Over at the Lithuanian Perspective, BallinEurope typically contributes to a weekly column entitled “The Wise Men Know” (hey, BiE didn’t choose the moniker). This week, the deadline sadly whooshed past this writer and so no contribution from Os Davis appears in the current edition.
However, BiE just couldn’t let this week’s third question – namely, “Who is the Best Coach in the Euroleague?” – slip past into interweb oblivion without throwing in his two eurocents on the matter. After all, this is a blog. And even better, BiE on his homecourt need not limit his opinions to tweet length as demanded by the ‘Perspective.
Presuming that we’re talking about this season and for no good reason working with the Academy Awards format, BallinEurope presents an early five choices for Euroleague Coach of the Year. And the nominees are…
Dusan Ivkovic, Olympiacos – The former Team Serbia coach might make this list based sheerly on lifetime achievement, but the 68(!)-year-old’s comeback to club basketball may yet result – incredibly – in his most memorable season ever; though the Serbian’s 2004-05 CSKA Moscow team managed an insane 54-3 overall mark, the Reds are punishing a more competitive EΣAKE in 2010-11 and are currently a cumulative 30-4 … and all this after the Angelopoulos Brothers spent the off-season shedding millions in payroll.
David Blatt, Maccabi Tel Aviv – When Maccabi management decided to rework the roster for the third time in three years to bring in Jeremy Pargo, Richard Hendrix, Milan Macvan, and Sofoklis Schortsanitis plus the returning Lior Eliyahu and Tal Burstein, the key acquisition was surely the Team Russia coach. The touted defensive wizard has produced results even his former charge Pini Gershon might be impressed by: Tel Aviv is a Euroleague fourth-best in defensive rebounds (at 25.1) and total rebounds (36.6) per game while outscoring opponents by an average score of 83-69 in the big league.
Ettore Messina, Real Madrid – Still the hands-on guy, Messina has nevertheless toned down the rate of acquisitions in 2010-11 after last season’s revolving door did nothing to stop the Barça machine in head-to-head play in Euroleague, ACB and Copa del Rey play. The result is one of Europe’s best sides … though ultimately BiE believes the legend will be judged by his ability (or lack thereof) to take down the Barcelona dragon.
Xavi Pascual, FC Barcelona – Euroleague Coach of the Year for 2009-10 (and, as is well-publicized, youngest ever to take the big prize), Pascual may not have the career acumen to be listed among Ivkovices and Messinas. However, Xavi is building himself something of a reputation as a European Phil Jackson in terms of superstar coaching. Indeed, a Euroleague banner for Barça in 2011-12 might be even more impressive than the first, as the Blaugrana essentially stayed pat from season to season in a rarity for Continental ball. On the other hand, BiE will definitely be keeping a lookout at Pascual’s strategy in the ACB tournament, as Pascual was utterly outcoached by Baskonia’s Dusko Ivanovic in the final series.
Svetislav Pesic, PE Valencia – Now here’s the BallinEurope choice: As these guys roll on, BiE becomes more certain that Pesic will someday go down as the legend of Valencia coaching. After six years of relative futility, Pesic has managed return this Spanish side to the glory years of 2002-03 and 2003-04; as in those years, Pesic first got Valencia the Eurocup title in 2010 to win a Euroleague bid.
With the proverbial scintillating blend of youth and veterans (of the 16 players listed on the extended roster, nine were born before 1985), Valencia this season is sitting in a tie for third in ACB play and has already succeeded in the 2010-11 Euroleague beyond most folks’ imagining. Pesic’s rotations have been compelling, somehow creating matchup problems for more talented teams; while the development of Victor Claver continues apace in the coach’s game plan, guys like Nando de Colo and Robertas Javtokas are accepting slightly reduced roles to the benefit of this true whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-parts team.
While the side seems unlikely to advance to the EL final eight, they surely will, as the Governator said, be back. And Pesic, too.