The emotional farewell of Valencia Basket to Miki Vukovic

The Taronjas published a letter in which they highlight the figure of the Serbian personally and professionally and how he taught the club "the way to win."


Miki Vukovic was much more than a basketball professional for Valencia. The Serbian is part of the 'taronja' history for everything that helped the club grow both professionally and humanly and the greatness of Turia's men today is not understood, where they compete in the Euroleague with the best, without him. For this reason, from the official account of Valencia Basket they have wanted to pay tribute to him with a panegyric in which they tell his story, his importance and highlight the void he leaves in Valencian hearts.

"Miki Vukovic changed everything." That was one of the most repeated statements in all the messages of affection for his memory and of pain for his death with which the world of the basket turned upside down yesterday through all possible means. But Miki not only changed everything by taking a team recently relegated to the second category and in four seasons promoting it to the ACB, making it the first rookie to win the Copa del Rey and qualifying for a European final in his first participation in competitions continental

Miki changed everything for the legacy of ambition and fighting without fear of anything that he has left in all those who had him as a coach and sports father. He changed everything by laying the foundations for an entity that has grown to become one of the best in Europe. It changed everything because of the influence he still has on the technicians who work with young people at L'Alqueria del Basket and who meet in a room that bears the name of the Master. It changed everything because Valencia Basket could not be what it is today without Miki Vukovic. This land that he loved and that he never wanted to leave now cries for him like one of ours even though he was born 76 years ago in Kraljevo.

His humility and natural goodness could not hide the greatness of this man who hypnotized you with his wisdom and made you listen to him spellbound while, without knowing exactly how, he had just invited you to a coffee from the machine. When he landed in Valencia Basket in 1995, his record already shone with three European Cups for women, one silver in a World Cup with his country's women's team and a good handful of national titles. His challenge now was going to be different. He would have to take a team that had just been relegated and work with a young group of players with projection to try to get back to the acb as quickly as possible. Putting him in front was a decision that would change the history of the entity forever.

Miki put all his efforts into growing this group of players. With an absolute dedication that made his own family know that he had to respect the painstaking analysis process that the Master did after each defeat. Their influence on that team was so great that they blindly believed in that "zona nostra" that not even they themselves knew very well what it consisted of. But that Miki always used at the right moment to confuse the rival and end up adding the victory. In the first campaign, the promotion. And after a second season of acclimatization at the acb, a bombshell was being prepared in the third.

Valencia Basket qualified for the first time for the Copa del Rey for the 1998 edition in Valladolid. The crossing of quarters against a TAU Vitoria that was intractable caused some of the players to only throw a change in their suitcase. But Miki had other plans. He had raised titles everywhere. And now it was not going to be different. After the favorite Baskonia, the host Fórum Valladolid fell in the semifinals and in the final, with Alfons Albert and Iñaki Zubizarreta in the lead, Pamesa Valencia beat Joventut de Badalona and lifted the first title in its history. The Master had just taught us to win.

The following season came the premiere in Europe with participation in the Saporta Cup. And with each trip, Miki made it clear that he was loved in every corner of the continent. Because wherever he went, there was always someone who knew him who came to greet him at the airport. But the trip was lengthening until he chained fifteen consecutive victories (which still remains as a Club record) and finally planted in the final against the Benetton of Treviso. The massive displacement of fans to Zaragoza could not end Valencia Basket's first continental title. In his fifth season in charge of the team, a new final, this time in the Copa del Rey, which was lost to Estudiantes.

Miki Vukovic's tenure as Valencia Basket coach ended in 2000. Since then, no one has been able to surpass his record of consecutive seasons in charge of the team (5) or his number of matches managed (231). But above the figures or even the titles, the most important thing that the Maestro has left in Valencia Basket is that his teachings are those that have marked the steps for the constant growth of the entity. Becoming a role model for all the professionals who came after. Leaving an indelible mark on the people who worked with him and who have then extended his lessons in the years after his departure.

Jaume Ponsarnau, the man who now occupies the first seat of the local Fonteta bench (who is to the right of the scorers' table also due to a decision by Miki and who has never been changed again) said about him that "he is a A benchmark for all Valencia coaches, he has left a legacy for all Valencia Basket coaches: those of us who have been, those who have been and surely those who will be ". Rubén Burgos, Vukovic's pupil as a player and current coach of the Valencia Basket women's first team, remembers that "from the first time he trained me at the age of 16 until the last time a few weeks ago in training at L'Alqueria, he continued to worry about me, for teaching me things, for giving me advice, as he did with everyone ".

That indelible mark that Miki left on everyone he crossed paths with is especially accused in that group of players and coaching staff who made his way from the EBA to play three finals in three consecutive years and lift the Copa del Rey. For all of them, yesterday a father left. As Alfonso Castilla recalls, who started at the Club under Miki as a utillero and currently remains as a delegate "in order to continue coming I had to approve everything and get good grades. And Miki would scold me more than my father if I brought him enough ". The eternal taronja captain, Víctor Luengo, can hardly express the pain that this loss entails: "I cannot express in words what it means to me. He made us grow not only individually but above all as people, for me he is a father sporty ".

The other player who has his number hanging on the roof of the Fonteta, Nacho Rodilla, remembers that "for all of us who started that Valencia Basket it was the sports father, the one who made a group of kids grow in a beastly way". For his part, Berni Álvarez "was a teacher of life, he taught us to live for basketball. We will always carry that with him and we will always be grateful to him" .

César Alonso considers him "the architect of the growth of current Valencia Basket" while Jesús Fernández considered him "something more than a coach, he taught us not only basketball but many other things in life that we have put into practice" and Inaki Zubizarreta recalls that "it is a very hard time for the Taronja Family, in a very short time we have lost two references such as Miki and Martín Labarta, that for all of us who knew them there is a before and after"

Although he had offers to continue training, Miki never wanted to leave here. Partly because he didn't want to train anywhere else. Also because he did not want to leave a family that had made it clear that they would not move and would not accompany him if these new challenges took him away from what was already his home. After a period as sports director of Ros Casares, Miki Vukovic returned to Valencia Basket as a member of the sports management in the final stretch of his professional stage until he retired in 2009. But stopping work did not prevent him from continuing to fall from time to time. when at home, always with a kind word, with advice and an anecdote to share. With that mischievous child smile with which he told you about the tactical trap with which he had chosen an important game.

In December 2016 he received the heartfelt tribute of a Fonteta who showed that she adored him more than 20 years after his arrival. And Miki could enjoy it surrounded by his friends and his "sports children". How could he feel that affection until the end each time he dropped by the pavilion or L'Alqueria del Basket. How his family is being able to perceive the incessant displays of respect and pain for his loss that are coming from all social, sports and political levels. Like us, with each step forward we take, we will forever continue to remember the man who changed everything. Rest in peace, Master

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