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AIN’T NO JOKE: This is how ex-Croatian NT coach Josip Vrankovic’s report to CBF should look like

“This team has nothing to do with basketball. It’s giving up size, speed and skill to almost every opponent. It’s a complete mess out there. Somebody here is pretending to be someone just to cover up for something what is going on behind this team.” – Independent international scouting expert


First of all the way “Joke” walked out of Croatian NT locker room was not proper for one professional coach at this level. Come on, you lose the most important game of your career and you calmly tell the press that your “contract has expired”. Are you Human at all?


“Be prepared and be honest.” – John Wooden


Second of all We are aware that “Joke” will never file report to his friends (not colleagues) at Croatian Basketball Federation (CBF/HKS) so we decided to elaborate one for him. Here we go:


Marko Popovic is clearly a tweener. Tweener is a player who plays a position not accustomed for his size. His father was also a tweener, SG at 6’3”. You can do that in some teams, or in some game but not in the every game of the major international competition. Besides is father played in 1980-ties. How many 6’0” shooting guards you see in today’s game??? That’s right – NONE!


Marko has God given ability to shot the three, but he should ask himself who will cover your back on the opponent break after his miss or in 5-on-5 situation when he was matched against taller opponent.Sure numbers may be telling different but what you don’t see in the numbers is that Popovic’s game took more from team’ chemistry and cohesion. Being a captain of the squad should not make you a potential savior in the tough times but it should make you even more responsible, not in words, but in deeds. strong recommendation is that Popovic should consider accepting exclusive back-up point guard role, or should be used as a SG in short periods of time max.up to 2 minutes. Otherwise he has no future with the NT because he is not a shooting guard!


“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” – John Wooden


Rok Stipcevic ends up as back-up point guard. Joke coached 6’0” Stipcevic in Cibona Zagreb for the first part of 2010/11 season and was fully aware that Stipcevic brings averaging playmaking to the table while also being a huge defensive liability. Sorry but there should be no room for limited players like Stipcevic on the squad which was seeking it’s way onto 2012 Olympics.


Both of the players have been outmatched and outsized. Vrankovic should have consider to bring player like Cibona Zagreb G Hrvoje Kovacevic, who is a little bit taller, but has a jumping ability to go along with his playmaking assets and long distance shooting. Besides “Kova” played abundance of minutes with Draper in Cedevita’s uniform during 2010/11 season.


Kruno Simon was Croatian leading scorer in 2011 London Invitational. However in Lithuania he reportedly played with flu on his shoulders. He showed promise on offense, but was a huge defensive liability not being able to catch up his opponent due to his relatively slow footwork and thus ended up with a huge number of fouls in his playing time.


More potent shooting guards like Bazdaric, Car, Vrbanc and even undersized but explosive Kovacevic could have helped Croatia at the position. On the bright side Simon was a part of the most potent Croatian line up Draper-Simon-Bogdanovic-Markota-Tomic which decided a game vs Montenegro.


“It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.” – John Wooden


Stanko Barac led Croatian 2nd half assault on Greece scoring 16 points to go along with 7 rebounds. Someone who is under non-stop surveillance from Larry Bird’s Indiana Pacers gets 20 minutes in first 4 games and then ends up as the leading player in the most important game.


It was not because “he was searching himself” or because he reportedly had a minor incident with Rok Stipcevic. It was Vrankovic’s coaching immaturity to recognize Ante Tomic as a power forward who’s best game comes when he has someone who can cover for him defensively. Repesa did the same mistake with not pairing PF Nikola Vujcic and C Mario Kasun back in 2009 EuroBasket.


Damir Markota showed huge promise until his first two consecutive three-pointer misses vs Macedonia in the clutch. That was when the “Svedjo” wagon went out of the track. He served as an ultimate NT spokesman to CNT (HRT) after each game and that should be taken into his account.


His defense on much stronger 4s, especially footwork, was a great liability to Croatia. Should strongly consider not taking more than 5 three-point shots on the nights he is off against any competition.


“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.” – John Wooden


Vrankovic should have made a stronger consideration for versatile forwards like Hrvoje Peric as well as Tomislav Zubcic. Although many claim Dario Saric’s time with NT hasn’t come yet it’s clear as a bell that he could have gain at least some experience in 200 minutes Croatia played in Lithuania. Prospects like G/F Mario Hezonja and PG Toni Katic need to bulk up but should be strongly considered as a key part of Croatian NT future campaigns.


After being named both Adriatic League and Croatian League MVP PF Luka Zoric was a huge promise going into this summer campaign for Croatian NT. However some of his qualities proved to be liabilities for Croatian NT.


His 1-on-1 post-up offense was to slow and decreased the flow on Croatian NT offense. He should set more screens. On the bright side he battled against every opponent, but don’t expect him to make a huge career in Spanish ACB League.


As well as Zoric, big man PF Luksa Andric has the size to play on this level, but should improve his defensive footwork and his 1-on-1 offense.


Both Zoric and Andic were completely off from the outside and that is the reason Markota played so much minutes on the 4th spot, which ultimately hurt the team.


Vrankovic could have gotten a stronger PFs with a better mid-range jump shot and better defensive footwork in both Marko Banic and Nikola Loncar, players which have added substantial chemistry elements to Croatian NT in previous years.


Bojan Bogdanovic played up to the general expectations when he was given a ball in the right spot. Problem is that that there wasn’t any play in particular which was run for Bogdanovic.


Although he clearly wasn’t both fan and media favorite PG Dontaye Draper had a successful “rookie” campaign in Croatian uniform. He led the Championship in assists per game (7.0) and was 2nd(!) in assist/turnover ratio. His relative offensive ineffectiveness comes as a direct result of bad spacing on Croatian NT offense.


Marko Tomas suffered a bad hamstring injury in the loss to Macedonia. Vrankovic should have used this as a huge motivating spark but this unfortunately never happened.


“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden


Who ever takes over as head coach should do a better job in following, recruiting, scouting, envisioning, taking necessary risks and developing right attitude on the way to right team chemistry. Certainly there are candidates, but the question now is if CBF really want to launch this team out of it’s own mediocrity and inability to change and adopt to the World. recommendations:
Get foreign coach. Bring on the Prospects. Enough of “SmallBall”.


Joke V will remain under the close media loop in his second stint with Cibona Zagreb,the same team which he led to dismal Euroleague record in 2007/08 season before being fired for good.



R.I.P. Nikola Jović (1996-2022) Tribute

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