There was still no sign of the Golden Generation in January 1994. magic johnson, who two years earlier had announced his retirement after reporting that he had HIV, toured Argentina. He hung out with some friends, NBA basketball players who were out of work at the time, or recently retired. He put together a team and played four games in our country: in Córdoba, against Athens; in Rosario, with the combination of Olimpia and Sport; in Buenos Aires, with the Ferro-Boca “merger” and, in Bahía Blanca, with Estudiantes. Friendlies in which our players had the opportunity to meet international figures.
In the “Team Magic” there were some historical: Reggie Theus (Chicago, Sacramento and Nets, among others) and the NBA champions Earl Cureton (Philadelphia in 1983 and Houston in 1994), John Long (Detroit 1989) and Mike McGee ( Lakers 82 and 85), among others.
One of the most significant moments of that visit occurred on January 12, in Rosario, when Diego Maradona, who was playing at Newell’s at the time, appeared at the stadium and had an emotional hug with the Lakers star. A perfect night for national basketball.
It is very important to give context to the story. National basketball was still far from being competitive at the international level. Those friendlies were taken with enormous expectation. Full court, of course. They were played at a certain competitive pace but only as long as the match made sporting sense. As soon as the Americans broke the score for their hierarchy, everything turned to fun and showing off Earvin Johnson, the man everyone had come to see.
This was the case in all the games, except in Rosario. The combined Olimpia-Sport was directed by the technical duo Julio Lamas-Sergio Hernandez. It came to a very close ending, of enormous tension. To such a point that Magic began to play very seriously (he scored 59 points) and had to endure a couple of very rough marks. They hit him a couple of times and even he ended up on the floor between claims for rough Argentine play.
Although it was an exhibition, there was a certain need in the environment in the public and in the players… To break that barrier, to break down a certain inferiority complex, but at what price?
There was little more than a minute left to finish the game and the national team had chances to win. Julius Lamas he called a time-out and told his players: “I want to win this match as much as you do. But do not forget that this is a show and there is a guest. Let’s not do anything that can spoil the show.” The Magic team won 158-151, an absolutely insignificant result. Many years later, Lamas recalled in a note with the UCU web that he requested that time out to reduce the momentum of Fennis Dembo, a player who, according to himself, said: “He had started to hit.”
Few things define a great coach more than the calm to detect what is important at times when hundreds or thousands of people around you have altered pulses. When the majority is carried away by impulses, there are very few who remain cold in their posture, even if their blood boils inside. Lamas was just 29 years old when he made that decision to “take care” of Magic.
Describing what kind of career Lamas had as technical director is quite simple with the mere enumeration of the teams he managed and the conquests he achieved. Five times champion of the National League with four different teams (Boca, Ben Hur, Libertad and San Lorenzo), continental champion with the national team (2011), coach of two great European clubs such as Baskonia and Real Madrid… But there is nothing better than defining it with attitudes.
The birth of the Golden Generation
Lamas was the one who made almost the entire Golden Generation in the selection. He led them in the Under 22 World Cup in Melbourne in 1997. There were Victoriano, Palladino, Ginóbili, Oberto, Pepe Sánchez, Scola, Gabi Fernández, Leo Gutiérrez… The only one he left out of the squad was Andrés Nocioni (who reminded him with humor the day he announced his retirement).
He was the one who took Manu Ginóbili to the World Cup in Greece in 1998, when almost everyone thought that the position should go to Jorge Racca. And the one who decided to give all those boys room in the senior team when he suffered the resignations of several senior players in the 1999 pre-Olympic tournament. Marcelo Milanesio had withdrawn from the national team and Diego Osella, Marcelo Nicola and Esteban dropped out for personal reasons. the fountain.
Then the Golden Generation made it all look so easy when it came to putting together a roster. At the time that Lamas began to build that history, everything was much more complex. The team had no prestige and the selection was not a priority for some.
The 1999 Olympic Qualifiers were fantastic. Argentina hung the bronze medal…but only two countries qualified for Sydney 2000 (one was the USA, with the NBA, and the other Canada, with Steve Nash). Lamas left the team and Rubén Magnano arrived for the best-known part: victory over the Dream Team and world runner-up in 2002 and gold in Athens 2004.
When Magnano went to manage Italy in 2005, the confirmation for the succession was between those two technicians who faced Magic on the Rosario night of 1994. The return of Lamas or Sergio Hernández?
Miguel Romano, a historic journalist for LA NACION, who died in 2012, quickly took sides with a harsh opinion column: “Lamas was a loser with the national team,” he wrote.
Behind closed doors, Miguel explained: “They are all very inclined towards Lamas and I think it is time for Hernández.” No one can ignore such questioning.
The chosen one was Hernandez. Lamas led Ben Hur to the League title that year, with a brilliant game (of the best that are remembered in the history of the League) and ahead in time: he fed on outside shots and with a low formation, as became fashionable in recent years.
I’m sure Lamas didn’t forget Romano’s opinion, but he didn’t stop listening to him. Never. Without rancor or resentment, several interviews were published after that fact.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he agreed to be Hernández’s assistant. They won the bronze medal. Four years later, in London 2012, Lamas had once again taken control of the team, and summoned Hernández as his assistant. They reached the semi-final. They dominated the ego, They recognized that they needed each other. They worked together for the selection. In that tournament he also promoted Facundo Campazzo’s debut in a major tournament.
Disciple of Leon Najnudel. Genuine National League product. Lamas loves basketball. He once said that in 1988, in the first All-Star Game held in Mar del Plata, he was a ball catcher in the triple tournament and made the statistical sheets of four players to define the MVP at the end of the match. He was willing to do whatever it took to be close to a game he considered historic.
Between 1997 and 2021 there were only three coaches on the basketball team. He was the one who started the list. Magnano had only one cycle, the shortest. One of the reasons that is often pointed out is that of the three he was the one with the most rigid relationship with the players, the most vertical style.
Hernández and Lamas had another type of leadership. They accepted the dynamics of a different, shared leadership. In which the authority does not depend on the forcefulness with which a work model is imposed or an order is transmitted. That is also why so few managed Ginóbili, Scola, Nocioni and company. Players of such size only admitted coaches who were at that level.
Lamas had already anticipated something about his distancing from the post. On the need to find a different position in management. Still surprising. She is 57 years old and too young to step aside.
Needless to say at this point that there is also a Golden Generation of technical directors. That Lamas was the first of them. And that, as with that attitude in a friendly 28 years ago, he was already the Golden Generation before the Golden Generation was born.
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Julio Lamas, the symbol of the other Golden Generation of Argentine basketball: that of the coaches