Croatian coach Neven Spahija will depart for San Antonio to visit the coaching staff of the Spurs, Spahija said during a phone-interview on Thursday.
Spahija, 51, who won European titles in Croatia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Spain, Israel and Turkey, has close ties with Spurs personnel. He competed against Gregg Popovich and the Spurs during a pre-season scrimmage in 2006, falling 97-84 with Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv.
"I'm going to San Antonio to watch some practices and games. It's good to communicate with NBA people and gain more experience. I've been tied to the Spurs since 1999 and whenever I'm there I always learn something new," Spahija said.
Spahija received his first coaching gig on January 2000 taking over Cibona Zagreb of his native country. Following his success abroad, Spahija returned to Cibona earlier this past summer, but left in November after the team suffered a financial crisis. "The situation in Cibona was complicated," he said, "Now they're doing pretty well and winning games, but the program and its budget was far from what they promised. I was very naive and thought things could be different, but I understood early that it wasn’t the case and I left."
Zagreb went on a three-month period where a large amount of players were not paid. Eventually, Spahija added, "Andrija Zizic left the team. Then Matt Janning, and D.J. Strawberry. Cibona didn't keep to any of the promises they made."
Ahead of tonight's Euroleague clash in Russia, between CSKA Moscow and Maccabi, Spahija was asked to breakdown the struggles of Jeremy Pargo, and how Tel Aviv combo-guard Ricky Hickman reached European stardom.
"Right now Hickman is playing better basketball, but both are top Euroleague players and had career breakouts with Maccabi. Jeremy Pargo's situation in CSKA is very interesting. Unlike David Blatt, who believes in the open-court system and allows his players more freedom, Ettore Messina is completely different. Both are outstanding coaches, however, Messina likes to be in more control of the game," the Croatian said.
Following a sensational season with Fenerbahce winning the Turkish-League Championship and Cup, Spahija revealed that during the 2011 offseason, Pargo was his prime recruit.
"Before (Jeremy) left Maccabi for the NBA we were very close to signing him. He was my first choice at point guard. I spoke with him on the phone but when the NBA calls players go in a heartbeat," Spahija said. He eventually finished the 2011-12 season without hardwood and believed his "Biggest mistake was letting (Lithuania playmaker) Sarunas Jasikevicius go."
STORY BY DAVID PICK