MADRID — Real Madrid’s basketball team is embroiled in a controversy with one of its greatest coaches.
Not long after the soccer team won a record-extending 14th European title, Real Madrid attracted headlines over how it handled the departure of the basketball coach who led the club to 22 trophies.
The Spanish club said on Tuesday it parted ways with Pablo Laso after 11 years because of his health following a heart attack. However, the coach said he is perfectly fit to work.
Madrid said it decided not to keep Laso as its coach “solely and exclusively for medical reasons,” adding the decision was made in “mutual agreement.” The club said it consulted with medical specialists and wanted for Laso to take some time off, but apparently he was against it.
Laso, who underwent surgery for a heart problem, said on Tuesday he has been fully cleared by doctors to return to coaching immediately.
“Happy to share with everyone that I have full and express confirmation from the doctors who have treated me that I can coach any basketball club professionally,” Laso said on Twitter.
Madrid said it would have been “absolutely irresponsible” for Laso not to take time off before returning to coaching. It said Laso’s health was the club’s priority, but it understood why the coach was upset with the decision.
Laso is the basketball coach with the most games (860) and victories (659) at the club. In his 11 seasons with Madrid, he helped the club win 22 trophies, including two European Cups and an International Cup.
Laso’s was contracted to the end of 2023.
“Pablo Laso has become one of the club’s greatest and most cherished legends, equaling the 22 trophies won by Lolo Sáinz, and second only to Pedro Ferrándiz, who won 27 trophies,” Madrid said. “Real Madrid would like to express its gratitude and affection to Pablo Laso for guiding our team during one of the most successful periods in our history.”
Madrid announced that Laso’s assistant, Chus Mateo, was taking over.