Slaven Bilic: I used to play basketball… you didn’t know that, did you?

West Ham’s new boss on his influences, playing in the Premier League and growing up with future hoop heroes...

Of the managers you’ve worked with, who influenced you most?
They may not be as big as Fabio Capello, Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson, but I’ve worked with so many great coaches: Luka Peruzovic, Winfried Schafer, Harry Redknapp, Walter Smith, Miroslav Blazevic... they all helped me. When I was playing, I hadn’t thought of being 
a manager. Since then, I’ve tried 
to think of all the things that 
they do well, and do the same.

How did your four seasons in England with West Ham and Everton help you?
I’m very pleased to have played 
in the Premier League. It helped me not only in football terms, but also 
in other aspects of life. I spent my most important time there, and the experience had a huge impact on me as a player and a manager. 
I learned to work hard, how to be professional, how to approach everything with a bit of humour... 
it affected my management style, 
of course, but more importantly 
it helped me to form my lifestyle. 
I’ll always be grateful to God for giving me such an opportunity.

Slaven Bilic

Slaven Bilic on the touchline during last season at Besiktas

What went wrong in your only season with Lokomotiv Moscow (2012/13) for the club to finish ninth, their lowest position since 1991?
Obviously my one year wasn’t good, but I think my staff and I would have done more positive things if we’d been given more time. Firstly, we went to Lokomotiv unprepared because we were with Croatia: we went to Russia just 15 days after Euro 2012. The season had already begun. We started great: after 10 games we were three points off the leaders, and had played so many difficult matches. Then something happened, and we were a bit unlucky in most of our games.

Every single second, I try to change and improve

- Slaven Bilic

Has anything in your coaching philosophy changed since you left the Croatia job?
Every day you are improving, learning 
– in training, by watching games, 
by reading books or just by talking with your staff and players. You’re changing but also improving. Every single second, I try to change and improve.

Can you tell us something 
nobody knows about you?
Nobody? It’s almost impossible to keep anything secret nowadays – everybody knows everything! 
But not many people know I played basketball when I was young. 
I wasn’t any good, obviously!

had a great team called Jugoplastika [now KK Split] with fantastic players such as Dino Radja, Toni Kukoc, Velimir Perasovic... that team went on to win three European Cups in a row. Actually, Toni and I were born in the same apartment – either he’s a week older than me, or I’m a week older than him. We used to play football, too. You didn’t know that, did you?

This interview originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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