Last year Martin Schiller had a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague debut with the green and whites. The Austrian head coach led the team to a 17-17 record (11th place) in the strongest continental league and two titles in the local front.

Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews took seats with Zalgiris Kaunas head coach and talked about the summer works, recruiting skills, team building, self-analysis, and the upcoming season.

If Ergin Ataman was sitting in my place, what would you ask him? – BasketNews asked Martin Schiller in a one-on-one interview.

I would ask him about technical and tactical basketball things, less philosophical things. 

During this busy summer, what do you remember most between recruiting players and constantly keeping in touch with GM Paulius Motiejunas?

A situation happened in a weird spot, where I was driving a car for 13 hours, the family was sleeping, and I was trying to whisper on the phone. 

What's happening behind closed doors in the office when you guys are planning to rebuild a team and acquire new players?

For us, it always starts with local players. We are looking at which Lithuanians are out there and can play at this level. And who is available. Obviously, the summer started with the fight over Rokas (Jokubaitis). And then, knowing which Lithuanians are available, the story continues.

How upset were you that Jokubaitis left? What kind of plans you had for him for the upcoming season?

I'm not upset. If you get an offer from FC Barcelona, it's a great thing. We, as an organization, are proud of that. Nigel Hayes, Grigonis, Jokubaitis, Thomas Walkup all massive moves up financially, status-wise. It's the quality of our club and our work. 

So, I'm not upset. Would've I had loved having him? For sure! I thought we were in the run, to be honest. That fact that he was playing so much time guaranteed, was something that gave us chances to keep him. But it didn’t work out.

Who would you pick with No. 1 in the Draft, if you were building your own team?

Nicolo Melli. I always loved him. From his Bamberg days, I thought he was a fantastic player. He’s a four who can play five in the modern game as well. It’s a shame that it didn’t work out for him in the NBA.

When you were first informed Emmanuel Mudiay was available, did you believe he would come to Kaunas?

Yes, absolutely. It came down to whether he can make a roster or not. I didn’t think he’d play in the Summer League. I really didn’t see that coming. So it took a little longer.

Could you compare him with Thomas Walkup? What kind of leader Emmanuel can become?

They're not comparable. Statistically, they're not comparable, and personality-wise they're not comparable. Emmanuel Mudiay is a really good player, with an interesting past. Who, if he adjusts well to the European game, can be good for us. And that’s it. I’m far away from putting pressure on him.

What he needs is peace and quietness and work. In the past, he had a lot of hype and a lot of talk. It’s important for him to just play the game.

The way you recruit players, where did you learn that?

In the NBA they do it really well, totally advanced. Especially the draft process, which I was always involved in. They interview so many people, for two draft picks we interviewed like easily 70-80 people and also brought like 70 people for a draft workout. Me, as a G League head coach, I was always interested in getting to know the guys who were at the end of the draft or not getting drafted. That process is super interesting.

Your own self-analysis, what did you like in your rookie season, and what you didn’t like?

I liked quite a lot. I tend to be far too critical of myself. But being too critical is perhaps not healthy. Last season was successful. 50% of wins in EuroLeague I thought was pretty phenomenal.

Going into detail, the biggest thing is I learned a lot last year, it was all on the fly. For example, post-up play. Despite the fact that you perhaps don’t score on the block continuously, you put fouls on people. So whether you believe in posting or not, you’ve got to guard it. So we’ll do it better this year.

In terms of handling rotations for both EuroLeague and the Lithuanian league, would you be willing to take more risks in the upcoming season?

Could be, but it depends. If I’m the first guy to lose seven games until Christmas, I lose my job. So you what, I’d rather win the game. But last year questions for Marek (Blazevic) were interesting to me. He was the fourth center on a team, which coach in the world can play the fourth center. Just the math of it doesn’t add up.

Are we, Lithuanians, that kind of hungry nation about young prospects? Or it's like a common thing in Austria, Germany, G League?

I think it's a pride in the game in this country. To me, it's really phenomenal. Everybody knows Lithuania is crazy about basketball but you can only understand it when you are in it. So many Lithuanians players out of the country with 3 million people, so much knowledgeable media coverage, and one part of it - pride in it. That's the strength of the country and of the basketball.

What you don’t like from your team right now in the pre-season?

A lot of things. But as you said, it’s been a huge turnaround, we’ve got a new team that needs to find itself. But I am staying positive and not falling into a hole. I want to have overall optimism going because I really believe it’s important.

This didn't age well.. 0-3.
Schiller is really good. Totally different coach from what we are used to. No yelling, no ego, that is why many assume that there is no charisma. I disagree on that, I see the energy and motivation to achieve great things, some of that is watered down with his pure logic. Good luck this season!
And the countdown starts...
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