Manel Comas, “sheriff” of Spanish basketball, dies at 67

Coach took charge of a series of top teams but in later years was dogged by tragedy and scandal

Manel Comas.

Manel Comas, dubbed the “sheriff” of Spanish basketball, died on Monday aged 67 after a battle against lung cancer. Born in Barcelona in 1945, Comas started coaching in 1977 after being drawn to the sport by his brother, who played for Joventut Badalona, and his uncle, a former Spain player.

Between that year, when he cut his teeth as assistant coach at Cotonificio in Badalona, and 2008, Comas coached every season, mainly in the ACB League top division. Among the teams he led were Barcelona, Murcia, Cajasol Sevilla, Joventut, Zaragoza, Baskonia, Cáceres and Manresa.

His first success came in 1981 when he led Joventut to the Korac Cup title against Carrera Venezia. In 1995 he won the King’s Cup with Baskonia, which he also led to the 1996 Cup Winners’ Cup. A Chemistry graduate, Comas also played bass guitar in a rock band and was known for his acerbic wit when he left the sidelines for the commentary box.

Tragedy was as much a part of Comas’ life as basketball: in 2003 his son, Marc, and his younger brother were killed in a car crash. In his last weeks of life, prosecutors in Seville announced they would seek a five-year jail term for two counts of alleged sexual abuse against two disabled minors in 2008. Comas denied the charges.

“I smoked three packets a day and whoever says it isn’t a drug is a liar,” he said recently of his cancer. “Instead of fighting against two-meter tall men, you are fighting a much bigger beast.”

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