After the recent performances of the European basketball players in the NBA, and the growing respect for European coaches and executives, it is maybe just a question of time before the first big name in European coaching moves towards a bench of a NBA team.
In a recent article written by the basketball columnist Dave Feschuk for thestar.com, the author came up with three of the most household names of the European coaching scene as being the most prolific candidates for an assistant or even head coach job with an NBA franchise. The three are Zeljko Obradovic, David Blatt and Ettore Messina. All of the three are pretty much known for their qualities, which are also outlined in the article from a North-American perspective.
My question is now: Are there other coaches around that can fill the candidate role in the upcoming years? I was doing a bit of research to find out who can be or become a coach that can fit and that can adapt to the different rules and also to the different practicing and coaching style that has to be done in the NBA. And to do a good job with any franchise, of course the English language has to be known perfectly. An experience on the American soil is also an advantage, either as player or as assistant for example in the NCAA. So here is my lists, which is far from being complete by I choose three coaches, that in my opinion may have the chance to break through and work for a NBA team.
A well respected coach on the European continent, but still only having success with his home country teams is Dirk Bauermann. The soon 50 year old German coach, who started very early on the highest coaching level, is actually the most successful German coach (9 championships), and he is known over Europe for leading a reduced German NT (of course with the Superstar Dirk Nowitzki) to very successful campaigns in the different international tournaments, but also for reaching the Euroleague Top16 with the fairly limited Brose Baskets Bamberg team in 2006. What speaks for Bauermann is his knowledge of the American game. He was during two years an assistant coach with the Fresno State University and he is perfect in English. By the way, he is always doing his time-outs in English, even with the German NT. He said in an EL.net Interview also that his coaching has been influenced a lot by his time at Fresno State. He names Ron Adams and Ed Gregory as role models and influences of his coaching career. Until now, Bauermann has however never won anything with a non-German team. He did also not coach foreign teams that much. Besides two experiences in Greece (Dafni and Apollon Patras), he also coached during one season the Belgian powerhouse Ostende.
Simone Pianigiani is a name to remember on the European coaching scene. The actual head coach of the Euroleague team Montepaschi Siena is also one of the youngest coaches to work for a top European club. Being born in 1969, Pianigiani has already won several titles as assistant coach under such big names as Ergin Ataman and Carlo Recalcati. But since last season, he is now officially the head of the Italian top team. And in his first season, he went directly for a Scudetto, the Italian Championship by dominating VidiVici Bologna in the Finals 3-0 after a very successful Regular season with 30 wins out of 34 games. Now this year will be the debut for Pianigiani on the highest level of European basketball. And the expectations are high for his team, as also explains Dario Marra in his preview on BIE. What speaks against Pianigiani is his lack of experience of US-basketball. Until today, he has only coached the youth teams of Siena before starting his coaching career on the senior level as assistant coach for Montepaschi too. But being still very young of age, it will probably be a question of time before he signs with a big name in European basketball. Siena will probably only be the starting point of his coaching career.
Vincent Collet, the coach from French Euroleague team Le Mans, is one of the few coaches that has already some NBA experience. In fact, Collet has been invited by the Cleveland Cavaliers to be a member of the coaching staff of their summer league team this season. Collet, who is born in 1963, coaches the Le Mans team as head coach in his 8th season already, and he has won two coach of the year titles and three different titles with his team. What makes him a member of this list is however his experience with the Cavs. There are not so many coaches that have already done something like that. You can also say that “Why should a proven European head coach go for a week to the US and become a “simple” assistant of a Summer league team?” But this move shows at least that Collet is open for such propositions and that he is not afraid of moving out of his territory. Collet has to confirm this season now that he can manage a second year Euroleague team and help them to move to the Top16 stage, something they have not reached last year due to inexperience in the crucial games. Collet is of course ready to take the challenge and is willing to learn and improve the team play of Le Mans and make them again a title candidate in France this season and a serious Top 16 contestant in the Euroleague.