Paulistano: different names, same path
After more than a decade of being a respected protagonist of Brazilian basketball as a formative club —but also ranking up the victories in the professional leagues— Paulistano reached their highest feat by winning last season the São Paulo State Basketball Championship and the National league. These titles gave another meaning to basketball within the Paulistano structure — a club that has formed several olympic athletes in various sports.
One could think that the titles could change the reality of the distinguished Brazilian club. However, their achievement did not change their directives’ plans. They failed to keep the players that led them to win the League, and let them go when they received better offers by other clubs. The same happened with legendary coach Gustavo De Conti, who left for Flamengo after serving 14 years in Paulistano.
However, the directives stayed on track. They hired coach Regis Marelli, who came in after a good job in Vitória and in San José dos Campos, and trusted him with the project's continuity. Marelli himself explains that for him “it’s a great challenge to substitute Gustavo, because he did a great job in Paulistano. We’ll try to keep all that.”
Regis Marelli - Paulistano Head Coach
As for the project, Marelli assures that “the club didn't want to change their plan. The priority has been to continue to develop players that get to the professional teams. This is why younger categories are given so much importance. That's the historical essence of Paulistano.”
Regarding the objectives that Paulistanos are setting forth for this season in which they are occupying their national league’s fourth place, Marelli is clear that “we try to be protagonists in every tournament we play in. The idea is to always be in the top group and to be able to participate in an international competition.”
That bad experience in 2009, when Paulistano made a significant financial investment (the only time in the club's history when they risked more than what they usually do), seems to have left them with some teachable moments. Because of this, they decided not to exceed their budget.
31-year-old center Guilherme Hubner has been for five seasons in Paulistano and is one of their main figures. As a member of the 2019 champion team, he stated that “we had a very good recent past, but we started a new phase this season. We have another coach, other players, but the club’s philosophy is still the same. There’s a core of players that have been in the team for some time now, and those who have just joined have already gotten into the scheme. I assume that I'm the one that has been in Paulistano for more years and that I must be a leader, especially for the younger (players). We showed that we're still competitive, both in the National League and in Liga de las Américas. Let’s see where we can get to in these tournaments.”
To substitute the players that left the team we searched for others that performed well but didn’t surpass the club's financial possibilities. The idea of allowing the development of young players that come from youth leagues is intact. Besides, with Paulistano’s particular characteristics as a club belonging to São Paulo’s higher-class society, the players are expected to become a part of the institution’s social life and to set an example for their members.
One of them is small forward Leo Meindl, who is 25 years old and counts with international experience in the Brazilian national team. The Franca native stated that “although we are a team with many new players, we have the responsibility of being outstanding figures, because we achieved the title last season. It’s true that we're going through a transition, but we have a young and talented squad. Those of us who are more experienced are asked to support these young players. We don’t feel the pressure to be champions again. Paulistano doesn't have a big fan base. We're like a family and that allow us to play calmly.”
Among the young players in Paulistano is Yago Mateus, the point guard of just 20 years of age, who Serbian coach Aleksandar Petrović took to the Brazilian national team. Yago admits that “many of the team’s components changed as did the technical team, but that didn't make us lose power. We're playing well in the National League and excellently in Liga de las Américas. Our aim is to keep being among the best. We started the season with a great sense of responsibility because we were Brazil’s most recent champions, but we're responding as we have planned to do so. We're still protagonists in both tournaments. In the squad we all have opportunities to play at a national and international level. Personally, Liga de las Américas is a great challenge that I want to make the most of.”
Liga de las Américas is taking Paulistano to the continental basketball’s elite stages. For the first time in the three editions they have participated in they were able to get into the Final Four. Like this, the club from the sophisticated Jardim América neighborhood is demonstrating that, without millions in their budget, but with a lot of work and giving opportunities to the young players in their reservoir, excellent results may also be achieved.