"Let's start". When it takes interviewing the biggest stars of the EuroLeague, there's no room for time-wasting. Ergin Ataman was very clear when he sat down for the Urbonus podcast and asked to begin the show after a small talk. But the conversation went very smoothly and from the heart. BasketNews continues the preseason diary with the story of a busy day in the Gloria Cup.

Vasilije Micic

Vasilije  Micic
Team: Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Position: PG, SG
Age: 27
Height: 195 cm
Weight: 92 kg
Birth place: Kraljevo, Serbia

You can expect some crazy statement from Ataman on any given day. But I didn't provoke him on this. I didn't have any pre-interview plan to encourage him on anything. I just imagined that maybe his thoughts about his NBA coaching dreams might make the headlines, but pretty much it. And he was frank about it, emphasizing his language barrier as one of the reasons behind the denial.

What I like is that I didn't even ask him about Anadolu Efes and the NBA playoffs at all. But I can see where that confidence comes from. He runs the team like an NBA coach, putting some principal rules while letting his players feel themselves on the court and making final decisions based on their talent and intuition. What's more, later, he also emphasized that he would be able to sign 1-2 star players for his team for his playoff case.

But this 45-minute conversation was not all about crazy statements. I loved the part where Ataman talked about his son Sarp and the San Antonio Spurs changing his basketball philosophy the way he handled the players. You could feel the happiness of coach Ataman when he started talking about his 11-year-old son, who was right there again at the games of the Gloria Cup. From what I've heard about Sarp, he should get paid in Anadolu Efes for everything he has done.

I have nothing to hide - I was not too fond of the way Ataman handled his players before starting his new era in Efes. I'm not a fan of such punishments, including putting the players in the hotel until they win games or making very early morning practices almost straight after the all-night road bus trip. Also, I was not too fond of some other things. But he has changed, which also helped him build and manage one of the best teams in the modern EuroLeague.

That was a crazy day with four interviews in 10 hours. It may sound easy, but when the conversation takes almost one hour to complete (add a little extra for the small talk), that's tough. The level of adrenaline is high. You must be focused 100% on all 45-60 minutes, which means your brain works intensively without breaks. Also, that "rec" signal is magical. It puts you in such an abnormal state/condition that even if you're not nervous at all, it puts pressure on you.

So when we sat down for the Urbonus podcast with Vasilije Micic the same day, around 22:00, I was washed out. It was the same for Micic. But he was amazing both on and off the court. Vasilije Micic left Barcelona early in the morning on Thursday. I think his day started at 5:00. But he managed to join Efes shootaround later around midday and led his team to a tough pre-season victory against his former team Tofas Bursa.

I jumped into the Efes-Tofas game straight before halftime since I interviewed Zalgiris head coach Martin Schiller. Efes were behind by double digits for a long time, but Micic took the team on his shoulders, went to the free-throw line a lot, and somehow managed to win the game. Tofas fully deserved that win. They were more hungry. They were killing Efes in transition during the first half. But champions woke up at the right time.

Filip Petrusev had another solid pre-season game with 15 points and four rebounds. That was the most intriguing player to follow since we all know what these Efes guys are capable of. He scored from various positions, was active, and didn't look like a typical 21-year old. He adjusted quicker than I thought. From my interview with Ataman, I felt that the coach liked this replacement of Sertac Sanli, and he felt very confident about him. The next day Petrusev scored 23 points against Lokomotiv Krasnodar.

Do you know what was funny? When it's halftime, you can see young kids, usually, youth system players, coming on the court and making some shots. They're floor sweepers. The whole world is waiting for them to clean the wet spot. But when halftime comes, they're about to jump on the court to make some shots. So you can imagine how crazy it was to see Shane Larkin, Kruno Simon, or Tibor Pleiss instead of these young kids having fun on the court during the break. Kruno missed his first few shots and had that unsatisfied look on his face. But later on, I didn't see him miss a single 3-pointer.

What was not funny, the Zalgiris team meeting earlier that day. It was the first meeting after the 7-point loss to Lokomotiv Krasnodar. I was sitting in the lobby, pretty far away from the meeting room. But even there, I could hear clearly Martin Schiller raising his voice and having some harsh words for his team. This was probably due to their effort and energy level (or lack thereof), which I pointed out in my first pre-season diary edition.

But later, we had a pleasant conversation. We also had a discussion with him about some of my tweets regarding Zalgiris' summer market targets. To this day, I have a different opinion on some of his words. But I got his point, and where, let's say, a possible miscommunication happened.

Long story short, in Europe, it's not so common to have many occasions when the head coach is interviewing the free agent. Typically the head coach calls the player when both sides are finalizing or close to completing the agreement. Schiller had many interviews, which were mostly focused on getting to know the player better, his approach, and his opinion about possible cooperation. You can watch or listen to some of it in our latest conversation, published on

By the way, this coach is so different. For example, Schiller said the F-word on one occasion, which was pretty natural and not surprising. But after the interview, Schiller kindly asked to mute that F-bomb. It's all because of his education and attitude. For example, after the game in Barcelona last season, where he had a heated time-out that went on air during the broadcast, Schiller later apologized to his players for bad language and wrongful approach. He once apologized to the journalist, whom he felt he treated impolitely during the post-game TV interview.

Zalgiris and Schiller are getting through a challenging period, though. They're 0-4 in the pre-season so far. Janis Strelnieks and Mantas Kalnietis injuries forced them to play Ulanovas and Giffey at the shooting guard position. But the main problem is the lack of chemistry and communication, which comes from the need to integrate seven new players.

That's all from the Gloria Cup. It was not much about basketball games on this edition of my pre-season diary, but there was way more action on the sidelines.

On Friday, I left for Istanbul for the Istanball Cup, which hosts Fenerbahce, Partizan, Unics, and Monaco. I'm very intrigued to see Partizan and Zeljko Obradovic, who will make his comeback to the Ulker Arena.

Stay tuned and follow us on All of these interviews I mentioned, and many more of them in the upcoming days, will soon be published or already are available to watch on our website.

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