Slaven Bilic NBA special - Part Two

Ahead of West Ham United's US Tour 2016, Slaven Bilic sat down with NBA UK to discuss his lifelong love of basketball

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has shared his love for the sport of basketball in a revealing two-part interview with NBA UK.

Bilic hails from the traditional European basketball powerhouse of Croatia, which has provided dozens of players to America’s fabled NBA (National Basketball Association) league.

Speaking ahead of the Hammers’ US Tour 2016, which will see Bilic and his squad visit Seattle, Washington and Cary, North Carolina, in July the manager told of his passion for basketball, its players and its coaches.

In Part Two, the manager reveals his respect for legendary coach Phil Jackson and picks his all-time greatest NBA starting five...
Slaven, we talked in Part One about the similarities between coaching in football and basketball. Which NBA coaches do you look up to?

“When I was preparing myself for this job, one of the best books I ever read was Phil Jackson’s book Sacred Hoop. It’s unbelievable. Everything is in there about tactics, management, how to cope with Michael Jordan and the other guys, and the two ways basketball was played in the United States, college style with a one-man team and then professional style.

“He talked about how he changed that and went from one style to the other without Jordan losing his importance and used other big stars like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.”
As in basketball, is tactical knowledge the most important coaching quality you can possess in football?

“Without tactical knowledge you can’t apply for the job, but knowing that is not everything because you are dealing with people.

“As important as tactics is man-management because basically you are coping with up to 25 young athletes who have big egos because they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t strong characters.

“Ten or 12 of them might be unhappy to start with, but during the course of the season you will have to call on them so you have to learn how to cope with them and keep those who don’t play less unhappy and motivated.”

Who were your favourite players growing up?

"I was a big Utah Jazz fan, with the Mailman Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek. I remember during the 1998 World Cup in France and we had beaten Jamaica in the first game, I was rooming with Robert Prosinecki who was also NBA-crazy, and we came back to the hotel at 1am and watched the famous NBA finals game against the Jazz when Michael Jordan scored the winning shot and I was gutted!

"Of course the Chicago Bulls had my fellow Croatian Toni Kukoc but I was a Jazz fan and we'd stayed up all night to watch it!

"I also loved Detroit Pistons with Rasheed Wallace and the Bulls. Now, they have Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors and he is not human! I saw Jordan and all them but what he is doing you think 'this is really not possible' because he does it whenever he wants - it's unbelievable!

"I also love Derrick Rose, and I liked Allen Iverson, who played for Besiktas in Turkey at one time!"

Slaven, it would be remiss of us not to ask you to name your all-time NBA starting five...

“Of course I would have Drazen Petrovic. The guards would be Isiah Thomas... Actually no, the guards would be John Stockton and Drazen, then the Mailman and Michael Jordan. For my big man, I'll have Toni Kukoc."

Finally, who will win the 2016 NBA Finals?

"I didn't like when LeBron James left Cleveland and now he has come back and I would like them to win it."

*For full details of West Ham United's US Tour 2016, click here.