Jerod quits team, comes home |

Jerod quits team, comes home

Mike Traum

No one said it was going to be easy. Jerod Haase is the first to admit it.

Sighting differences with his coach as the primary reason, the 1992 South Tahoe High graduate has returned home from his first stint in professional basketball. After about two months of work with Zito Bardar, a European league team based in Veles, Macedonia, Haase is back in South Lake Tahoe. And his future is uncertain.

“The coach was not knowledgeable about basketball and not a good person. We weren’t coached at all. That’s really the deciding factor of why I left,” Haase said. “My future is one big question mark right now.”

While rumors of not being paid and unlivable conditions circulated in South Shore basketball circles, Haase, 23, said on the whole the experience was one of learning.

“It was amazing. Macedonia is a poor country with not a lot of luxuries of the States. But I really enjoyed it. When I was there, it wasn’t super because I wanted to get out. I was frustrated about what was going on. About a month into it, after I realized the coach was just getting worse and worse (I decided to leave),” he said. “I exercised my contract option to leave. The question was never if I was going to get my money, it was just when. I made sure I got it before I told them I was leaving. Now that I look back, the experience was awesome. The people treated me great and I really liked my teammates.”

Haase said the fans, while supporting the team, found just as much enjoyment in heckling the opposition. The average wage in Macedonia was about 8,000 dinars or $150 dollars. And with ticket prices at around 50 dinars, fans made sure they got their money’s worth.

“The fans in Veles were by far the best. But they’d go to the games to get out their hostilities. They liked watching us and cheering for us, but that was only about 10 percent of it. Ninety percent of it was to go and heckle the other team and curse at them. They had chants. There was swearing, calling them bad names and saying bad things. I couldn’t understand it, so it sounded really cool. But the reality was different,” Haase said. “In one friendly game (scrimmage), we were up about 10 in the first half. One guy on the other team got a technical and the fans started heckling him. The guy kept after the referee and the fans, and the crowd started throwing things like cigarette lighters and coins on the floor. The chairs could be taken of the seats and pretty soon there’s 10 to 15 chairs being thrown on the floor. I just ran and ducked up under an eave until it was over.”

But while the lifestyle was one of new experiences, the game on the floor certainly wasn’t a drive down one of basketball’s better lanes – like his experience at the University of Kansas from 1994-96.

“The level of play is probably similar to low- to mid-Division 1. The Kansas team would’ve smoked us because we were a poorly coached team,” he said. “They tried to have it (like America’s perception of pro basketball). We’d have two practices a day and they’d try to teach us well and get things going. But they don’t have a pool of coaches to choose from. Basketball has only been around in Macedonia for like 20 years, so the players that started out there are the coaches now. It’s just not at that level.”

Haase traveled to seven different countries, playing the point guard position. He averaged 20 points and seven assists in a dozen games before leaving. But despite the good numbers and time at a new position, he kept coming back to the coaching situation as being simply unbearable.

“(The coach) didn’t speak English, so anything he said to me was translated. For the first month it was OK because I couldn’t understand what he was saying. But once I started understanding, it started bothering me. The way he treated the other players really bothered me and the way he coached was amazing. How he ran practice, the way he did things before a game – I really questioned the way he coached,” Haase said. “One example of how he treated people was one day in practice a guy twisted his ankle. Normally you’d get him up, help him off, tape the ankle more or whatever. If you get hurt, you get hurt, you can’t control it. But the coach started cursing the guy out, chewing out his mother, spitting on the ground. It was like, what are you doing?”

In addition, Haase’s goal of improving in the hopes of moving to a higher caliber European team or even the National Basketball Association simply wasn’t panning out.

“I was lazy over there. But nobody would ever get in trouble for not working hard. It was no big deal. You’d get in trouble for missing a shot. That just doesn’t make sense to me. You can’t control if you make every shot, but you can control how hard you work. The reasoning was all backwards,” he said. “If I stayed over there, I wasn’t going to get any better. My work ethic was horrible and I wasn’t improving like I wanted to. I just basically shut out the coach and ran up and down trying to score as many points as I could. I think it was horrible that I wasn’t listening to my coach and doing things that he didn’t want me to do. But he just didn’t know the game.”

As for his basketball future now, Haase thinks anything is possible.

“I could stay in Tahoe from now until next summer and improve more than I was over there. The problem is that, if you say to the NBA teams I was in Macedonia last year, scored 25 points and 10 assists, they’d say come on we’ll try you out. But if I say I took the year off and worked out on my own – no. That’s the catch. I can always go to Kansas and work out with the team there. But it’s a lot harder if you don’t have something on your resume. I’ll just take a little time off to see where I’m at. I really don’t know what I’m going to do yet.

“This one just didn’t work out. But I honestly believe something good will happen.”

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