Friday, September 23, 2011

How KK BOSNA ASA can rebuild it's team and it's reputation

KK BOSNA ASA once the shining star of Yugoslavian basketball continues to fall on hard times. Once on equal if not superior footing of Partizan, Cibona and Union Olympia, KK BOSNA ASA now has more in common to Sibenek and if they do not change soon could end up a relic relegated to the history books. KK BOSNA is in bad financial shape, can barely afford to field a team this year after years of mismanagement and owes millions from old contracts. They tried to build a team last year with castoffs and retreads and "prospects" who either were in there mid 20's or had little to no talent at all. The disaster than unfolded resulted in a 2-8 league final tournament record.

This year they have shed all of the players from last years team and have so far only signed two new ones Edin Alispahic, who was a nice young prospect a few year ago before a serious knee injury limited his potential and Sven Smajlagic who looks most similar in style to Danko Delibasic (a player no one would confuse with his father) or Marko Batina both players who don't inspire a lot of confidence in the direction of the team. Besides Sven is 21 and Edin is 23 hardly young prospects in the context of what you would expect to see out of players who should have a lot of development left.

All of the major Bosnian teams KK Celik, KK Sloboda, KK Bosna and even the up and coming KK Triland are having major funding issues. On one end of the scale is are teams like Celik and Triland who's ROI (return on investment) is very high, the teams have spent there revenue well, it's just that the influx of capitol isn't high enough to offset the costs of doing business. On the other end of the spectrum is KK Bosna and KK Sloboda which are at least 5 million KM in debt through the signing of big, bad contracts over the years. It is hard to imagine they will be able to extract themselves from this mess anytime soon.

More than anything they need a comprehensive, top to bottom business model of how to run a franchise with substantive value.

Administration: The leadership of Nihad Imamovic has been a dismal failure, the "partnership" between KK BOSNA and Beobasket Belgrade and the "esteemed" Raznatovic has been a one sided failure. Bosnia has recieved a lot of inferior talent with big price tags in the last few years. Also the fact that Bosna has brought in internationals, paid a hefty fee to agents to sign them and then replace them with another high priced import has been a spectacular failure. These agents have been able to secure multipule payment from Bosna for bringing in guys like Quemont Greer, Clearance Gilbert and Stanley Burrell. KK Bosna needs leadership with patience, vision and communication abilities to raise the transparency in the team and to show and communicate it's vision. It needs to model itself on a smaller, less well funded version of Partizan.

Marketing: KK Bosna needs to be able to communicate to it's rabid fan base that this rebuilding is done with vision for championships in the future and you need to come seem the amazing young talent as it proves itself on the international basketball scene. It also needs to ensure that it's members are highly visible in it's community and in ex pat Bosnian communities around the globe, remember a lot of these people come to Bosnia and have a much larger disposable income. You could even eventually sponsor a US summer league youth team. Also much like Partizan has done, after a couple of years travel to these communities and put on exhibition games. Using social media with the players to run a KK BOSNA blog, twitter (filtered and approved through the team) and Facebook and foursquare to raise the visibility of the team.

Merchandising: There is a demand for merchandise and uniforms but it is hard to find or come by. I have seen KK BOSNA jersys go for good money on ebay. When have been in Sarajevo it is nearly impossible to find a KK Bosna uniform.  They often don't even have much to offer at there games. If you go to there office on Hamze Hume you will be lucky if they even answer there door. Swag is a very important and so is information. a KK BOSNA yearly magazine in Bosnian and English and available around the globe would be a good move. So would drawing on it's rich history, opening a museum to it's history eventually and allowing the naming rights to be used in beer sales, restaurants etc are options for the future as well.

Coaching: Bosna has run through coaches the last few years from the very good like Juri Zdovic, Nenad Markovic to the bad like Mensud Bajramovic some seasons changing coaches 3x in a year! What Bosna needs to do, like everything else is identify a coach with a vision, passion and knowledge to develop a roster that is talented and hardworking and not beholden to outside interests.

Development: Bosna's development of young players has been abysmal the last few years. Outside of Nihad Dedovic (which a blind man could see his talents as a 15 year old kid) the team has missed on all of their big time talents going back to Predrag Saporac and the postwar years. Bosna hasn't been willing to sign legit young talent  or develop them properly through weight training, coaching, teaching and playing time. Often players play out of position and don't have the opportunity to get minutes until they are 20-22 years old. Young talent in Europe are now seeing regular rotation time on good teams yet Bosna continues to forsake the opportunities. Not only that but youngsters like Mirza Saralija have come and taken a step back by joining the team, a disaster for the franchise.

Vision: KK BOSNA ASA is a small market team, Sarajevo is a mid size city of about 500,000 and ticket revenue is minimal at about $5 a ticket even with sellouts close to 7,000 when the team is in international play and playing at a high level.  What they need is a road map and a blueprint to success, they need to follow what Partizan has done, just on a smaller scale. Partizan is the model team in Europe with a budget of about 5 million a year (about 1/4 of the teams they compete with in Europe) yet are a consistent Euroleague team that competes for the finals every year. They sign some of the best internationals and do a great job developing their own talent which form the core of their team. KK Bosna through proper development of revenue streams and marketing could operate with a budget in the 2.5 million to 3 million range if done properly.

Import players: Bosna needs to limit the use of international players, look for less expensive, less well known ones that have a work ethic and understanding of what they are getting into before they arrive. Terrell Castle is the perfect example of what you can do with a small budget and a unknown talent when used properly.

Domestic players: The team needs to build around youth but have a couple of veterans who can lead the team and show them what it means to be a professional. Players like Samir Leric, Abdurahman Kharimanovic or even a lesser known talent like Ramiz Suljanovic or Selmir Husanovic. Emir Guzonjic is a nice role player who has some similarities to Dzenen Rahimic but costs significantly less.

Young players: The team needs to develop through it's own system but also look to bring in talent like Adnan Vrabac. Adis Zahiragic displayed great range and high level shooting abililty but just needs coaching and development to become a Euroleague quality PG. Nedim Buza displayed great talent as well this summer and these are players the teams needs to develop. How much will they ever get out of Ernad Mujic or Nermin Buza? Neither has the talent to be top tier European talent so stop wasting minutes on them or players like Dino Hodzic, when the focus should be on younger players. These three can be decent role players  but need to not be the focus of the future when that future isn't possible. I would rather the team pay five young talents and a shooting coach or a post position coach, rather than one import player of suspicious quality.

Transfers: If your going to allow transfers of players your going to lose anyway in a year or two, but are under contract the best option is what Japanese baseball does, charge a posting fee, make the bidding anonymous and open the process to the highest bid submitted and then they have the rights to negotiate with that player. If KK BOSNA was the best team in Bosnia to get minutes, coaching and advance your professional career you can bet eventually players like Stanko Barac, Bojan Bogdanovic and others would be attracted to come to Sarajevo if it was in there best financial and professional interest. The key is attracting not only the best Bosniak talent but Bosnian Serb and Croat talent as well. Bosnian Croats produce a ton of legit talent for such a small portion of the population (less than 400,000 total in the country).

Long term outlook: What KK BOSNA and all KSBiH teams need is private ownership, you could even make it similar to what the Green Bay Packers do and have them publicly owned but with fans owning the team. There is no real incentive or transparency in the operations of the teams and you can clearly see the results in the shambles that Celik, Sloboda and Bosna now find themselves.

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