A great honor to have a talk with ‘the Belgrade prince’, Vladimir Lučić
A really funny evening in Assago, since the FC Bayern company reached Assago at the eve of the coming game against Olimpia and we had the opportunity to join them in hotel. The man that we used to call “the Belgrade prince” in our past report, Vladimir Lučić, opened up his thoughts to me and my fellow Lorenzo Lubrano, in an other double-handed interview Eurodevotion offers, after Thomas Walkup one.
While the entire roster and staff was placidly buzzing around the lobby, and after coach Trinchieri previously prepared “Luća” to our interview with a few words in very strict Serbian the meaning we’re still wondering about, we had the great honor to converse with a great player and person as Lucic undoubtedly is.
His path, his Bayern Munich, his role and personality, memories about Bayern-Olimpia playoff series, some gems about his off-ball game and his future after the playing career are only some of the hot topics we talked about in this very intriguing conversation.
J: Dobro jutro brate! Let’s start with a more personal question. It was January 2010 when you played the first EL minute… What do you think about that young guy, with the eye of the man you’re now?
“Uff… It sounds a lot, hearing 2010. I think it’s different time, basketball wise, when I had the chance to start and play Euroleague, compared to the players that do it today. I was lucky to be on the only team from that region which played the EL. Coach and generally the whole system, the mentality of Partizan Belgrade at that time was focused on young players. I cannot say it was easy for a youngster to step up, but the philosophy was to produce young players. I improved during the years as a player, as a person, picking up all the good and bad things from the coaches for who I worked through the career, and I was pretty lucky to have great ones.”
L: Serbia is a land of basketball. How much of Serbia is there in Lucic?
“It’s one hundred and one percent! Born and raised in Belgrade, through the whole career I had this ‘Serbian mentality’. Coaches coach that which they’ve learned from other Serbian coaches. A lot of pieces of myself are basically Serbian.“
L: You have decided to sign with Bayern Monaco until 2025, a very important decision. What does represent for Bayern and city of Munchen?
“Club showed the interest, this is my seventh season here, in total they will be nine. We already negotiate many times to resign contracts. They showed respect to me, at this point I’m really thankful.
Probably for them being able to keep me the period in which I have played the best years of my career was important, but, besides Bayern Munich, at the end was my decision, in this point of my career and being as experienced as you said.
Played the first Euroleague game in 2010 already, when I decided to resign I had three things to find around the club, the first of course money and contract, but the other two, really important, were the club – the organization, the coach and everything which is connected with the club himself, and I’m super happy of how things are going around and inside the club – and the family – the life off the court, what I have in Munich for my two daughters and my wife is fundamental to be happy. At the end it was an easy decision.”
L: During these years Bayern has become a team very difficult to play against in EL. Some players changed but the philosophy of the team didn’t, which is the secret?
“The secret is definitely the grant that’s in our jersey, it’s known only to be first, started with the soccer team which is one of the best football organization in the world.
Basketball wants to be as close as possible to that, having the people who are involved in the football too, it’s the mentality they transfer to basketball organization. I honestly acknowledge that in early beginning when I came in Munich, we still played Eurocup and we weren’t recognized at highest level in Euroleague, so in all that period of time, with Djordevic, Radonjic and now especially Andrea (Trinchieri, ed), all the coaches left they’re own mark here and built the team at the level where we’re know.”
J: Philosophy stays the same, but this year you had some difficulties. I think also because normally you had more veterans to, let’s say, revalue, this year you had two guys in key roles with a lot of potential but none experience as Winston and Gillespie. What do you think about that and what are your impression about their actual growth?
“The philosophy of the team in general, if you look to the past, comparing last three years since Andrea and a little bit earlier Daniele (Baiesi, ed) are here, it was always to find “steals” in Europe or overseas, players that weren’t known that much or didn’t play at highest level in clubs before.
I think that the number one reason is that unfortunately we had a lot of problems, and we still have, with injuries. A lot of us was injured through many weeks or months, of course when you lose two, three, four players you suffer… the mentality, players’ role and rotation is changing through the year and they were, including me, many important players.
It’s not the best thing to live, but I think both of them, Cassius (Winston, ed) and Freddie (Gillespie, ed) improved a lot comparing to the beginning of the year, that’s for the quality of the team, but also for coach Trinchieri, obsessed with basketball details and being able to teach them every day, showing the mistakes and the good things that they do, and the rest of the coaching staff. I think it’s really good for any young player, especially with no Euroleague experience, to have season like this and me personally I’m happy for the improvements of both of them.”
J: Tomorrow you’re going to play against Olimpia… Here you’ve lived an historic playoff series. Is it more the regret for the loss or the pride to have taken Milan to game five as a playoff newcomer?
“For me, since it was the first big playoff experience in EL, it was particular. Especially the way we bounce back after the loss in Milan, and then two games after. We played not a great game five here, but at the end we had that last possession to win the game. Winning that, we would be two wins close to win it all… I think that year we beat Efes two times, the same with Barça. That year, with that team mentality, nobody knew what we can expect. For me definitely that was a bad memory, but it was great playoff series.”
J: Are there moments that you particularly remember?
“First memory is the way we lost game one, with the alley-oop from the side line and Leday scoring this layup. Me, personally, the game three that I had, and also the dunk in the fast break with Pauli (Zipser, ed) throwing that alley-oop. That’s probably top three that I remember. Also Pauli’s dunk on one of the best blockers in Euroleague history, it was a though one.”
L: In an interview with Mozzart Sport (1/5/22) you told that Trinchieri with Jasikevicius is one of the best coach in Europe. How much was he important for your growth? Is that kind of hunger your best similitude with him?
“I said he’s one of the best coaches in Europe and I still think it. I really had great coaches, but my stats in my first two years with Andrea are that of an All-Euroleague First Team two years ago and last year All-Second Team.
Statistically I played my best basketball being coached by him and yes, maybe we’ve similar personalities. In some things we might be similar, in others completely different, but from day one we had great communication on and off the court. It always comes with performing, if I didn’t perform good, if I didn’t feel the way he feels basketball, then maybe the relationship would be different. Now it’s very good and so far I’m really happy with the relationship we built in this three years together.”
L: We know that neither you and him like to lose…
“If you speak to any other players, nobody likes to lose. Definitely in some talks that we had, we figure out that maybe we get losses over us too much, and think too much about the game that we’ve lost through days and weeks. I think somebody else should compare us in that point of being hungry and for our personalities, I can only repeat that I’m really happy to be coached by Andrea.”
J: I read a past report about you (Backdoor Podcast, ed) where they said that you’re the perfect version of a glue guy, because of your all-around ability to impact the game. Normally a glue guy is a part of the supporting cast, while you in these years have brought that role at the maximum potential, being so much pivotal for your team, what do you think?
“I agree. Going back to your first question, I started in the only way you can start if you’re not a super talented player from the young age. In that situation – and in many other team it would have been the same – you have, to step in and build a role, to be super simple: play defense, score when you’re alone, run. In other words, do the basic things to the perfection.
Then you can have the confidence of the coach to put you in in some important games, that’s how I started, I’ve never been a scorer-minded player, I was always in the mentality of thinking the team more important than the individual. To win titles you have to be a good team, to have good chemistry, to have a good defense.
Through the years I found myself in different roles, for example in the starting five of the Euroleague, but even now the spot where I feel most comfortable in is to play that they have called “glue”. The things that I do isn’t so much visible in the statistics, but people who really understands basketball can say that I had a good game, having only 6 points or 6 in evaluation. I don’t need to be the MVP of the game to play a good game, that’s still the role I pretty like.”
J: Staying on the same topic, talking about those things that you do that stats don’t talk about, you’re really a wizard in the art of playing off-ball. Flip pass and drive, hand offs, corner threes, coming of screens, cuts, etc. What is your tecnhical approach on the court to do it and how does this relate with Trinchieri’s requests?
“Again, it relates with me starting with almost four seasons in Partizan, where I took the role of being one of the main guys there, the captain of the team. I built my road to that position, trying to do the simple things. Cutting, seeing myself in getting and obtaining easy baskets, all the rest for me come later.
Everything else is 100% related with Andrea, since you have to have spacing, to have options to cut, things that depends a lot on set offense and some special situations. Those are things that we’re not doing only on the game, but we can work on it through the practices.
Of course not always is Andrea’s ideas and decision, but it might be from me as a player, or an other one, to see a gap where he cut and he continue to do that if it works. Movement without the ball depends on set offense, on the playbook, on the idea of the coach, on spacing and having the teammates that are gonna find you on certain cuts.“
J: Just let us a funny final question. We heard that Zipser continue to tell you that you would be a great coach, but you don’t wanna hear nothing about that…
“Uff.. (laughs, ed) Being all my life in basketball, the way I learned the game was, besides watching it, for the fact I was surrounded by players and coaches who knows basketball and understand it, I was really lucky to have that experience. From the other side, I don’t know how much I will play, or if I’ll continue after the expiring of this deal, but at the end it’ll be almost nineteen professional season and to keep this lifestyle is too much.
Moreover I think being a player is the easiest job in basketball, coaches come much earlier than us, they’re preparing every game, have to present us videos. We practice and go home, they watch more videos and prepare following games.
So it’s the same with traveling and not being at home, but with more job. And then, if I want to accept this lifestyle, it’s hard to have fifteen idiots in the team, trying to manage everybody and keep everybody happy, I don’t think I’m the type of person for it! (laughs, ed)“
J: If you change idea, in, let’s say, twenty years in the future, we’ll be here to interview you!
“If I change idea, it has to be maximum five years. Later on, it would be definitely never included in the spot… But we can always make the interview!“