At one point, the conversation lasted more than half an hour, Sasa Filipovski quotes a Chinese proverb that makes it clear that there is much more at stake here than just sports. That he, the coach of the Würzburg basketball team, not only sees himself as the coach of the Würzburg basketball team. Filipovski says, “You can buy sex, but not love. You can buy a house, but not a home. You can buy a Rolex, but not time.” That’s why Filipovski thinks, “The most important thing is the people.”
A Thursday afternoon in the Würzburg district of Zellerau, a meeting room on the first floor of the fitness center. It has been clear since last weekend that Würzburg will play in the Bundesliga again next season. Filipovski, 47, shows up in a training suit and sits down in the vacant chair, behind which there are a couple of trophies. Then he sits and talks. About basketball, about values, about wealth. It is an image that somehow seems skewed.
Filipovski and trophies do not go together. He has worked in Slovenia and Poland, in Russia and Italy, in Turkey and France. He has won one trophy here and another there, but that’s not what Filipovski is about, as you can see from the first few answers.
“You have to live in the now, so we locked ourselves in the gym.”
Talking to Würzburg’s coach about basketball also means talking to him about life, about being human, about what ultimately matters. Filipovski thinks, “The only thing that makes one person happy is to make another person happy.” And that, says Filipovski, is also what he has planned for his task in Würzburg. That is his goal, that is what is above all. “Basketball is social catharsis,” says Filipovski. He and his team want to be a refuge, encouragement for people, a catchment area for those who have difficulty in everyday life.
It’s a big plan that Filipovski is pursuing. A plan that sounds somewhat ambitious. But isn’t that really what should be the focus? Is not the essence of making people happy with the game?
Filipovski has been in Würzburg for four months. And you can safely say that people are now having fun again. When Filipovski arrived, the situation was quite precarious. The team in a relegation battle, the Denis Wucherer era at the end, the main sponsor s.Oliver not willing to continue working together: Everything was on the edge – but in March things turned around.
The same team that had lost twelve times in a row this winter won seven times in a row
“The red lady is also a star,” says Filipovski in the meeting room. A short pause to let the sentence sink in, then he explains, “Because it helps us train well.” What the Slovenian will say: basketball is a team sport. And so it’s not just about who shoots the most curves. “There’s also someone playing the ball for him,” Filipovski says, “and there’s also someone taking care of his apartment and his car so he feels comfortable.”
Is that what explains success? Is it above all this togetherness that best explains how the team could win seven times in a row after the same team lost 12 times in a row this winter? Or how was it possible to shoot everything? “We focused on the moment,” says Filipovski, “the future always depends on what we do in the present. Therefore, it is useless to think about the future. You have to live in the present, that is why we are part of the gym, among other things.” There, one floor below the meeting room, emerged what Filipovski now calls “our team identity.” And it brings him back to being human, to the values he values.
Values are a central theme for him. Honesty, empathy, respect, a sense of belonging to the group, “that’s the key,” says Filipovski, “if we live it, we can grow.” And if not? “Here,” Filipovski calls, “there are no parasites, piranhas or sharks.” That means: It’s a straight club he works for. One that can get a lot out of it, because even though it’s still at the beginning of a new era, it has everything it takes to move forward – if it’s possible to create a financial basis for further Bundesliga basket after the main sponsor has left. Therefore, Filipovski announces, he believes: “The club is like a child. And if you raise the child, it can grow up and develop a good personality.”
Filipovski has just renewed his contract, the club announced on Saturday. It becomes clear that the coach still has a lot planned here when it comes to the basketball city of Würzburg, the club’s history, Dirk Nowitzki and Maximilian Kleber. Filipovski believes: “It is not only important that Würzburg says: We are proud that Nowitzki and Kleber were here. It is also important that Nowitzki and Kleber say: We are proud that we were in Würzburg.”