A large interview with BC UNICS president Evgeny Bogachev




Evgeny BOGACHEV has been the head of UNICS since 1998 and only in the 25th year of his presidency he waited for the main trophy in his basketball career. Kazan became the champions of Russia, beating Lokomotiv Kuban in the final of the VTB United League (4-1). Very soon, UNICS will have to defend the championship title in the new season.

At an online conference with BUSINESS Online readers, Evgeny BOGACHEV revealed the secrets of the championship, told where UNICS was in the league on budget, told how much the requests of the team leaders had increased, and also shared his opinion about what was happening in Ukraine. During the conversation, Evgeny Borisovich was asked questions from readers that they could leave on the publication's website. They are quoted with an indication of the author of the question.


– Evgeny Borisovich, our readers congratulate UNICS on the long-awaited championship title. Can you share what kind of blood this victory was given to you?

– And blood, and nerves, and vivid emotions – everything was there. Because the game of basketball is unpredictable. Historically, we had only two formidable opponents – CSKA and Khimki. Recently, Zenit has been added instead of Khimki. Moreover, the club from St. Petersburg, like us, has already won the championship. So last season, UNICS turned out to be above the two champions of Russia.

Our guys came to the semifinals and finals healthy and full of energy. We were lucky that we managed to sign the leader of Samara, Marcos Knight. The American guard has noticeably strengthened our squad and helped us a lot in the playoffs. We have a close-knit team with a strong selection of Russian and foreign players. Foreigners are satisfied with everything in Kazan in terms of everyday life. They admit that the capital of Tatarstan, both externally and internally, is in no way inferior to Europe.

I would like to note the great contribution of head coach Velimir Perasovic to the championship title. The players respect the Croatian specialist very much and are even a little afraid. In general, coaches rarely play, and Perasovic is a well–known athlete in the past. During the season, sometimes I had to connect and give energy to the guys in the locker room. I think the combination of these factors helped us achieve success and rise to the top of the podium of the national championship for the first time in history.

– What were your emotions during the final series with Lokomotiv? At what point did you realize that you would become champions?

– I admit, after the victory over Zenit, there was a feeling that we would be able to beat Lokomotiv. After all, the St. Petersburg team was the current champion at that time. If they were defeated, then they had to cope with the Cubans.

– But did Lokomotiv Kuban turn out to be an unyielding opponent?

– Very difficult. I would like to note that the budgets of the St. Petersburg and Moscow clubs are about 2.5 times larger than ours. They are followed by Lokomotiv Kuban, and UNICS is only the fourth in the VTB League in terms of funding. Our confident victory in the final series has become all the more pleasant.

– Did you have any thoughts that it is unrealistic to become a champion, after all these stories with judicial arbitrariness that you have encountered during your work at UNICS?

– No, there was always hope. We have repeatedly defeated the long-term hegemon of the VTB league CSKA and last year's champion Zenit. So we never lost faith and were rewarded. As for your comment on refereeing, in my opinion, it has become more objective and of high quality. Our referees have taken a step forward. Sergey Ivanov, Honorary President of the VTB United League, Sergey Kushchenko, President of the league, and Ilona Korstin, General Director, managed to restore order in the judicial issue.


– Is winning the VTB United League and the Russian Championship the most memorable event for you?

– I think so. Although winning the European Cup in 2011 is also very prestigious and memorable. You rejoice in victory for ten days, then you need to get down to business again. You're thinking about how to staff the team, agree on a budget for next year.

– Do you have any concerns that it will be difficult for UNICS to maintain its leadership next season?

– Of course, it will be difficult. All the opponents will tune in to us as champions. In addition, let me remind you that we are only fourth in the league in terms of budget.

– Is it realistic to increase funding, given that UNICS is the champion?

– If the budget grows by 20 percent, it will already be a success. After all, it was necessary to save foreigners and intercept Russian players. To do this, I need to be sure that the budget will increase.

Will UNICS have enough prize money to create a new team and defend the title next season? (Sergey Gennadievich)

– Remember, in previous years we regularly won titles: the EuroCup, the FIBA Euroleague, the Cup of the Northern European League, three Cups of Russia. And how many silver and bronze medals we have in our piggy bank is beyond counting!

When we sign a contract with players, we promise them a bonus for first or second place. We had to spend all our financial reserves on bonuses. We awarded the guys both for reaching the finals and for gold medals. Like that old Jew in the joke: he bequeathed 100 thousand dollars to his wife, son, daughter, and then thinks: «God, where am I going to get so much money?!» So I miscalculated (laughs)...


– In 30 years, winning once is not too expensive for the few basketball fans of Tatarstan? A rather expensive toy, although the visiting Americans wanted to teach Tatars and Russians to play this game, only the opposite is true. USSR basketball players were in demand in America, modern Russian players are the fifth wheel in the basketball cart. A victory with a very bitter taste. (Roma)

– Let Roman go to the Basket Hall and see how many awards the club has won. We win something every season. Three European cups, three Russian Cups, many silver and bronze medals. Aren't these victories? The statement that UNICS has a small number of fans is not true! Last season, the occupancy of the stands was such that there was often nowhere to sit. I think your reader needs to take an objective look at the situation.

– Rustam Nurgalievich said at the celebration of UNICS that your victory in the VTB United League will contribute to the popularization of basketball in the republic. But is one championship enough for this? What else must there be? (Shchukin)

–The victory has already stirred up interest in basketball. There were even VIP stands at the last games - there weren't enough seats for everyone! All the tickets were flying for the playoff matches. The Prime minister of one republic came and, unfortunately, also watched the game standing up. That's the popularity! Of course, a lot depends on which opponent comes to us.

– Do families go to UNICS? It's one thing for the VIPs to arrive, another for the children to come, and then they signed up for the basketball section…

– They go in families. In our lobby, both adults and children throw balls into the basket during breaks. In the summer, we put basketball stands on the playground at the Basket Hall. Children's and youth teams were created and strengthened, and Stanislav Eremin, an honored master of sports and honored coach of the country, was hired to achieve these goals. Today we have a team of 14–year-old boys, UNICS-Juniors – under 17-18 years old, UNICS-2 - under 19 years old.

– Is it possible to think over a scheme of additional discounts for families with children and regular season ticket holders in order to maintain the occupancy of the hall? (Sergey Gennadievich)

– Our policy has been providing discounts for schoolchildren, students, pensioners, as well as season ticket holders for many years. But in general, ticket prices do not bite here.

– Is it true that last season the revenue from ticket sales was higher than during the time of the team's participation in the Euroleague?

– That's right. Revenue increased by 40-50 percent. Thanks to our fans for attending the matches and buying tickets. I think this happened largely because the VTB United League changed the system of the championship. The total number of matches has increased, primarily between the leading teams. With this, the organizers tried to compensate the clubs for the lack of European tournaments to a certain extent. But in any case, it would be good to return to the Euroleague.


– Is it probably difficult to sign new foreign players in the current conditions, when they don't want to go to Russia and we don't have European cups?

– The question is, of course, difficult. In the season that ended, we managed to assemble an almost new squad of foreign basketball players who helped UNICS become the champion. We don't take stars – the players reveal themselves and become stars already with us. Now no one from Europe will rent us a strong athlete. Let's say there are two people in the same position in the club – the weaker one can be released. We, in turn, promote them.

As for the Americans, over the past season, the US authorities have several times strongly recommended their citizens to return to their homeland. But among our overseas players, no one flinched. Of course, the financial aspect also played an important role in their decision to stay in Russia. After all, who in the States will pay them so much if the whole of America is dotted with basketball players? Plus, the conditions in Tatarstan are excellent.

– How much have the players of UNICS increased in price after becoming champions of Russia?

– Nine leading basketball players have at least doubled in price. Some of our Russian players have quadrupled in price!

– Despite all the difficulties, this summer you managed to keep most of the team's leaders, for example, the best player of the playoffs, Nenad Dimitrijevic. How did you manage to come to an agreement with the Macedonian point guard?

– Dimitrijevic aspired to play in the Euroleague. It is important that he wanted to change his club registration not because of money or living conditions, but because of high sporting ambitions. However, we managed to find an approach to it. The coach's factor played a big role in extending cooperation with Dimitrijevic. Perasovic believes in Neno and builds the game through him. The situation was similar with Louis Labeyrie, who also wanted to join the Euroleague. But we actively negotiated, insisted on extending the contract and eventually managed to convince the Frenchman.

In the current geopolitical situation, it is not easy to look for new high-quality foreigners. We had valid agreements with four foreign players, which played into our hands. After all, if they left, they had to pay the club compensation. Perhaps this has become a deterrent for some of them.

– The main achievement of the offseason is that UNICS retained the head coach of the team Velimir Perasovic. How did you manage to do that?

– The Croatian specialist did not hide his interest in continuing to work at UNICS, but asked to wait for an answer until the end of all national championships. In the Euroleague, many clubs could change coaches. Perasovic wanted to assess the situation and check the interest in his candidacy. We are glad that in the end we were able to reach an agreement with him on continuing cooperation.

– How do you rate his work last season?

– Velimir has its own peculiarities, but winners are not judged. There are coaches who, as a rule, use a small rotation. So Perasovic relied only on the leaders in key matches. In my opinion, this is an ambiguous position, but it led UNICS to the first championship in the club's history.

As a man, Velimir is not easy, but not vindictive. Sometimes he will say something emotionally to the players, our foreigners also respond sharply to him. But he quickly departs, holds no grudges against anyone and never takes revenge.

Did Perasovic go too far with his shouting at the players?

– I asked him not to shout at least at those who play well, to which the coach objected to me: «They can do better!» I remember in winter, when Velimir got sick, we almost lost one home match. I ask the guys: «Well, how is that?» In response, I heard: «We missed the screams of Perasovic».

Name the three best UNICS players in the history of your leadership of the club. (Ilnur)

– It is very difficult to choose only three people in the 25 years of my presidency. Among our people, I will name Tatar Ruslan Avleev and Petr Samoylenko, a favorite of the Kazan public. I also really liked Igor Kudelin. Among the foreigners, I would like to mention Mario Hezonja and Keith Langford. I remember well the match when Langford almost single-handedly dealt with Khimki, scoring them 47 points.e three best UNICS players in the history of your leadership of the club. (Ilnur)

 A negative point was very clearly observed last season: the low quality of Russian players, with the exception of the progressing Georgy Zhbanov. Vorontsevich and Zaitcev passed significantly, but there is nothing positive to say about other basketball players. Do you think we need to work in this direction and raise our athletes? (Igor)

– Of course, we would like to have more high-quality Russians in the squad. But don't forget that basketball is an American game. In the USA, every school and university has its own strong team. Football and hockey are traditionally more developed in Russia. Only 10 of the 89 regions of the country are represented in the VTB United League – only 11 percent.

– You have all the trophies, it remains only to grow your strong player. Do you agree?

– We had Tatarstan basketball players. Maybe there will be more. We are working in this direction.


– Recently, your son Bogdan Bogachev became the president of the Basketball Federation of the Republic of Tatarstan. What are his first successes in his new position?

– The federation focuses on the development of children's and mass basketball. Children's tournaments Run, throw! are held on a regular basis in the capital of Tatarstan and the Zakamsky zone of the republic. The Federation has prepared an application and won a grant from the Tatneft Charitable Foundation. These funds made it possible to hold the third stage of the Russian 3-on-3 basketball championship among men's teams in the Basket Hall in winter.

Financial support is provided to the national teams of the Republic of Tatarstan taking part in the championships of the Russian Federation and All-Russian competitions, competitions are held in the Uram Park. We have implemented live broadcasts of the Tatarstan basketball Championship among boys and girls under 18 years of age.

In May, Kazan, thanks to the initiative of the Basketball Federation of the Republic of Tatarstan, for the first time in history, hosted the Russian championship among veterans of the age category 55 years and older. 7 teams from different regions of the Russian Federation took part in the tournament. Following the trends of the time, the federation has created and is developing social networks.

Of course, the main thing is that the regions of the republic have stirred up. Bogdan caught fire with the idea of a federation, gathered a team of like-minded people. He travels around the regions of the Republic of Tatarstan with UNICS players, conducts master classes, and does a lot of other work. I think the ice has broken…

– Do you think it's time to create a basketball academy with a boarding school on the basis of UNICS, like, for example, at Rubin?

– Even if we do this, unfortunately, we will not have any rights to the players. At the age of 18, they become capable and can sign contracts with any club. At this stage, the agency games begin. Besides, the academy is an expensive and very troublesome pleasure. So far, we have made this step – up to 15, 17 and 20 years old. Today we are trying to staff the UNICS Junior and UNICS-2 teams in order to prepare at least 2-3 basketball players for the base there.

– Don't you think that finding Russian basketball in a vacuum, outside the world and European, will eventually lead to the loss of good foreigners in our teams who are able to set a high standard of skill and be a model for our basketball players, and basketball stagnation will begin? (Igor)

– Of course, due to the international suspension, we lost the opportunity to compete with the strongest European teams. Remember how often we beat them last season. I think Europe is already tired of its sanctions. I know they appreciated us in the Euroleague. Former President Jordi Bertomeu visited Kazan three times. When we participated in the Euroleague, we earned a lot of money for victories and television rights. Unfortunately, we lost this income. In Russia, the situation is reversed. We have only recently stopped paying TV companies for TV broadcasts.

Of course, it would be possible to attract teams from other countries, for example from China and Israel. Foreigners will come to us, there will be no stagnation. By the way, some Spanish teams also have very few local players. Only we divide everyone into our own and foreigners. The best should come out on the court, no matter which country they represent.

Of course, we must not forget about the preparation of the reserve. We need to develop basketball sections and raise our athletes. A few years ago, I conducted an analysis – one coach leads both basketball, volleyball, and hockey. He is paid 6 thousand in each section, otherwise he will not live. Zenit volleyball, for example, pays extra to school coaches. We can also provide such assistance to 2-3 schools, but not all of them.

My son Bogdan is currently developing basketball in the republic. He is delighted with the infrastructure and, in general, with the work that is being carried out in Nizhnekamsk and our other cities. There is something in Tatarstan. It is necessary to organize competitions among boys and girls more often, but this requires a financial and energy breakthrough. However, I think there will be a positive shift.


– It is impossible not to ask about IT. Did you expect such a development? Did you live in Ukraine as a child…

– I guess it's not just me – no one could have imagined that everything would turn out this way. I was born in the Kursk region, my father is Russian, my mother is half Ukrainian. I graduated from school in Ukraine. My classmates were Poles, Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, but we were all like one people. And today, Ukrainians and Russians are dying. According to underestimated data, 30 percent of the inhabitants of Ukraine are Russians. Moreover, Russians and Ukrainians are no different! It turns out that brother is fighting against brother. After Leonid Kuchma, all the presidents of Ukraine praise Bandera. What kind of patriots are they? Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are great, small and white Russia. There was no such country as Ukraine, it was the outskirts of Russia.

– How do you think it will end?

– No one expected that the whole of Europe would go against us. They are all traitors, especially the countries of Eastern Europe! Catherine gave the same Poles their first freedoms. And after the Great Patriotic War, it was the Russians who restored the whole of Warsaw. In Soviet times, the supply in the Baltic republics was always better than in the RSFSR. Russia gave everything to the national republics!

– Has the point of no return in relations with Ukrainians been passed?

– Nothing has been passed, everything can be restored in an instant. In my opinion, Ukraine should enter into an alliance with Russia and Belarus. Although there is no production or minerals in Western Ukraine. And the ideology there is even worse, there are many nationalists. Everything is coming from above, and people want to work with the Russian Federation, because it is a huge market. Are Ukrainian goods needed in Europe? Do you know how money is checked in Ukraine, is it fake? Portraits of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, Lesya Ukrainka, Mazepa are painted on the hryvnia. The bills are placed on the table, a piece of bacon is taken on a fork and held over the bills. If the hetman is following the fat with his eyes, it means that the bill is real (laughs).

– The first question (humorous): What is your favorite joke? The second question (serious): Given your wisdom and rich life experience, please tell me what future awaits our beloved Tatarstan? (Rishat Ravilevich Khairutdinov)

– The blizzard swept the yaranga of the Chukchi. What to do? One says: let's tell jokes. Another: come on, not political ones, or they'll send you away… Which one should I choose? I will tell you about the "banking", which was shared with me by Viktor Gerashchenko (chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation in 1992-1994 and 1998-2002 – ed.). Two friends live nearby: one is an industrialist, the other is the chairman of a bank. Suddenly there was a crisis, and there was an opportunity to buy a company on the cheap. The industrialist came to the banker and asked for an urgent loan to buy the company. The banker responds: "The issue is being resolved by the credit committee, it won't work out quickly — not before a month." Industrialist: Can't you decide for yourself? Banker: I can, if you can guess which artificial eye I have. The neighbor looked and said, Right. The banker was surprised: How did you guess? He answers: I felt some sympathy in that eye.

– What about the future of Tatarstan?

– The future is bright and beautiful! You just have to believe in it and bring it closer, work well and hard. Since I left the National Bank, the republic's budget has grown 3 times. I think the federal center also gives a lot – for bridges, roads, interchanges. Our money is not enough for everything. And they are given to those who have funds going into business, they are effectively spent. Kazan is no worse than any European city today. And it cannot be said that the future is in oil. The demand for it will gradually decrease. But there will be enough oil for a long time. I do not believe that they will make fuel out of corn and drive it. I believe that we have a high potential, which, one might say, the whole of Russia has been doing. For example, KAMAZ. We will support our trucks, because today everyone has made sure that ours is ours.

I remember when KAMAZ was burning, one figure suggested that the plant be stopped – there would be fewer losses. And where to put 50 thousand employees of the enterprise?! We need to support production! Tatarstan has great potential – we make cars and helicopters, we are trying to promote the production of airplanes. In the Soviet years, 30-40 aircraft were produced per year. Sergo Factory, powder factory. Part of the industrial potential was brought to the republic during the war years. And our agriculture is powerful. Even my close friends keep sheep, goats and chickens. So our republic has everything!