Vitaly Fridzon: There’s More Energy And Freedom With Loko’s New Coach

Vitaly Fridzon: There’s More Energy And Freedom With Loko’s New Coach

The top scorer in VTB League history talked about Loko’s new coach, his role as captain and philanthropy.

– Lokomotiv is on its third coach this season. What’s going on in Krasnodar?
– The results are the issue. We weren’t able to do what we’d hoped to at the start of the season. Recent games showed that something had to change to save the season. But the goals are the same. We need to battle for a spot in the EuroLeague.

– Bob Donewald is the first American coach in Krasnodar. What’s unique about his coaching style? 
– I know Donewald from the Chinese national team. We crossed paths a few times. I’m happy to have the opportunity to work with him. He’s a good coach. 

The American system is new for us. It was probably similar with David Blatt on the national team. Things are more upbeat and there’s more transparency and freedom. Most coaches are expected to get results at any cost, but now things are a little different. It’s a big advantage and big boost for us. 

– He’s only been with the team for one week. What’s he been able to change already?
– He wants us to share the ball more. That worked against Tsmoki-Minsk. We had 28 assists, which is a really good result. If we continue in the same vein, Loko will be tough to stop. Obviously, we weren’t facing the toughest opponent, but the first game with our new coach showed that we are on the right path. Even if someone wasn’t making shots, no one got greedy. That’s the most important thing. We need to work more on our new defense, especially since the defense will shift for each opponent. We don’t have much time left in this season, but we did what our coach wanted in Minsk.

– Now Loko is trailing Khimki and UNICS. Where is the team hoping to finish in the regular season?
– Of course, we want to climb as high as possible. I think the game against Khimki on Monday will be interesting, because the stakes are high. But besides that game, there are tough trips to Kazakhstan, Tallinn and St. Petersburg. The schedule at the end is not that easy. It’s going to be tough, but we understand that and are going to try to win our last six games, like our coach wants.

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📢 Боб Доневалд – новый наставник «Локо»! 🙌🏻 Главным тренером «Локомотива-Кубань» назначен Роберт «Боб» Доневалд-младший, который успел поработать в трех клубах НБА: он был ассистентом главного тренера в Charlotte Hornets, New Orleans Hornets и Cleveland Cavaliers. Но главные успехи Боба Доневалда связаны со сборной Китая. В 2010 году китайская сборная под его руководством добилась победы на Азиатских играх, а в 2011-м выиграла чемпионат Азии по баскетболу. До переезда в Краснодар Боб Доневалд возглавлял китайский клуб Jilin Northeast Tigers. #lokobasket #lokofamily #lokonation

A post shared by Lokomotiv Kuban (@lokobasket) on

– There have been a lot of surprises in the League this season. Which team has been the most pleasant surprise?
– Astana is surprising everyone this season. They are probably having their best season ever in the League. Kalev is also a threat. Those teams have good coaches who have implemented a system. They are dangerous at home and on the road. I think those clubs deserve to play in the postseason.

– You won everything in Europe with CSKA and Khimki. What was your motivation this summer signing with Loko?
– I want to reach the EuroLeague with Loko. I want to prove to myself and to everyone else that I can still play at a high level. I don’t think of myself as old. Some guys at 39 can still make an impact on the court. I think I can play another 3-4 years. Leaving CSKA, I understood that the coach didn’t need my help. I love basketball. I want to do what I love and help the team.

– You’re the captain at Lokomotiv-Kuban. What responsibilities do you have?
– The coach said that off the court you’re the boss. You decide everything. I get asked about the best way to organize off-the-court activities for the team: flights, recovery, practice schedule. I discuss with the team, then we sit down with the coaching staff and decide what’s best for everyone. They take my advice seriously. 

– You returned to CSKA’s arena in February, where you spent five years of your career. What emotions did you have?
– It was nice to come back to the arena where I spent so much time. The fans gave me a warm welcome. They remember and value what I did for the club. That’s the most important thing for a player. It means my career is going well and I’m on the right path. But now I have a different team. I hope we can go back there in the playoffs this season and play well. 

– Lokomotiv usually has a balanced roster. Four players are averaging a little more than 11 points. Who’s the best player on the team right now?
– I can’t single anyone out. We’ve only played one game under our new coach. Everyone can go off in a game, which is really good because it’s impossible to know who’s a threat. Khimki, for example, has one leader and everyone knows he’s going to score and prepare to stop him, accordingly. 

– By the way, you’ve been battling Alexey Shved all season for the title of all-time VTB League scoring leader.
– Let’s be honest. Alexey averages 25 points per game, I’m getting four. If I score 10, I’m the happiest guy in the world. Shved is a strong player and will pass me in the points total by the end of the season, of course. He’s at the peak of his career and he has a team built around him. I hope he will also have an impact when he joins the national team and will make a big difference. Especially since the World Cup and Olympics don’t come around every year. You need to value the experiences. As for me, I think this national team cycle will be my last. 

– Who’s the best sniper in Krasnodar: you or Dorell Wright?
– I proved it at the three-point contest (laughs). If we meet next year in the contest, I’m going to defend my title.

– After winning the three-point contest at the 2019 All-Star Game, you gave the prize money to charity. How did you make that decision?
– I’m often involved in philanthropy, I just don’t advertise it. For example, in 2015 I held a charitable auction, then went to a children’s home and gave them all of the proceeds–around 800,000 rubles–so they could buy everything they needed: furniture, tv’s, etc. If there’s an opportunity to help with my jersey, sneakers or money, I try to do it. I know that a lot of people do the same thing. Andrei Kirilenko puts together similar auctions. Anton Ponkrashov holds master classes, Semen Antonov is involved in philanthropy. It’s a good thing. You’re giving people a chance to live and enjoy life. If you have the opportunity, why not?