LONDON 2012: Rivalry on hold: Brazil’s men’s basketball team in …
The Brazilian basketball confederation received an onslaught of criticism at first, but Magnano quickly gained widespread support, especially after qualifying Brazil for the Olympics for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games.
The rivalry is not even an issue anymore, unless the subject is football, of course, something Magnano learned firsthand last year.
The day after Argentina’s home loss to Uruguay in the quarterfinals of the Copa America, the South American football championship, the Brazilian players decided to give Magnano a hard time on the basketball court. While breaking the huddle following a practice, instead of yelling “Brazil” as usual, the players in unison shouted “Uruguay,” loud and clear for Magnano to hear.
It was enough to get a laugh from the usually tough and serious Argentine coach.
“They are always joking with me and I’m always joking with them,” Magnano told The Associated Press after a practice in Sao Paulo. “This is natural in sports. It’s all about how you take it. When you don’t cross the line, it’s something really positive. We all have a lot of respect for each other here.”
It was Magnano who got to brag earlier this month when Argentina defeated Brazil 4-3 in a football friendly in the United States, which was played the day the coach arrived for his team’s Olympic preparations. Watching a television in the lobby of Brazil’s hotel, he got to celebrate each the three goals scored by world player of the year Lionel Messi.
“I definitely remember that day,” Magnano said.
The coach admits that it’s not always easy to be coaching a national team other than his own. He said one of the hardest things in his career was to have to face Argentina while coaching Brazil, which happened twice in last year’s qualifying Olympic tournament played in his country.
“I can’t say that I didn’t feel something different, it’s even hard to explain,” the 57-year-old Magnano said. “But you have to separate things when you are on the bench. Emotionally there is nothing you can do, because you can’t just simply forget what’s in your heart, nobody can, but I always know when it’s time to get to work, which means I’m all about defending the colors of Brazil.”
The trip to Argentina last year also helped ease his concerns about how fans back home would react to his decision to take the Brazil job.
“The reception I got from the fans was incredible. It was one of the greatest moments for me as a coach,” Magnano said. “It was the greatest prize I could’ve ever won. I would say it meant even more than winning the gold medal. It was priceless.”