Basque native, back in 1967, Pablo Laso is re-writing the history of the most glorious and winning club all over the world. But don’t tell him, ‘cause he will answer you with a simple and shy smile, the secret of his being so normal and a very special man, actually belonging to a short list of best ever.
Pablo Laso Biurrun is a calm, wise and meditative man. He reflects his being great in daily working, with just few words but remarkable coaching skills that make him a huge winner. There’s an anedocte about Pablo we witnessed in Belgrade that perfectly shows the greatness of the man before the coach. It was late night the day of the semis and he was walking in downtown with his family: he stopped by a restaurant and asked for a table. The waiter responded that they were closed. Usually a superstar does not accept that kind of answers… Pablo smiled, kindly saluted the waiter and kept on walking with his family and friends, totally available for fans asking for selfies (it was 1am…).
He landed in 2011 in Madrid, coming from San Sebastian, where his coaching duties were not highly appreciated from the president Mr Gorka Ramoneda, that express his being unsatisfied during a meeting in may. A 12th to 14th place in ACB was not enough. Nevertheless, he signed another contract with the basques in june, before “the call”. One season later, the outstanding job of coach Laso paid off in San Sebastian too: a 5th pace and a playoff berth. But he was in the capital yet, ready for a longlasting flight with the “blancos”.
As player he grew up in Colegio San Viator in Vitoria: 61 games with the national team and just two titles, a Eurocup in ’97 with Real and a Copa del Rey with Baskonia 2 years before.
When he signed with Madrid, the press was a bit suspicious: how can such young coach be “the one” in a place like “la casa blanca”? The situation of the club was not a nice one, after so many unsuccessful seasons. But the choice of the management revealed great.
In Real’s history 29 coaches sat on the bench from 1931, the foundation year. Just Clifford Luyk, Lolo Sainz and Pero Ferrandiz stayed for more then 3 seasons and 200 games. Then it was about Laso, that anyway never accepted to be compared to those legends : «If we are here it because of those guys, there’s no way for me to stay with them». Now Pablo has more than 500 games with a winning percentage way over 75%.
«When I signed for Real I had an idea of what it mean to me. Later on I understood it better. You can’t be aware of that overnight, you need to work daily and always keep on doing that: we are Real Madrid».
There’s no need to go back to Phil Jackson’s Zen principles to understand that “lasismo” is a concept, is a way of doing things with style, is a journey far more important than the landing place. Now “la prensa madridista” knows it perfectly.
It was a tough time for Real before his arrival in town: 4 seasons without any trophy, 6 years with any Liga, 18 years without playing any Euroleague final, 19 years without a Copa Del Rey. After 7 season, with a Liga still playing the Playoff, Pablo Laso won 14 titles (3 ACB, 5 Copa del Rey, 3 Supercopa, 1 Intercontinental and 2 Euroleague). The record in the regular season of Liga Endesa is actually the fourth best performance by a team with this format. Form 2001 to 2011 Madrid won as few as 3 titles (2 Liga and a Uleb between 2005 and 2007 under Maljkovic and Plaza).
«Luka Doncic landed in Madrid, just 13 years old, in 2011 too. This is about how big is our journey and the future we have to face».
Pablo is at the same time the only coach under Florentino Perez to stay on the bench for more than 3 seasons. Continuity is the way for Real with this coach, playing 20 finals out of 28 possible, 6 times as runner up.
He won the regular season 5 times out 7: before his tenure it happened only one time in 15 years, an unlucky event that ended with an unbelievable elimination in the first round of Playoffs, first time ever in Spain. He never lost more than 8 games, establishing the best first, second, third and fourth best record in history (2,3 4, 5 losses).
Laso’s team played six finals in ACB with 4 titles: before him it was about 4 finals and 3 titles in 17 years.
6 finale and 5 triumphs in 7 years, while before him it was 5 finals, all lost, in 18 years.
3 Supercopa changed a lot compared to the previous era, with just two finals in ’04 and ’09.
After Zaragoza, where the team coached by Obradovic, with Sabonis on the court, won in ’95, it happened only once to be in the F4. Now it’s about 5 F4 berth and two titles (’15 and ’18).
Coach Laso’s philosophy it’s built on system where talent is perfectly mixed to team organization. A highly ranked offense, with a full list of records established, has been actually completed by a strong defense, the main reason of lifting the Cup in Belgrade. After the final I could ask him about Rudy’s defensive performance and his answer was typically Laso’s one, humble with a smile : «Not so many think of him as the best defender all over Europe, but I know it».
Pablo is in the history of the game and of this club: he joined the elite in a silent but effective way. His basketball will leave a remarkable trace for the young coaches. It’s the first time, after so many years, that we see a team playing with a center and a real power forward: it’s about Ayon or Tavares always pairing with Randolph, Reyes or Thompkins. Perimeter is important but never as the inside game of the big men. Playing on the arc is an option, not the main target for number 4 and number 5.
He managed to keep the things going during an awful situation of injuries: Llull, Randolph, Kuzmic and Ayon remained seated for months and months. Did you ever hear coach Laso complaining about that? No. he worked hard making things happen with the players that were available. And at the end his team was stronger and unbeatable in Belgrade.
There is nothing more appropriate than “lasismo” for the greatest club in the world. That’s why we can read on spanish newspapers comments like «No hay Real Madrid de futbol o de baloncesto, hay Real Madrid. Una camiseta blanca, un escudo redondito y mochas Copas de Europa». With Laso on the bench this will happen again.