TAIYUAN, China, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- For veteran Spanish coach Cesar Ruperez Garcia, Shanxi's route back to glory in the Women's Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA) league will be a gradual process.
"We cannot take short cuts. We need to go step by step," Garcia said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
The Spaniard, who won three WCBA titles with Shanxi from 2012 to 2015 as assistant coach, took full charge of the team before the current campaign.
"We spent four amazing seasons here, and in three of them we won the WCBA championship," he recalled. "So we have great memories and keep in touch almost every year with the club's owner. I spent a great time here. It's a great place to be a basketball coach."
Since 2015, Shanxi has endured a four-season drought for the title, and Garcia now has a different roster from when he departed, consisting mainly of young players.
"We have a young team, especially on the perimeter positions, where almost everybody is young. They need to gain experience and know how to play tough games."
"We need to keep developing them, so they keep playing to work and gain experience. We hope that they will get better step by step and gain experience, which is very important if you want to be part of a winning team," he said.
"Everybody expects to win the championship, especially after the amazing seasons we had four years ago," said Garcia. "But inside the team, we are not very focused on the championship. It's a long way to get there."
"First of all, we are trying to be a team and have good chemistry between everyone. Then we need to able to be a winning team, a team able to fight and compete in almost every game."
"I don't know when we will be able to win a championship. But if we work hard, the team will get better and have a greater opportunity to get the championship," he added.
Garcia had been a basketball player himself, retiring at an early stage due to a serious knee injury and becoming a coach more than two decades ago.
"[Basketball] is my life, from being a player, to assistant coach, and now head coach. For me, it's not a job, it's my passion. Every time I go to the court to be an assistant coach or head coach, I enjoy myself."
Garcia intends to inject his love and passion for basketball into the three-time WCBA winners.
"Everything I'm trying to teach them, I try to do it with passion. If you don't play basketball with enough passion, then technical matters are irrelevant."
"The most important thing is to be able and ready to fight. If you don't play with passion, then you cannot fight and make wins," Garcia commented.
"It's a young team to try to improve. It's a long way from being a winning team," the coach cautioned. "Step by step, I want to develop players and the style of the team to become a winning team, then we will be one step closer to getting the championship," he added.
"In last couple of seasons, especially last season, the team was not a winning team. They won games, but they were not the kind of team that normally won."
Garcia admitted that becoming a head coach from being an assistant coach will be "a big challenge", while emphasizing that he has learned a lot through playing in top-level competitions over the past seven years working with previous coach Lucas Mondelo, including three straight titles with Shanxi.
"The challenge always comes with a lot of pressure. If you are not able to overcome the pressure, you cannot be a head coach," he declared.
Despite Garcia's reservations, Shanxi cannot be overlooked in the WCBA title fight for one simple reason: Elizabeth Cambage.
"She is a difference-maker," Garcia said of his star center. "When she's on court, everybody goes around her. Defensively it's easy with her in the paint, because other teams cannot score easily in the paint. Offensively it's going on all around her, because when you don't pay attention to her, she can score 40 points."
But Garcia hopes that beyond scoring, the 203cm Australian center can become a team leader in an all-round sense.
"I expect her to be a kind of leader of our team, and try to engage everybody to play like a team. I don't want her to be the best scorer every time and everybody else just looks at her," Garcia pointed out, adding that domestic players need to take responsibility on the court.
"They need to take the opportunity when the coach makes them play. They have to know it's not just foreign players scoring or doing everything. Chinese players need to understand that they also can be important players in their teams," he declared.