PUERTO MONTT (2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - Cristian and Silvio Santander share almost everything: the same date of birth, a tight bond as brothers and love for the game of basketball, all from the very beginning.
Cristian is the head coach of the Chilean team at FIBA U19 World Championship for Women. He and his twin brother were born and grew up in Argentina, but four years ago Cristian moved to Chile to continue his career on the other side of the Andes ranges, after the president of the Chilean Basketball Federation, Miguel Herrera, called him with an interesting proposal ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Valdivia,.
Cristian Santander left behind his family and his country, where his twin brother has been a professional coach in the Liga Nacional for the past 10 years. Silvio has also coached Mexico's senior national team and is one of the most respectful coaches in Argentina.
The twins caught up with www.fiba.com to reflect on their careers in coaching.
How did you start with basketball?
Cristian Santander: I began playing when I was six years old. But when I was 19 I started coaching the youngest girls age group (8 to 12 years old) and in 2002 I moved to Lanús, one of the best women's teams in Argentinean basketball. After that I was given the opportunity to be in charge of female national basketball teams in Chile.
Silvio Santander: Cristian and I started at the same age at the same club. We also played together in some other clubs, some of them located really far from home, but nevertheless we enjoyed a lot of travelling and playing together.
What did your family think of you both being coaches, sharing the same career?
Cristian: We always count on our parents, wives and children for support. Silvio was the first one who took his chances in this profession, going to Paraná (a city about 600 kilometers from their home) with nothing to lose.
Silvio: Our family always thought about it as a natural thing, because my father was a long time coach and he was the one who carried us to this profession and motivated us to be coaches. We worked together a couple of times and that helped us to share a lot of things.
When did you realise 'ok, let's try to take this to another level'?
Cristian: In Argentina is hard to be a 100% professional coach with women's basketball because there is not enough economic support, but my career changed with this opportunity in Chile, in 2007. At that time it was a big bet for me, but every coach knows we have to run the risk at any given moment.
Silvio: For me it was in 1996 when I went to Deportivo San Andrés in our national 2nd division (TNA) as an assistant coach. I changed my mind and began taking it more seriously, not yet full-time, but seriously. Being there under head coach Víctor Daitch, he invited me to keep on working in his coaching staff in Echagüe de Paraná. It was a life decision for me, the best decision of my life.
I travelled there with my wife and start to be a full-time coach. She got a job at an international company and she continued her studies in psychology. When I was at San Andrés I also worked as a bathroom fittings seller. I will always be grateful to Víctor.
Do you discuss your job, exchanging views?
Cristian: Yes, always. Silvio is my main reference source.
Silvio: I always ask him for advice. I am sure he will give me an honest and valuable opinion.
Even though your brother is in charge of a different kind of team?
Cristian: Basketball is all the same. There are no differences between genders. The only difference is physical. Girls are very disciplined and female basketball has great level in a lot of countries.
Silvio: Even if he's coaching women's basketball, we talk about the same sport and he's pretty updated of everything. So we can exchange opinions perfectly. Especially on topics like schedules, scouting, playing system and so on... He's been travelling around the world for several years and that's a valuable journey that enriches me a lot. Cristian is one of the best five coaches in the world with a deep understanding on female basketball.
How is to have a twin brother doing the same job and how was your relationship between both of you from the very beginning? Was there a 'brother competition'?
Cristian: We always had a good relationship, first when we played together and after that as a coach. We always support each other and we are waiting on each other. There was never competition between us. If one of us succeed, the other one is really happy…no doubt about it.
Silvio: We never thought of it as a competition between us, not even when we played or now we're coaches. He's always been a great brother for me. We've always been side by side, to help each other and it will always be like that.
Do your parents have any responsibility on both of you being a coach?
Cristian: Our father was a coach for many years and he's been in several teams in Argentina. He died 15 years ago and that is something I'd like him to enjoy looking at his sons as we are today. I'm sure he is somewhere, enjoying all this.
Silvio: Definitely my family is very close to basketball. Our grandfather was one of the co-founders of the National Meeting for young boys and girls (8 to 12 years old). Our grandmother is an Honorary President of the Women's Federation and she was an officer for more than 30 years, our father was a player, our mother was a player and coach. The influence was permanent at every moment of our lives.
Cristian, would you like to be back home coaching in Argentina?
I feel fine here in Chile, but no doubt I'd love to go to Argentina if a serious and sustainable project comes up. My actual contract ends December 31st.
Silvio, would you like to have Cristian back in Argentina?
Of course! I would love to! But I wish he can have a job wherever he is happy.
Nowadays you both have big careers, have you ever thought about being a coaching duo?
Cristian: Sure! I can see it one day. I would love to have the possibility of keep on learning. I would be at his orders, as it should be.
Silvio: I hope so. I think it will not be much longer until we are working together.
What would you say about your brother's career?
Cristian: I feel really proud of what he's done as a coach. I saw him fighting from the very beginning, I saw him grow and he was determined from the first day. I know the best for him is yet to come and I'm sure he will continue excelling.
Silvio: I'm very proud of him as a brother. He had achieved being a specialist on basketball for girls in a significant way. All the work he has made in Chile for the last four years is an example to be followed. Beside results, it points what you have to do.