A year of achievements and acknowledgements
The 2004-05 season became an important chapter in Bilbao Basket history. In September, prior to the start of the competition, all the club’s officials made the team’s permanence their primordial objective so that this thrilling project could be consolidated in the Second Best League in the World. They achieved this. It was the Red squad’s debut in the ACB and they had hardly left the relegation spots throughout the entire campaign, whereas, quite the contrary, they came close to winning a spot to take part in the King’s Cup, which would have meant a total success for our rookie team. Definitely, the once so-called Lagun Aro Bilbao Basket became, according to many experts not in Biscay, one of the most pleasant surprises of the season: “This team has breathed fresh air into the ACB”, Bozidar Maljkovic went on to say when Real Madrid were given a work out in order to take home a win at La Casilla. If such a wise man of basketball said this, there must be something behind it.
Award for being the best Basque team
Not only was it a campaign of outstanding results on court and which many have described as successful, it was also one of numerous awards in acknowledgment of a job well-done over the last four years, the time that Bilbao Basket needed to go from the Leb 2 to become part of the ACB. So, the Provincial Government, Biscay’s Sports Press Association, Vocento, Deia and the Basque Government rewarded them for their labour, the trajectory and the club’s promotion to the highest national competition while Txus Vidorreta also received several awards for his great effort whilst in charge of the Red squad, awards from Onda Cero, Biscay’s Sports Press Association or El Correo newspaper. All of which came about throughout the year and made us very proud as these have enriched the club’s history, and are very much appreciated.
The militant dream of playing in the ACB did not only come true because of that historic victory in León, which gave us a pass to the Second Best League in the World. At that very moment there were signs of another match to be played by the board who had put their shoulders to the wheel in looking for sponsors and institutional grants which would allow them to cover the canon to be paid in order to allow that select group to measure themselves up against Real Madrid, Barça, Pamesa, Tau, Estudiantes… The homework had been done and deadlines met by having reached an agreement with the Insurance Company Lagun Aro in becoming the club’s main sponsor, causing the Red team to step onto the ACB arena under the name of Lagun Aro Bilbao Basket. The ball was back in the coaches’ court, who started to work on the establishment of guarantees which would allowBilbaoto settle down in the category. Joining the players who had followed on from last season (Salgado, Lucho, Úriz and Maluenda) were other acclaimed players in this category (Scott, Sanmartín or Weis) and others with a will to demonstrate their potential still yet unseen in the ACB (Savovic) or because of a lack of match play in their old teams (Gabriel and Núñez).
Lagun Aro Bilbao Basket’s debut in the ACB ended in a big defeat in La Casilla against the potent TAU Cerámica by 104-57. Everything has a positive side and the experience served as a warning to everyone (club, team, fans or the media) that playing in the Second Best League in the World would not be easy and that we would have to try our hardest to assure our permanence. The thrashing received on behalf of Ivanovic’s men, who went on to play in the Euroleague final, made some people already think that Bilbao’s stint in the ACB was going to be a brief one, but Vidorreta’s players responded by winning, only three days later, on a historical court like that of Joventut de Badalona. In that match one could see the potential of that Red team who would go on to surprise their own people and strangers in the first half of the season. They had achieved their first triumph in the classification and they needed to do it again in La Casilla, something we had to wait for until the fifth match day and against another historical team such as Adecco Estudiantes (86-84) in a match that had an incredible outcome in which the Bilbaons scored no more and no less than 16 triples, an amount that came close to toppling the historical ACB record, which is 17.
It was difficult for Vidorreta’s team to get out of the bottom positions in the standings during the first two months of the competition. Nevertheless, the story changed because of a victory in another important court like that of PamesaValencia(97-99). From then on, after having caused trouble in thePalauto Barça de Bodiroga and company, at the start of December is when the Reds won everything against arch rivals like Plus Pujol Lleida, Ricoh Manresa, Fórum or Unelco Tenerife. Five victories out of six for Lagun Aro Bilbao Basket, who’d have thought, with options of qualifying for the King’s Cup in the last two rounds of the first half of the season. However, the adventure was not easy at all because we had to fight it out with Real Madrid in Vistalegre and with a Gran Canario who had pleased everyone in the first half of the competition. The two matches were lost leading to the commencement of one of the most difficult periods of the season due to the seven consecutive defeats during the months of January and February, in which things had changed. Although the first victory of 2005 kept resisting, it is also true that Vidorreta’s men deserved much more against Estudiantes, DKV Joventut and Tau. The Reds were competitive once again and the end of the losing streak was only a question of time. That’s how the board saw it, who had kept calm at all times during that period when the team were lacking in good results, even so, the team were able to stay away from the relegation spots, something which went on to show how well things had been done in the first stage of the competition.
March came and brought with it encounters against our closest rivals and the results came back. The Reds beat Granada (85-66), and then lost by just one point in Seville against Caja San Fernando (95-94), next they overcame Girona at home (78-56) and, after that in what was to be one of most definitive leaps to assure the permanence, they won by (69-79) in Alicante beating the authentic revelation of the competition, Etosa. The objective seemed to have been achieved but it was still not assured, not until the second-last match day in
Tenerife. It was a key match against a team in a do or die situation and Vidorretta’s team did not fail there giving Unelco no opportunities at all (67-77). They had crossed the finishing line and once more it was time to celebrate.
The last match against Fórum ended up being a great party in which the coaching squad and players wanted to show their gratitude to the public in La Casilla for all their support throughout the season. They were unable to achieve the victory against Manel Comas’s men but this did not put a damper on the celebration because, one more season, the objective set had been met from the very first day, the aim being for the team to remain in the ACB. The Red players were compliant once again and now the ball was back again in the board’s court and of all Biscay’s basketball fans, who had already demonstrated that they were always up to scratch, with the sign “tickets sold out” on the door for the encounters played in La Casilla. The club had to become a Sports Public Limited Company in order to keep on growing and make the successful history of Bilbao Basket even greater and everyone responded by subscribing for shares which more than covered the minimum capital required of said Company.
During this season, those who wore the Lagun Aro Bilbao Basket jersey under the supervision of Txus Vidorreta (coach) were, Rafa Pueyo (assistant) and Eneko Izkara (delegate): Javi Salgado, Ricardo Úriz, Diego Ciorciari, José Luis Maluenda, Pedja Savovic, César Sanmartín, Lucho Fernández, Richard Scott, Fred Weis, Germán Gabriel, Pedro Fernández, Damon Johnson, Scott Burrell, Roberto Núñez, Andrea Camata and Brian Howard.