Great coaches make great players. Talent, work, and good coaching is what it takes to climb up the ladder.When it comes to National teams though, we might have witnessed something different.
I can’t claim to be the best analyst in the business of basketball writing, and there are surely thousands of experts to make better suggestions. But for me, the truth is that the Top 3 teams in Eurobasket 2013 were led by mediocre coaches, and it was their players, who won the games.
At the beginning of the championship I was almost sure that the best coached team will be the next champion. And I couldn’t be more wrong.The three teams to reach the podium – France, Lithuania and Spain – all had individual performances to lead them to success.
Vincent Collet is France head coach for 4 and a half years now, leading the team to its best results ever – gold and silver from the last two European championships, and Top 16 finish in the World championship in 2010. What else could French want from Collet?
He is an OK coach. He does the job, but is not the one who will invent and initiate something new, not the one who would spark a comeback. He is just over there on the bench, overshadowed by his players and all times. Of course, having Tony Parker is at the same time absolute delight and a tough job to keep his satisfied. Collet is winning on that part – of keeping Tony Parker happy on the French roster. A happy Tony Parker means he takes the charge, he does the talking and he does the job on the floor – winning game after game and reaching that dreamt title. Collet has had some good ideas, but they were not brilliant, one-of-a-kind ideas – they were ideas, that most other coaches would have in the given circumstances.
Like the game plan for the Final game on Eurobasket 2013 vs Lithuania – to spread the ball amongst other players, knowing Tony Parker would be heavily guarded at all times. To leave Lithuania fight against Parker, and attack with the other 4 players. Well, that plan succeeded, but not only thanks to coach Collet, but mainly thanks to coach Jonas Kazlauskas on the other bench.
Jonas Kazlauskas is a quite successful coach, in that matter. He got his share of silverware and had led some great teams over the years. And he is still a good coach. What is the downside with him is his too much of a straight-forward thinking, refusing to implement the new in his system, to step out of borders to win a game. At one side, again, he thought well bringing to the Eurobasket both experienced and young players. On the other – Lithuania did not play many good games in Slovenia. Lithuanians were saved in the last minute to escape early exit, and what was pushing them trough was the individual brilliance of Mantas Kalnietis. It was again the players excellence, like in France’s case, to push the whole team. Lithuania barely had two or three games, conducted well in both defence and offence for 40 minutes. The rest was struggle to make a basket, non-working substitutions, cold bench players, out-of-ideas stars on the floor. Yet, Lithuania made it to the final with lot more team game, than did the other two teams on the podium – France and Spain.
Heading to Spain, there is a lot of consideration to be done before the country hosts next World championship, in order to win it. If that’s the goal, of course. As announced, Juan Orenga will stay in charge of the Spanish national team at least till 2014. Eurobasket 2013 was Orenga’s first big test, after taking the reigns following Sergio Scariolo resignation. No one could say he did a good job, despite Spain getting one more medal. It was a bronze, and it happened after some uninspired basketball by the Spaniards. Usually, most people thought that Spain will once again play on half-speed till the eliminations, and then get into full gear. But that time never came. Few explosive dunks by Rudy, outstanding performance by Marc Gasol, occasional triples by the Sergios, and that was it. Spain roster managed to play good in defence, which it always did well. The players are so used to that system, that can follow it no matter what. Of course, there were some superstar missing, but it shouldn’t have affected a team with a brighter coach that much. Juan Orenga simply got lost amongst his players, all doing so well on individual ground. But his job is safe and no one looks too disappointed, so judgement day looks far away.
As are the jobs of the other two coaches, mentioned above.
But imagine, with players like Parker, Kalnietis, Gasol and Rudy – what would coaches like Mike Fratello and Simone Pianigianni do?