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basketball drills Interviews

Zan Tabak: "Pitino made some wrong choices about players"
by Jorge Sierra / November 11, 2002

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First of all... You've been hit by several injuries over the last couple of seasons, how do you feel right now?

Zan Tabak: Right now I feel good. I don't feel any problem with injury, but I'm far out of my shape. I'm not in my game shape, because I didn't play for three weeks.

You left Europe in the mid-nineties only to return last year. How much do you feel Europen basketball has changed over those years?

ZT: European basketball improved. A lot. I think just it is just too bad the best European players are not staying for so long here. As soon as they reach good potential, they are moving to the States.

You could have stayed in Indiana last season, why did you decide to go back to Europe instead?

ZT: I played for three years in Indiana. I wanted to come back because I felt I was 31 years old and I was feeling my career was coming to the end. I didn't want to finish my career being just one of the players. I wanted to be an important player in my team.

What was your best experience in the NBA through all those years?

ZT: My best experience in what sense?

I mean, what do you remember with the greatest joy of that time in the NBA?

ZT: I enjoyed living in the States. I enjoyed playing in the States. My regret is that I was never able to make the impact in the NBA like I made in Europe. For some time I was satisfied, but, after that, I wanted to come back to Europe and be in a main role.

What was like winning the ring with the Rockets?

ZT: It was my rookie year, and I didn't participate very much. But, you know, it's a great experience.

So you don't feel much part of that success.

ZT: No, I don't feel much part of that success. I have some other titles that I won in Europe where I feel much part of. I gave my best years in the NBA for Toronto Raptors and for Pacers. That's where I played the most and the best.

And what was like playing in your rookie season with Hakeem Olajuwon?

ZT: First of all, Olajuwon is a great man. I saw today that he got retired and I wish him the best for the rest of his life. First of all, he is a great man. I don't even want to talk about him as a player, because everybody knows. But I know him very well personally and he is a great man.

Was he one of those guys that took care of the rookies and tried to teach them?

ZT: Yes, he took care of me every day. I was playing with him before and after practices one-on-one. He tried to adjust my game. He helped me a lot.

You played in the NBA under Rudy Tomjanovich, Rick Pitino, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird... Who would you choose if you had to choose one?

ZT: If you need somebody who has to teach basketball, I choose Rick Pitino. If you need somebody who has to lead a team, a veteran team, I choose Rudy Tomjanovich.

Two of the coaches you played for, Rick Pitino and Isiah Thomas, are controversial characters. Let's start with Pitino. He didn't live up to the expectations in Boston. What do you think was the reason?

ZT: First of all, Pitino is a great coach in my opinion. I think he made some wrong basketball choices during his time in the Celtics and he paid for that in the end.

Which choices?

ZT: I think choices scouting players. He made picks on some wrong players.

Any player in particular?

ZT: I'm not going to mention anybody in particular, because that's a past time. I'm not anymore in the NBA and I don't want to go that way. But he made some wrong choices about players. And when you make three or four wrong decisions in the long run you are going to pay for it.

And what about Isiah Thomas? Word out of Indiana, according to some reports, is that he is not a very hard worker. What would you say?

ZT: I don't know. There are just few head coaches who are actually working a lot individually with the team on a daily basis. When I was there, we were working with Brendan Malone... And I do not agree with that... Like a player, he was a hard worker. He had a hard worker mentality and I don't think you can change that. I think that he had some other problems. But I do not agree with the constatation that he is not a hard worker.

Did you have any offer to return to the NBA this summer?

ZT: I didn't even try. I didn't even try. Like I said, I'm going to come back to Europe to finish my career and become one of the main guys in the team.

If you had a good offer, would you consider it? If they promise you will have playing time...

ZT: I don't care about money. Only playing time. If I get playing time on a daily basis, I'll get back there.

Jorge Sierra is the editor of

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