FC Barcelona hosted ALBA Berlin at Palau Blaugrana, and it was a very familiar place for the visiting head coach. ALBA boss Aito Garcia Reneses is a legend mainly due to his achievements with Barcelona, where he coached for 13 seasons in three different stints, winning nine Spanish League titles, five Copa del Rey trophies, a Cup Winners Cup and two Korac Cup crowns.
Garcia Reneses had sat on the visiting bench at Palau Blaugrana often enough, too, during his many seasons coaching other Spanish League teams Joventut Badalona, Unicaja Malaga, Sevilla and Gran Canaria.
Even though he had also had two of those teams, Joventut and Unicaja, for four seasons in the EuroLeague, one thing that Garcia Reneses had never done until Friday was coach in a EuroLeague game against Barcelona in his city. His previous EuroLeague game at Palau Blaugrana was with Barcelona, against Scavolini Pesaro, on April 18, 2002 -- 6,392 days before this one!
On Friday, ALBA competed really well in the first half, leading 19-30 after 11 minutes and holding the advantage deep into the second quarter before running out of steam. Barcelona ended up winning 103-84 behind 22 points from Cory Higgins.
Coincidentally, Garcia Reneses and current Barcelona head coach Svetislav Pesic have many points in common. Garcia Reneses coached Barcelona to four EuroLeague finals – in 1990, 1991, 1996 and 1997 – before stepping down as head coach in 2002. Pesic replaced him in the 2002-03 season and led Barcelona to its first EuroLeague crown the next year. Pesic's longest coaching stop before that was seven seasons in the 1990s with ALBA Berlin, which he led to a Korac Cup crown. ALBA was close to adding its second international trophy last season when it reached the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals under Garcia Reneses, but Valencia Basket stood in its way in a thrilling best-of-three series.
Garcia Reneses is 72 years old, Pesic is 70. This season may be the last time we see them coaching against each other at Palau Blaugrana, although no one would rule out the same thing happening next season. In the meantime, their next showdown will be in Berlin, at Mercedes-Benz Arena, on March 4, 2020. Two masters at work on the same court, again.