06 - 21
August 2016
Aleksandar Petrovic (CRO)
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Petrovic elated after Olympic-bound Croatia prove doubters wrong

TURIN (Rio 2016 Olympic Games) - There was not a more satisfied and proud man in all of Turin on Saturday night than Croatia head coach Aco Petrovic, the man that pulled all the right strings in the biggest surprise of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).

Petrovic took a job that no one else seemed to want, which was understandable after Croatia's Round of 16 nightmare against the Czech Republic at EuroBasket 2015, and molded the players at his disposal into a smart, determined and confident squad that shocked Greece and hosts Italy to win the OQT in Turin and qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Expressing the opinion in the post-game press conference that he and his staff had been tactically superior at the OQT against the likes of Greece play caller Fotis Katsikaris and Italy boss Ettore Messina, Petrovic and Croatia qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 2008 when they made it through a 12-team OQT in Athens.

He spoke to FIBA.com.

FIBA.com: A famous OQT win has put you in a very good mood.
Petrovic: For me, it's a great pleasure for these players because we started the practices 32 days ago and nobody in our country believed that we could do anything. But in the warm-up games, we improved in quality a little bit more each time. And in the first game here against Italy, we realized that we can play (despite Italy's 67-60 win). When we beat Greece (66-61) in the Semi-Finals, we knew that we were ready for Rio. We played a great game with a lot of tactical surprises for Italy as we did against Greece, so I hope that, in my opinion Croatia has suffered in the last 10 years but this team can bring a little bit of joy to the Croatian people.

FIBA.com: How does it feel to be the coach of this team?
Petrovic: I'm here as a volunteer, without any contract, just helping the team. But for us, it means a lot. I was an assistant coach in 1992 in Barcelona when my brother (the late Drazen Petrovic) was in the team and Croatia played for in the Gold Medal Game against the American 'Dream Team'. (The USA won that game, 117-85).

FIBA.com: Krunoslav Simon was just terrific in this OQT and this may have been his last chance to qualify for an Olympics. You must be really excited for him.
Petrovic: Simon, he's 31. We played this game for him because he has a great desire to play at the Olympics and for each sportsman, this is a great, great honor. We are so proud of our job because we went honestly, day by day, game by game, and that's it.

Krunoslav Simon (CRO) excelled at the OQT in Turin

FIBA.com: And then there is the incredible Dario Saric, the OQT MVP, who seems to be not only meeting the lofty expectations that have been on him for the past few years but surpassing them?
Petrovic: We come from the same city, Sibenik. I let him play. The last three years, he played strictly under control but here, I gave him freedom. I let Simon play free. And we know that Bojan (Bogdanovic) is our best puncher. We have a strict rule in the team to play great defense.

FIBA.com: What about the unsung hero, Darko Planinic?
Petrovic: Two weeks ago, no one counted on him. We had two players that didn't come, Leon Radosevic and Justin Hamilton, and he (Planinic) came ready and now, he's changed everything. We are happy.

Rio we are coming !!!🇭🇷🇭🇷🇭🇷 #RoadToRio #Croatia #olimpicgames #DzudziSeSali

A photo posted by Darko Planinic (@darkoplaninic) on