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Interview with Máté Jakab, the newly hired assistant coach of the Breakers / 2023

Máté Jakab joined the coaching staff ofnational and international basketball teams at a very young age. In Hungary, he was first involved in women's NB I basketball, and later switched to men's basketball. He also coached in Budapest, Győr and Szolnok, from where he made his way to Germany, where he spent two years as an assistant coach at Brose Bamberg, one of the best teams in the Bundesliga. He will start this season, 2023, in New Zealand as an assistant coach with the Breakers, and we asked him about his plans and opportunities.

AuckLevél: In an interview you gave to Index in 2022, when asked where you see yourself in five years' time, you said you would like to try your hand overseas. Well, dream come true, here you are in Auckland working for the Breakers. How did this opportunity come about and why did you choose to continue your career with this team?

Máté Jakab: I worked for two years in Germany at Brose Bamberg, where my contract expired, but I wanted to take on new challenges and look for new opportunities. In professional basketball, both coaches and players work with agents and agencies, who help to match supply and demand in these periods, so both players and coaches need to find a team. I would say that's how this opportunity came about, but it didn't. My international network of contacts in the world of basketball has helped me to this opportunity. A scout for an NBA team brought to my attention that there was an opportunity with the NZ Breakers, if I was interested and wanted to, he would send me my CV because he had a good relationship with the coach. He did and here I am.

AuckLevél: What is your job as an assistant coach? Do you apply any kind of conscious coaching approach or strategy from Europe that you would apply here to be successful?

Máté Jakab: As an assistant coach, the three of us who work in this position have a very wide-ranging role. A head coach, three assistant coaches, plus a strength coach and a physiotherapist, that's how the professional staff is built. The three assistant coaches have almost the same responsibilities, with the scouting of the upcoming opponent being one of the significant ones. To use a practical example, our first league game is against Cairns Taipans, so one of the assistant coaches will have to prepare for this upcoming opponent. Very simply put, this means observing who the players are, what the team's attacking and defensive strategy is. We are also responsible for the individual development of a particular player, we design an individual development plan for that player and then try to incorporate that well into the weekly training work. There are also a number of tasks that are assigned to us by the head coach; sometimes we have to manage certain parts of the training, so it's a really wide-ranging task, I think. The answer to the question about the European approach is of course yes. Basically, in the Australian league, which consists of nine Australian teams and one New Zealand team, almost every team is trying to take the patterns from the American NBA, to take the systems of play that are used by the teams in professional basketball overseas in the US. The Breakers, however, have a completely different approach, as we have an Israeli-born head coach, Mody Maor, whose work is inspired by European strategies. I myself try to build on the experience I have gained in my previous European stints and propose new ideas, because European basketball has proven that it is at a very high level at the moment, and nothing proves this better than the fact that Germany won the FIBA Basketball World Cup, which ended on 10 September. I am very proud of Germany, as it was my previous place where I have worked.

AuckLevél: What do you need to focus on most professionally and what do you want to improve on during your time in New Zealand?

Máté Jakab: Every day I would like to be a little bit better, every day I would like to be a little bit more and go to bed at night having learned something from that day's training, learned something at a team level.

AuckLevél: Do you see any difference between the way New Zealand and European teams, especially German teams, play, the coaching methods used, the expectations of the players?

Máté Jakab: I can't comment on New Zealand basketball because, as I said in my previous answer, it is the Australian league and the NZ Breakers are the only New Zealand team representing the country. There is a separate New Zealand league, but it is of a significantly lower standard than the Australian league. To be honest, I see a lot of similarities between the German league and the Australian league: the teams work at a very serious and high tempo and with a similar intensity. I think the Australian league has better and better quality players than the German league. The Australian teams are signing more highly qualified players, which is also because the league here is shorter: we start on 30 September and finish in mid-March. In contrast, the German league can last until May or even June.

AuckLevél: What do you know about the Breakers' current position in the international league? Is there any chance that they will be competing against your former teams?

Máté Jakab: No chance of that, the NZ Breakers only play in the Australian league. It's a different thing to the European system: in Europe everyone plays in their domestic league, so there's the German league, the Hungarian league, the French league, the Spanish league, and some teams play in international leagues. This is absolutely not the case here in Australia and New Zealand, there is no such international league.

AuckLevél: How do you see your life in Auckland? Have you been able to explore the city, have you had time to travel for work? How much do you feel at home?

Máté Jakab: Although I could say that I've managed to explore the city, unfortunately my answer is still no... I have a very long bucket list, lots of places to visit, but unfortunately I've managed to tick off very few of them so far. The obvious reason for this is that I have little free time and days off, but I will try to make up for these shortfalls. Overall, I have managed to explore Takapuna, my area where I live, and it has become part of my daily routine to go down to the beach in the mornings, visit the local cafes and, when time permits, do some exercise on the beach, which is very energizing and helps me to get ready for the rest of the day.

AuckLevél: If readers want to see you at work, where can they do it next?

Máté Jakab: Our first match will be on 30 September, one of 10 matches to be played at Spark Arena in downtown Auckland. The latest news is that we will also have matches outside the Spark Arena, with two expected in Christchurch, one in New Plymouth and one more in the outskirts of Auckland. So the closest date is 30 September 7:30pm, Spark Arena, NZ Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans! In case anyone misses this date, we'll be back in less than a week, on 5 October, when Brisbane visit the Spark Arena. I encourage all fans and interested people to attend our games, as it is refreshing to hear the Hungarian word and meet the Hungarian community! As time permits, I also enjoy attending Hungarian events.

Ágota Győri, Viola Vadász



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