Long before Leopards’ 2011/12 treble-winning coach Dejaan Mihevc agreed to be interviewed for this history, he spoke to the club website about his early coaching career.
When did you first start coaching?
How many years have you been coaching?
What made you want to become a coach?
I always had love and passion for the game of basketball and in some way I always knew that I will be a coach one day. I like working with different kinds of people in a challenging environment, regardless of how much energy, time, work and creativity it may demand as long as I can help them to develop and improve. And all of this you can get if you are a coach.
I would say that maybe I was lucky that I started coaching quite young and that in all of those years I had a great opportunity to work with or to watch some greatest coaches in the world. But the reason why I started young it is not nice. The reason was a serious injury on my knee because of which I wasn’t allowed anymore to play team sports but I wanted to be part of it. So as it is said everything is good for something and I became a coach what I really enjoying and would not change it for anything.
Who influenced your coaching the most (who was your mentor)?
First year of coaching I was able to go and watch practices of Union Olimpija that is the best club in Slovenia and are competing in Euroleague. In that time the head coach was Zmago Sagadan, who is in my opinion one of the best coaches and with that I mean not just in Slovenia. In his time with Union Olimpia, they always had good results and they produce great players and coaches. One of those coaches is now a young but successful coach Saso Filipovski, who is always there to help and who also had great influence on me and who I really appreciate.
But generally I would say that every coach that I watch or worked with him had some influence on me. With some I have seen how the things should be and with some how maybe shouldn’t be done but I learned from all and there were quite a lot of them already.
Biggest highlight or thrill in coaching?
Every year, with every team there were some highlights and of course some thrilling moments and this is why we all like basketball, but for now I would point out U16 European Championship where we lost in semi-finals with a last shoot and then next day won with a last shoot. Both days we had the last shoot and the shooter was the same. I was really happy for the team to get a medal after a hard lost just 16 hours earlier and also very happy for a shooter.
Hardest trainer you have coached?
There was a player that I coached as an assistant a few years ago. He was 36 years old and he never missed a practice or a game. In two seasons that we were together he played with broken nose, with broken finger and with 38 degree fever. He used to come to practice everyday at least 45 minutes earlier and did his drills before the practice. He always worked really hard, diving on the floor for every ball and was really competitive. And if there were any arguments at practice he would always say:” Let’s sort this out on the court. One on one, one ball, one basket and we will see. No talking!” He never lost any of those 1:1 games even though he was not the youngest one and for sure not the best shooter or ball-handler, but he was a great fighter who never quit.
Hardest skill or concept to teach?
Every skill and every concept can be taught, but the hardest thing to teach them is understanding of the game and reading different situations and react on them.
Most important skill or concept to teach?
For me all skills are important and they all go one with another, but if I have to I would give little bit more weight on shooting and passing. If we are looking modern basketball then the most important concept to teach is fast break and transition and of course understanding the pick and roll offence.
Who would you rather coach (Boys or Girls; juniors or seniors)?
I do not prefer any, but it is important that the environment gives me some challenge and that there is a room for development.
Whistle or no whistle?
Craziest thing you have seen on a court during a game?
Here I will tell you about one Slovenian player and most of the people will say that he is crazy but I would say he has … It happened in U14 school competition. It was second game of a knock out system of semi-finals. They played first game away and they lost by one point. On home game there was 5 seconds to go and the score was tied and that player was in fast break going to the basket basically in 1:0 situation. He was already in the paint and just needed a lay up for win. He suddenly stopped, dribbled out on the three point line and shoot a three pointer. He made it. It was a little crazy but after the game when I spoke with him he told me that he wanted to finish in style. This was his tenth three pointer in that game and he for sure needed some confidence and »craziest« to do that. If he would miss they would be out.
Advice to beginning coaches?
Be always open to learn. As a coach you learn every day. You learn from other coaches, you learn from players and you learn from life and this process never ends, but it only makes you better every day.
Do not copy but take good thing, learn from others mistakes and make your own way, your own philosophy that will reflect you. Do not try to be somebody else, be yourself.
Always act professional. It doesn’t matter if you are coaching youth or senior always be prepared. Plan your practices and be ready for everything that can happened on practice…expect unexpected and be ready for it.
Your goal should be that in every practice you teach your players something new. So they finish practice better than they were at the beginning.
And the most important one is that you work with passion and enjoying it.