(Editor’s note: This story is pulling quotes from an interview in Slovenian and then translated to English by us. Since no one on staff is a native Slovenian speaker, we did the best we can in translation. If you are a speaker and see errors, please leave a comment or reach out to us.)
Saša Dončić, the father of Luka Dončić, will become the new sports director of the Slovenian Basketball Association, President Matej Erjavic and Dončić announced Thursday at a press conference. Here, Dončić talked about his future role and vision for the team and association.
“I have to say that when I got the offer, I first asked a few people from the national team, especially Luka, if they agreed. I also called a few other players,” Dončić said, according to the Slovenian media outlet SportKlub.
He will be working with young players in the NCAA and Europe, but he also said that he would advise young, talented players to stay in Europe instead of going to the US:
“Unfortunately, today’s guys look at earnings rather than development. Personally, I think it would be wiser for Vid and Cyani (editor’s note: the young Slovenian players Jan Vide and Saša Ciani, who play in the NCAA currently) to stay in Europe and find a club where they can play and develop. I may be wrong, but for an above-average talented player, it is better to stay in Europe. It will be one of our tasks to try to convince them.”
When asked why this system works for Americans, Dončić gave a very interesting answer and highlighted Dirk Nowitzki:
“I think the turning point happened with Dirk Nowitzki. He is one of the first European players, besides Vlade Divac and Dražen Petrović, who became the brand of their American team. It was here that the mentality of Americans towards European players began to change. I don’t know if this mentality has come to the NCAA yet. Doubt [it). Americans prefer pushing their own players. You really have to be outstanding. I don’t know who got better out of the NCAA,” Dončić said.
Erjavec, the President of Slovenian Basketball Association, agrees.
“This is a dilemma, even for parents,” according to Erjavec. “If they send a kid to the NCAA, he gets an education and he’s going to make some money. In terms of basketball, we know that no one has ever come back better than before he went.
Just having returned from visiting his son and new granddaughter, Dončić also gave his opinion on the Dallas Mavericks roster.
“The start of Dallas, compared to last season, is very promising. Now that I’m back from Dallas, I don’t remember them playing a complete game. They have a lot of injury problems, but they have already shown that if they are full and fit, they can beat the best and hottest teams in the league. I won’t be surprised if this year’s Dallas Mavericks goes very far.”
Since Saša Dončić’s own son has been the focal point of the Slovenian national team for years and the fact that Saša is friends with almost everyone involved, he had to answer questions about a possible conflict of interest. But that won’t be an issue, he says.
“I have these things very clear. When it’s business, it’s business. When it’s friends and family gatherings, it’s friends and family gatherings.”
49-year-old Saša Dončić has been following the national team up close in recent years, for a long time as a TV commentator, and at the last World Championships in Okinawa and Manila, as a fan to support his son.
The new grandfather just returned from Texas, where he visited his son and his family. “I have to admit that I was especially surprised by the weather conditions, because it was very cold and I really didn’t expect anything like that. Luka feels fine, but now he has had ankle problems. He missed three games and they acted as if he was missing a whole month. Today he was already able to play. I watched the game and I am glad that he feels good,” Dončić said.
And like his son, basketball means something special to him. “I certainly did not take on this role because of the financial side, but because of the feeling that basketball gives you.”