The words of General Manager Paolo Ronci reported to Corriere di Bologna in today’s edition.
“Being with the team every day, an extended concept that includes not only the players, is part of my role. I read a lot, learning as much from very good managers I met abroad. My role is to keep the balance in the stimuli, which sometimes you don’t just provide with pats on the back, and to create empathy. Empathy must be sought; that is the secret, if we are to find one. Empathy allows teams at some point to catch a fair wind and become unassailable.”
When did Virtus catch its fair wind?
“This year coming to the Italian Cup in bad conditions pinched our sense of competition. But that wind has to go looking for it, and we at Virtus have many who know where to find it.”
And before that?
“At the pandemic stop we were a spectacle, I was saying ‘mamma mia.’ That left a mark. Starting again for the new championship we had to pick ourselves up, we already wanted to be at the decisive games we had earned the year before and instead we were six months away. But then, a little bit like what happened at Efes, that seed came back up. It was a boost.”
Back to today. You go to the Euroleague final and are invited to the gala. Virtus is back on the map.
“We are not going to be an extra. We want to stay more than one year and participate in the life and development of the Euroleague. We will do it with competitiveness and humility.”
The word “competitiveness” returns a lot in your speeches. And many “competitors” you have engaged.
“We have competitiveness as a daily sense, it is an obsession with improvement. When Teodosic signed, he came to a Virtus he could only imagine. It was the foundation stone of an idea. When we started talking to Belinelli, he said the word “win” 18 times in the first two minutes of conversation. That was what we wanted, and he was testing our ambition. The arrival of Hackett and Shengelia brought additional value, as well as the trade that Scariolo talked about.”
Usually when a team wins, the unselfishness of the champions is extolled. Here another characteristic appears: the ability to coach each other, staff, team and managers.
“It’s true. The point is that in this society everyone loves to do the things Virtus needs to win. Dr. Zanetti, as far as himself, Baraldi and myself are concerned, spoke of a very united and stoic trio. That is a strong message. And the group likes to be together, to stimulate each other. The young people watch the veterans but the veterans watch each other: there is always something to take.”
Has Scariolo’s arrival marked another quantum leap in your project?
“Sergio has a competitive serenity about him but that brings with it a very high sense of demand. It is the mentality: he demands, and those who play here are aware that they have to give their all. I have a stimulating daily confrontation with him; we are two very thoughtful people.”
Are you the prey today, and no longer Milan?
“I don’t like to talk about others. We want to defend the Scudetto, and I think that, at our best, we are a very difficult team to beat.”
The city is already talking about tomorrow, the names of Milutinov, Vesely, Polonara have come out…
“Our team should be loved, we need to make the players feel this mood as the fans have done so far. For the market there will be time. Of course, today I consider Virtus a rising star, that is, to be in the top ten European clubs where a player would like to play, and this will set goals for our market. Making the Euroleague to get into the top eight requires a structured and deep roster, which we will build. Being able to sign two champions like Hackett and Shengelia marks the direction we want to go, but we should not think that only big names are needed: decisive men like Weems, Cordiner and Jaiteh, Eurocup’s mvp, arrived thanks to scouting work. Moreover, the team is hardly perfect on August 20: the club always keeps some room for maneuver.”
Will Shengelia stay?
“When he signed we made a promise to each other: first we achieve the goals, then we talk. He is fine in Bologna, it is very important for us to have him. At the end of the playoffs, we will be each other’s priority.”
Mannion has been affected by problems that have not allowed the technical project to blossom. He still has one (expensive) year left on his contract and an exit to the NBA. What will the future be?
“Nico has had a serious illness, not an indisposition. And he had to chase all season, subjected to constant judgments. This was not year one for him with us, but year 0.5. When the season is over, we will meet to reassess the situation. This summer will be very important for his future.”
But do you ever get angry?
“Only when something unacceptable comes to soil the serenity of the group. At that point I make a shield. That, too, is needed to catch that fair wind that allows you to open great cycles of wins. And we want to open one.”