Pablo Prigioni, a basketball master

From the inside, he saw the court like few others. He knew the details of the game like few others. He knew that for the team to work, everyone had to be happy. And no one is happier than the one who receives assistance. Actually yes, he was happier because I knew that an assist makes two happy: who passes the ball and who converts. He knew a lot. Pablo Prigioni, on the pitch, knew a lot.

Pablo knew so much that the New York Knicks did not look at his date of birth in 2012 when they added him to their team and made him, at 35, the oldest rookie in NBA history. His career in Europe had been superlative. His ancestry on a star-studded Argentine national team, too.

After four seasons in three different NBA teams – Knicks, Rockets and Clippers – Prigioni returned to Europe to play one more season at Baskonia, the club where he had reached his peak of performance. The journey was shorter than expected. With only six games between ACB and Euroleague, he realized that it was time to say enough. Thus, he put an end to his career.

From retirement as a player in January 2017 to taking over as coach in June of the same year, all in Baskonia. The transition was short, but the stay in command of the team of his loves much longer. Eight games in office allowed him to understand that the team did not play as intended, that there was a big difference between his idea and reality. The results were not good and Prigioni did not want them to have patience with him for being an idol in Vitoria. “I feel frustrated for not meeting expectations. I apologize to everyone, I do not want to harm more,” he said at a press conference when announcing his resignation in public without even having communicated it to the directors. “I am demanding and I was not satisfied with compete or have a good year. I wanted the team to play the best basketball in Europe and seek to beat all rivals. It could be delusional, but it was the way to take the challenge, “Prigioni explained days later.

You had to shuffle and give again. Before beginning his path as head coach, Prigioni had received proposals to be an assistant in the NBA, where he had left an excellent image as a player. Then, after the experience in Baskonia, the offers resurfaced. The one that most seduced him was the Brooklyn Nets and there he began his work as an assistant in the best league in the world. He was, thus, the first Argentine to be part of an NBA technical staff.

His homework on the Nets was so good that the Minnesota Timberwolves came looking for him. He was offered a higher position within the technical corps and Pablo moved from Brooklyn to Minneapolis. And in the Wolves his ancestry in the team was growing. Everything he knew as a player can be passed on from off the pitch.

Prigioni doesn’t just advise Wolves players. He’s also generous to some very special opponents. At the start of the 2020-21 season, Facundo Campazzo, a newcomer to the NBA, played very little. Less than 7 minutes of game average in the first 5 games. Just 8 points in total. Until the Denver Nuggets traveled to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Timberwolves. There, Facu met with Prigioni and they talked in the preview of the meeting. ‘The season is very long, opportunities will appear, you have to prepare for that. When it’s your turn, you have to be ready, ‘Prigioni told Campazzo, The coach’s advice served the rookie that same night: he took advantage of more than 21 minutes of action with 5 made 3-pointers, 3 steals and 2 assists. It was a pivotal moment for him in the season.

After last season in the NBA, Prigioni had his first participation as part of the coaching staff of the Argentine national team. Invited by Sergio Hernández, he collaborated in the preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. He reunited with former colleagues and shared his teachings and experiences. Néstor García, brand new coach from Argentina, has already mentioned him as a possible assistant. It is easy to imagine that Prigioni will one day be at the helm of the national team.

Prigioni’s current role on the Minnesota staff is that of attack coordinator and he is one of the visible faces on the team’s bench. His ability to teach and pass on knowledge is essential for players. That is why he earned everyone’s respect. Pablo, in short, is a basketball master. It was from inside the field and it is also from outside. He knew a lot. And it knows a lot.


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Pablo Prigioni, a basketball master