Sito Alonso became third coach in three seasons to depart the Blaugrana. After the end of the Xavi Pascual era and the short reign of Georgios Bartzokas, the two-time Euroleague champions lack direction. Emmet Ryan on the painful lessons Barcelona need to learn
Thursday night in Tel Aviv and it was another ding donger. Barcelona ran with Maccabi, exchanging the lead plenty of times, before eventually falling to another defeat. They couldn’t get it done and Maccabi took the W 94-82.
That was their 16th defeat in 23 Euroleague games. It’s not like the ACB is going all that amazing for Barcelona either, with a 12-7 record keeping them amongst a pack of teams battling for home court advantage in the postseason. There is no reason to believe they will challenge at the Copa del Rey this week nor that they will make any noise in the ACB playoffs.
Their Euroleague season is done and Svetislav Pesic is a holdover coach until they reset once again in the off-season. If the veteran can work some magic on the domestic front, it’s a bonus. Right now it’s about working out what happens next.
Like a whole bunch of clubs, Barcelona would really like Sarunas Jasikevicius to be their coach next season. Saras has shown with Zalgiris Kaunas that he is worthy of being the hottest property in the European coaching market. He’s also smart enough to know that he shouldn’t say yes to Barcelona unless Barcelona is in the right place for a coach like him.
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Look at the coaches Barcelona have said goodbye to over the past three seasons. Pascual had probably reached the end of the road there and a restart was necessary but he still has a great resume. Bartzokas won a Euroleague with Olympiacos and brought Lokomotiv Kuban to the Final Four. Alonso brought a Baskonia team that had lost a bunch of key players to the playoffs last season.
It’s really hard to say the coach is the problem when this is the calibre of ill-fitting suit wearer you’ve got on the sidelines.
Now look at the players on the roster, purely in their own rights and not as a collective. Individually, the bulk of the players in Barca’s main rotation would look like a fit on any playoff team in Euroleague. The two exceptions are Juan Carlos Navarro, who is just old, and Phil Pressey, who just hasn’t fitted in. The rest, all of them are playoff team calibre individuals.
It’s really hard to say the players are the problem when that’s the level of talent you’ve got. Even if, to borrow a phrase from Sam Meyerkopf, there are no motherfuckers on this team.
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Instead, Barcelona’s issue is all too similar to that which plagued Maccabi Tel Aviv through its slide. The club could attract a big name coach, it could attract good players, but it had no idea how to win basketball games. It had no idea how to construct a roster, or rather it had too many people with too many ideas and everything went to hell.
Barcelona needs to go back to the most basic level of team construction. It’s fundamental. One voice must rule over all others. Whether that’s in the front office or the coach is really a coin flip. The important thing is that whoever makes the calls defines the philosophy of Barcelona.
There must be a clear vision about the type of basketball Barcelona will play. There must be a clear vision about the type of players required to execute that, both in terms of skill set and attitude. There must be a coach chosen who can implement that, both strategically and off the floor with the players. If the coach has the power, that really solves the last part. If not, then it might limit options amongst elite coaches but also broadens the scope beyond the obvious big names.
The solution isn’t rocket science. It’s a classic case of simple but not easy. Barcelona’s already had a couple of resets and look what’s happened. Tyrese Rice was stuck on the reserve side, Sasha Vezenkov’s four year deal is looking increasingly pointless, and a bunch of guys have come and gone for a whole lot of money who clearly weren’t suited to playing with each other.
Think back to last Thursday in Tel Aviv. Think about where Maccabi came from. It’s not like they are all the way back. They still occupy the eighth and last playoff spot but they look like a playoff team in all senses of the term. They have order, they have vision, and they know what they have to do. They learned it the hard way. Barcelona needs to do the same.
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