gerasimov, will add power. We’ll have to find other keys.
—Will the concept of building an MBA game be maintained?— We take the players under our vision. It’s stupid to take someone and then build a style around them. All beginners can run, throw and are agile. This expands our range of activities.
“You can’t beat everyone in your debut year.” MBA – season opener in the VTB United League