After his team flipped home-court advantage to win a tough semifinal series, John Holland of UNICS Kazan says he and his teammates are laser-focused on winning the 7DAYS EuroCup title when they start the finals against AS Monaco on April 27.
John Holland, UNICS: 'The job's not done'
We made it to the EuroCup Finals! It wasn't easy, of course. Obviously, Virtus was a great opponent and we were able to get a great victory in Game 3 of the semis It was something special. We have a special team, so I know that before the game we all believed in each other and we believed that we could win. And we went out there and we were able to do it! I mean, we were close in Game 1 and then in the second game we were able to get them, and we knew if we got back to Bologna we would have a chance. We were able to do it, but hats off to them. They are a great team. They have great players, but I'm just glad we were able to get it done.
We lost Jordan Morgan midway through that Game 3 but Okaro White did great. I am happy for him because he used to play in Bologna. So I know that probably felt good to get a win against his old team. He was invaluable for us, him and [John Brown]. They both were amazing; everybody was amazing. Everybody did their part in that game. We came together as a team and we were able to get an amazing win.
After a win like that, you celebrate for the night. It's a great accomplishment for the club. Bringing UNICS back to the EuroLeague, this is something great for the club, something that they have been trying to do for the last few years. We are happy that we were able to do that for the club... but it's not over. For us as players, the accomplishment is a championship. That's our goal. That's what we're focused on. We enjoyed the moment and the feeling of being able to say that we could be in the EuroLeague next year. But for us, the job's not done. We have two more games we have to win, so we don't have that much time to celebrate. You celebrate it for the night and then midnight rolls around and you just you forget about it and move on to the next thing. We have to win a championship, and that would be an amazing finish to the season.
The EuroCup title is something that you carry with you not only for the rest of your career but for the rest of your life. You don't get that many seasons in your life. If you're lucky, you get 10. If you're really lucky, you maybe get 15. If you're amazingly lucky, you may get 20, but that's only 20 chances to win a championship. And of those 20, you don't have teams all the time that can win a championship. So when you say that you were on a championship team, a winning team, that's a special thing. I think that's something that all of us, as players, really want to accomplish. We know we have such a special team, so that's something that would stay with us forever. For instance, Michael Jordan is the biggest winner in basketball, but he won 6 titles in 15 years, so any time you have a chance to end the season with a win, that's something special, something that nobody really can take away from you.
I know Monaco is a really good team; they have to be to have gotten this far. We have another tough challenge in front of us and we have to face it. We have a true home-court advantage, and I am definitely looking forward to it. It should be fun! It has been a long way since I joined UNICS last summer. Last season, I replaced Trent Lockett in Jerusalem and talked to him about UNICS when I had the chance to come to Kazan, like places to go eat and stuff like that. I knew he had played here for a couple of years. And so I definitely reached out to him and asked him about the city and everything: what to do, the places to go, how to move around. He was very helpful. I talked to Jordan Theodore, too, and we ended up playing together and fighting now for a big title!
We have a special team here and have the chance to do something special. Jamar Smith knows better than us because he already won the EuroCup with Unicaja Malaga. He said it was amazing. That's the kind of thing we want to experience now. He has the experience and told us what it was like. And so we want to get another one for him and one for ourselves!
It is a great thing when friends can become family and have a year where you could build upon a brotherhood where it could last a lifetime. These moments are things that you will look back on for the rest of your life and remember. Winning this title is definitely something that everybody wants. And this team is just so special! As far as teams go, I have been on a lot of great teams and this is just truly special. Everybody gets along, everybody enjoys each other. It's just a great, great team, and I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to play with these guys. They are my brothers! These guys are great, and I just want really bad to win a championship because that's something that lasts forever.