14.09.2011
This feature could be named JR Holden’s farewell interview. But J don’t like the word ‘never’. That’s why the veteran guard’s answers are just a summary of his 9-year period with our team...
Interview
Jon-Robert Holden: Beyond a dream coming true
This feature could be named JR Holden’s farewell interview. But J don’t like the word ‘never’. That’s why the veteran guard’s answers are just a summary of his 9-year period with our team.

First of all, did you decide already if you are retired from basketball or you still think about playing professionally?
I feel and think that my career playing basketball is over. It was a difficult decision but I think it was a great time to say ‘goodbye’ to playing ball. However, I never want to say ‘never’. I still wake up daily thinking about the game that I love. You never know what life has in store for you tomorrow.

This past summer was a summer of change for you. Is it difficult to change the way of life? What it feels like?
At this moment, my life doesn't feel to much different. The weirdest thing is that I haven't touched a basketball since my last game at Khimki in the finals in June. It would be very hard to walk away from the game if I still played basketball on a regular basis. Life feels a little different but I think it won't really hit me until the Euroleague season starts.

How do you see yourself in the future – this year, next year, later? Do you have any business or professional plans?
At the moment I am going to take a year and promote my book, work on the Russian version and possibly do some commentating at my University. I am going to spend some more time with my family, especially my daughter who starts school this year and who knows what else. Maybe I will be scouting or something for CSKA in the future.

9 years of playing for one team is a rare case for world basketball, not only for European one. Which factors kept you on the same place? What was CSKA for you?
Well, first off, CSKA and Russian fans treated me like family. That was one major reason I stayed for 9 years. I felt a certain loyalty to management and the fans to always put CSKA first and other teams second. Also, management did a great job of keeping a great group of guys around me all the time. I felt that I always had a chance to win a championship at CSKA and that was major for me. I always wanted to be considered a winner. CSKA is like my extended family. No matter what happens, CSKA will always be special to me. To a certain degree CSKA introduced me to the world. That is pretty cool.

What it felt like to be the most experienced player on a team for several years?
I never felt like the most experienced player on the team. I always felt that when I stepped on the basketball court that we were a team and our experience as a team together was most important. Teams win championships, individual players win a few games.

I know you have several charity initiatives. What did you do already, what are your plans?
I love giving to people striving and thriving to be the best they can be. I am currently giving away 22 scholarships through my foundation. I also had a charity basketball game back in my hometown this summer and that went really well. I have to thank CSKA for their donation on the uniforms. It was a big event for me and it was nice giving my city a shot of hope if even for just a day.

Do you still plan to organize something in Russia?
I do plan on trying to do some things in Russia. It may take some time but I hope to give back and be a part of the CSKA and Russian cultural in the future.

Of course, you always were team-first player. But with the number of game-winning shots you hit during your career I have to ask which one (or several) was the most memorable one?
As a kid, most kids dream of hitting the game winning shot in game 7 of the NBA finals with no time on the clock and being showered by champagne and the fans going crazy. Well, that was my dream too. However, I got to do something more special, something that may make kids dream a little different now. I was blessed by God with a great team and a coach that gave me the confidence and green light to hit the game winning shot for a country. That is too amazing. Hitting the shot at the 2007 European championships to win Russia's first gold medal is an amazing memory for me. Beyond a dream coming true.

Which game was the most memorable for you personally in any mean - scoring, assisting, guarding someone?
I am always about winning so winning that European championship in Spain against the Spanish team was incredible. All the talent that Spanish team had (Rudy Fernandez, Navarro, the Gasol brothers, Calderon and so on, that team was pretty darn good). We were by far the big underdogs. It was a pretty amazing experience.

What was the most memorable moment in CSKA for you team-wise?
Winning our first Euroleague championship in Prague. We had suffered some difficult Final Fours. We couldn't find a way to win the first 3 but we were close in every semi-final game. Winning that semi-final game in 2006 against Barcelona was like a huge weight lifted off of my chest. I say my chest because a lot of the new players that year hadn't experienced our 3 years of heart break. Seeing Mr. Kushchenko, management and the fans so happy after the game was one of the best feelings I had at CSKA.

What is your CSKA All Star Team for 9 seasons you played here?
This is tough because I played with some very talented players. I won't pick the most talented players but I will pick the guys that just loved to win and were hungry for team success.

Center - Victor Alexander. Power Forward - Darius Songaila. Small Forward - Victor Khryapa
Shooting Guard - Trajan Langdon. Point Guard - Theo Papaloukas. I didn't include myself because I played all 9 years and I believe I did more than any of the other players I mentioned over my 9 years at CSKA.
You played under several great coaches here in CSKA. I know you were very respectful to everyone of them. Please tell a couple of words about every head coach.
Coach Ivkovic - I will always have a special relationship with Coach Ivkovic because he let me play my game. He gave me the freedom to learn and develop as a player. I owe Coach Ivkovic a lot of credit for my success at CSKA.

Coach Messina - He is a true leader. He taught me how to lead. He taught me how to sacrifice. He showed me how to keep a quiet confidence about myself and my ability. He taught me how to be a champion.

Coach Pashutin - He is one of my favorite coaches because he never let anyone see him sweat. He believed in me more than most coaches have. He let me play my game and do the things I do best. I love Coach Pashutin. I could have played for him for another 5 years.

Coach Dule - He is a very intellectual, sophisticated coach. I wish I could have played for him longer but sometimes losing happens.

Coach Shakulin - Very laid back but has a lot of confidence and an intense fire to do the right thing. If I didn't get injured last season, I think he would have finished the year as CSKA coach.

Coach Kazlauskas - He was just what we needed last year after a rough start to the season. Something new, something fresh, but also something honest and disciplined. I enjoyed playing for a coach that wanted my input off the court but also let me lead by my play on the court. He helped me understand that you need all 12 or 13 players to win a championship, not just 7 or 8.

I have been truly blessed to play for some wonderful coaches.

Playing alongside your big friend Trajan Langdon seems very special. Please tell some words about your relationship.
The best thing about playing with Trajan is that our relationship is better off the court than it is on it. Playing with Trajan was special because he didn't have an ego. All he wanted to do was win. He never cared who scored or how we won, he just wanted to win. He taught me how to lead as a player. For so many years he was our team leader. I may lead by my play but in the huddles, in the locker room and creating our team unity, Trajan was the man. He has taught me how to be a better person, better friend, just an overall better human being. That is why our bond is so strong. He cares more about our friendship and who I am as a person than he did about how we played on the court. He is like a brother to me.
Who were the other people you considered your friends on the team and in the club?
I have a few friendships with teammates. Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Victor Alexander, Nikos Zisis, Oleg [Ushakov] from the National Team, Sergei Bykov, Victor Keyru. As far as the club, that was always tough because our work is so separate. I have a lot of respect and admiration for CSKA management and all those who work in the club. They have all supported me over the years and I truly appreciate that. I humbly say THANK YOU...

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