Interview with head coach Alex Geddes

"If you want to see the stars of future today then come to Veszprém."
The Veszprém Basketball Club announced at the end of June that starting with the 2023/24 season, Alexander Geddes will be the head coach of the team for three years. He is considered as one of the most talented young coaches in Europe, which is also proven by the fact that he is the operational manager of the Euroleague Head Coaches Board, and he has already been able to work alongside such professional authority as Zeljko Obradovic, currently at Partizan, or Pablo Laso, former head coach of Real Madrid. Coach Alex is currently leading the professional work at the Athlete Plus international camp (Summer Prep) at Vetési Albert High School in Veszprém, and but we found time to talk between two training sessions.
- Welcome to Veszprém, Coach Geddes! How do you feel in our city so far?
- I feel quite comfortable. It's a very nice city and right now we're experiencing , during the summer Premp, the cultural festival inside Veszprém. It feels like it's a very nice community and there's a lot going on, especially for such a small city. And I personally quite like these kind of smaller cities. I feel there's a nice community, and there's still a kind of vibrancy of the city. So I'm settling in pretty well. I like the location and the club also is full of good people. It's a lot of good people working in the club. It makes it easier for you to relax into a new setting. And obviously basketball is universal, so wherever the basketball is, if the basketball is good, then everything is good.
- What were the main reasons why you decided to become the head coach of the Veszprém Basketball Club for the next three seasons?
- Well, it's the idea of the project. Miklós (Naményi) put forward his vision for the club for the next 3-4 seasons and it kind of aligned with my vision of what I want. And they want to produce on court success, but they want to do it by developing talent, young Hungarian talent, specifically Hungarian talent from Veszprém and around. This is a project and an idea that I really bought into. I think here the conditions are perfect, we have a great gym and generally great training infrastructure. The club has a nice infrastructure and I think there's a lot of potential to be pretty successful pretty quickly. So the infrastructure, the people and the potential is what they drew me here and that's not something a lot of projects have . The idea, the long term project really appealed to me.
- With what feelings and plans do you start your job on the bench of Veszprém?
- For sure we have to raise the expectations and raise the standards for the players and the staff as well. I'm coming from the Euroleague where the standards and the expectations are exceptionally high. I'm not crazy enough to believe we can install that highest level of expectation immediately, but creating the aspiration to get to those standards. And once we are able to install those standards and bring people up to the level that we know we can, we can bring them up to and bring the organization to the level we can, I think we'll have a lot of success very quickly. So I start with the feeling of we have a great base to begin with, we have great people to work with. As soon as we start to slowly increase the standards, we'll have a lot of success pretty quickly.

- What are the most important principles which you want to manage the team along?
- Well, management is different in wherever you are. I spent a season as the operations manager of Eurolegaue Head Coaches Board. It is always human material you're working with and you have to adjust depending on what players you have and what people are you working within the organization and what motivates them and make sure that aligns to what we're trying to achieve as a group, but disciplined work is a huge principle of mine. We have to be disciplined in everything we do and we can't settle for the standards that are below what we know we can achieve, it won't be good enough for me. We're going to set a standard and we're going to keep working until we reach that standard. And anything below that standard is not going to be good enough for us. And that's how we're going to achieve our goals, to set the standard, get into that standard and raising the standard again. And we repeat this process and repeat this process until we get to where we want to be.
- What kind of mindset and style of play do you want to develop for the Veszprém team?
- Well the style of play will probably be dictated by the players that we have. We have an interesting roster. We're returning three of the more experienced guys and we're bringing in a lot of really young Hungarian talent which is pretty exciting. I'm obviously very heavily influenced by Serbian basketball. I spent a season with Zeljko Obradovic in Partizan and many clubs in Serbia in the past seasons. So my style is heavily influenced by Serbian style basketball and specifically the wider European basketball. You'll see a lot of methodical play will be targeting very specific strengths of the players and trying to illuminate those strengths and bring those strengths out. We'll work in a very targeted and methodical way both offensively and defensively. The style of the Pro B league in Hungary is very unique. They play differently, how you play in pro way for example in Hungary and how you play in other parts of the world. Adjusting that style of play to that kind of culture in in Pro B will be a challenge and it's a challenge that we are prepared for.
- What do you think about the forming roster so far?
- I'm excited about it. We have some excellent and experienced returning players and the fans will be very familiar with them. I returned three guys that I believe are exceptional leaders for the younger guys that are also very talented. And we're going to make them the base of the team, but we're bringing in younger guys as well from other clubs. Guys who never really got the opportunity in the clubs they were in before. We watched the tape, we reviewed the statistics and we analyzed their game and when they were given the opportunity to play, they played exceptionally well and they showed to themselves to have a very high ceiling and high growth capacity. So those are the kind of guys we're bringing in. The Veszprém will be probably the youngest professional team in Hungary next year by average age and if you want to see from my perspective, the stars of the future of Hungarian basketball, you want to see them today, then you need to be Veszprém. Because we have a lot of really exceptional young guys who are going to grow into phenomenal players over the next three years. And if you want to see those stars of future today then come to Veszprém.

- In the article of your announcement, you said that you were looking forward to bringing your Scottish heart and soul, as well as your Serbian basketball mindset, to the club. Please explain this a little bit. What kind of personality are you at work?
- Oh, absolutely. I mean, I'm Scottish at heart. I grew up in Glasgow. About who I am is Scottish on the inside and Scottish people have a phenomenal work ethic. They're exceptionally disciplined and they have an indomitable spirit that you can't break them. They'll keep working. But I combine that with the education I received in Serbia from some of the best coaches there are in European basketball and global basketball. And you combine that indomitable spirit, never say die and the work ethic with the content and the intelligence and the methodical working and the basketball training technology as an academic discipline that I received from Belgrade also, that is a difficult combination. You will see this Scottish mentality and Serbian basketball intelligence in the players this year.
- And what is Alex Geddes like out of basketball? For example, what do you spend your free time doing?
- Oh, I don't spend much time out of basketball at the moment. I spend most of my time in basketball. All of my friends are also basketball coaches, so it's difficult to escape. One of the great pleasures in life is finding a coffee shop, sitting down and just listening to music and reading. Like I told a couple of guys here, when I played in the British Basketball League when I was a player, I used to go on 6-7-hour road trips and I loved them because I could get through two or three books every road trip. And I was reading like 120-130 books a season. I loved it. And now, because everything is so close and there's not such long road trips, I get through one book a month. So I wish I had more time for reading, I wish I had more time for music, and I wish I had more time for coffee.
- How did your love for basketball begin? Tell us a little about your playing career.
- I get to ask this question a lot because the Scottish basketball coach just seems completely unbelievable and I don't think there's nobody else from Scotland working in Europe being at the professional level. My love for basketball developed at first as a player. Obviously in Scotland I was a pretty good junior player broke scoring records and I had 85 points in one game, and played 16 finals. I was pretty good back home in the context of Scottish basketball, I will add. I played one season in Portugal then I played in with the Glasgow Rocks in the British Basketball League and I played with the Derby Trailblazers in the English Basketball League. I loved being a player. but I always felt the urge to be a coach. I always felt that my brain worked more in that way. So I decided to pursue that. It's the same love and intensity for the game. It's just a different way of doing it. We say this about referees, about the management, about marketing, about these all people who love basketball. We all love basketball, and it's just a different way of manifesting that. But we all share love for basketball, and that's what brings everyone together.
- You are the operational manager of the Euroleague Head Coaches Board. Please tell us about your work there.
- It was phenomenal experience really. The opportunity I got there was incredible. Goran Sasic provided me the opportunity to be operations manager. I started with studying in the Academy and three years later I'm running the Academy. So it was slightly surreal that I was talking daily basis with the best coaches in the planet and learning from them even just on day-to-day interactions and how they do things, how they approach the work. It was exceptional learning experience. So part of that we run the academy for coaches. We had over 200 coaches from more than 50 different countries. We run the annual congress in Italy and Turkey bringing all the Euroleague and Euro Cup coaches together in one place. But the learning was just exceptional. And to see these people in action on a daily basis, not even on the court, but how they operate and how they plan and how they approached their lives and how they approached dealing with other people. It was an honor of lifetime and really the greatest learning experience I could ever have had.
- During your coaching career so far, you have already had the opportunity to learn from coaching legends like Zeljko Obradovic and Pablo Laso. How was working with them? If you had to highlight one or two things that you learned from them each, what would they be?
- Everybody says Zeljko (Obradovic) is a great coach, but very few people really know why. And I had the privilege to see that on a daily basis. He is the most disciplined man I've ever met in my life. He does what is right and correct every single time, from day one into the last day, every single practice, every single second. And I've never seen discipline like that in my life. I have never seen preparation like his one. He prepares himself and the players for every single possibility. I have never seen a coach who emotionally invests like he has. He desperately wants them to succeed and he will do absolutely everything in his power to make sure they reach the level he knows they can reach. And sometimes this level is much higher than the players think but Zeljko knows what they can do. Zeljko knows the potential is higher and he'll keep pushing them to get to that higher level. That's something special.
But to summarize Zeljko and Pablo Lasso and Sergio Scariolo, these kind of guys live in the future. They live 10 seconds ahead of everyone else. They're a step ahead of everybody. They know what's going to happen before it happens. They can predict the future and a lot of times they direct the future. And while we are still figuring out what's happening, they're already responding to it. And that's what makes them super talent. That's what they all have in common is this. Ability to see what's going to happen before it happens and predict accurately as well. I know for sure they won't be so happy about me talking so nicely about them. They don't believe they're anything special, but if you spend some time with them, you see they're really, truly exceptional human beings. First of all, before anything else, truly exceptional human beings and then phenomenally talented coaches.
- Let's return to the present! Are you currently working at the Athlete Plus Summer Prep international camp in Veszprém. How have the days gone so far? What do you put the main emphasis on in these weeks, what does wait to the young players?
- I'm instilling a lot of the principles I want to bring to the Veszprém youth program and Veszprém youth program is going to be over the next three years a factory of talent for the first team. You're going to see so much many more young Veszprém guys playing on the first team and that's going to come from working with the youth categories in cadet and junior and pioneer age categories. And I’m still instilling some of those principles now: the ability to play off the dribble and one-on-one, to be able to play off the catch one-on-one, the shooting ability - to increase those three capacities. One of the things that actually attracted and surprised me about the kids in Veszprém how quickly they learned, grasped content, picked things up and their work ethic as well. And that's the number one thing. You know you can get them to the next level. And I saw that and the kids in Veszprém with a little bit of basketball direction we can get them there because the work ethic is there and the ability to learn is there. That is what talent is these days. The real talent these days in basketball is how quickly they're able to learn and the work ethic, and they have that here. And that was also part of the reason why I was attracted to you, because there's a strong base that we can work with great attitude. And I feel like that's going to be an enormous asset for the club over the next three years and you're going to see a lot of kids coming from the junior categories and getting into the first team. I'll make sure because I have a big emphasis on young talent but, I'm sure the fans will be able to see that factory of talent coming through to the Pro B team.
- In closing, what is your message to the Veszprém fans?
- Please keep coming out and supporting us. We're going to put a product on the court this year with the Pro B team that I think will be exciting. I think you'll be able to see the stars of tomorrow today. And I think we're going to have a lot of success. I'd love for the city of Veszprém to come out and see it, and hopefully we can give them something that they can be proud of and they can call their own and they can feel that they're part of the journey with us. They will get captivated by the story about what we want to achieve. And I want to create a narrative and I want to create a program and a group of players that gives the city of Veszprém something to be really, really proud of. And I'd love for them to come out and see that and hopefully we fulfill their obligation to the fans and the people of Veszprém.

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