Players win games, and coaches lose them. That's one of the most well-known basketball cliches. But in EuroLeague basketball, it's not necessarily the truth.

Free throws this season

Points made: 10,4
Accuracy: 77,3%
Place in standings: 16
Record max: 17
Record min: 3
Most made FTs: Rokas Giedraitis

A few EuroLeague coaches were fired recently, and a couple of them might be on the hot seat at the moment. Ioannis Sfairopoulos could be one of them since Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv lost seven EuroLeague games in a row, including defeat in the domestic championship against Hapoel Tel Aviv.

However, BasketNews research shows that coaching change during the season doesn't really make a big difference for teams looking to turn the season around.

BasketNews counted 28 coaching changes during the season since the new EuroLeague regular-season format (2016-17). In five years, only on five occasions, new coaches managed to orchestrate their teams to the Top 8.

That's only a 20% success rate of all the coaching changes, which means only every 5th firing makes a real difference. 

Also, some of these cases include exceptional situations. For example, in 2016-17, Xavi Pascual took over Panathinaikos when Argyris Pedoulakis resigned from the head coach position after Round 1. Pedro Martinez replaced Pablo Prigioni early into the 2017-18 season after a slow start for Baskonia 0-3.

Rick Pitino came back to Panathinaikos for the second time and took them to the 6th seed with six games to play when the EuroLeague season was canceled due to COVID-19 in 2019-20.

Among the coaches that joined their teams during the season, Xavi Pascual in 2016-17 (18-13, 58.1%) and Pedro Martinez in 2017-18 (17-13, 56.7%) had the best winning percentage.

Besides these two early appointments, Ioannis Sfairopoulos made the biggest impact in the 2018-19 season (13-10, 56.5%) after replacing Neven Spahija (1-6). That still wasn't enough for Maccabi to make the playoffs that season.

Most successful coaching channges

Team Coach Winning% Previous coach
Baskonia Pedro Martinez (2017-18) 56.7% (17-13) Pablo Prigioni (0-3, 0%)
Maccabi Ioannis Sfairopoulos (2018-19) 56.52% (13-10) Neven Spahija (1-6, 14.3%)
Panathinaikos Rick Pitino (2018-19) 52.63% (10-9) Xavi Pascual (6-7, 46.15%)
Baskonia Velimir Perasovic
51.9% (14-13) Pedro Martinez (2-5, 28.6%)
Crvena Zvezda Dragan Sakota (2019-20) 50% (8-8) Milan Tomic, Andrija Gavrilovic (3-7, 30%)
Olympiacos Georgios Bartzokas (2019-20) 50% (5-5) David Blatt, Kestutis Kemzura (7-11, 38.9%)

In cases with coaches working in the club for at least five games, 9 times of 20 (45%) team winning record increased after a coaching change. But only in 4 of these 9 occasions that record was at least 10% higher than previously.

9 of 20 times team's winning percentage got worse (45%). It remained the same twice (10%).

Only 5 of 28 times (17.9%) new coaches managed to win over 50% of their games.

Baskonia and Panathinaikos lead the EuroLeague with the most in-season coaching changes. In six years, both Greeks and Spaniards changed their coach during the season four times.

What's interesting, Baskonia increased their winning percentage all four times. So far, it took them to the playoffs twice.

Pablo Laso (with Real Madrid since 2011) and Dimitris Itoudis (with CSKA Moscow since 2014) are the only two coaches who still work for the same club in the new EuroLeague era.

Teams with the most coaching firings
4 firings Baskonia, Panathinaikos
3 firings Maccabi
2 firings Olympiacos, Crvena Zvezda, Khimki, Gran Canaria

The last post-COVID season (2020-21) marked the fewest coaching changes in the new EuroLeague era. Only three teams had a new coach during the season (Crvena Zvezda, Panathinaikos, and Khimki).

Three months into a new season this year, three coaches lost their job already (Martin Schiller, Zvezdan Mitrovic, Dusko Ivanovic).

The worst coaching changes

Team Coach Winning% Previous coach
Bayern Oliver Kostic (2019-20) 18.2% (2-9) Dejan Radonjic (6-11, 35.3%)
Khimki Rimas Kurtinaitis (2018-19) 18.2% (2-9) Georgios Bartzokas (7-11, 38.9%)
Gran Canaria Victor Garcia (2018-19) 20% (3-12) Salva Maldonado (3-7, 30%)

Sometimes a coaching change covers off-season mistakes. Sometimes something is not clicking, and a coaching change seems the easiest way out of problems. It's often said that it's easier (and cheaper) to fire a coach than a few players.

There were few occasions in EuroLeague when players themselves approached the front office asking for a coaching change. There were situations when players got into the fight with their head coach.

So sometimes, a coaching change is inevitable. 

But fans, media, sports directors, GMs, and owners often don't have enough patience to wait for better times with the same coach. Many of them still believe in the theory of shaking things up for the better. But sometimes, any coach can't help a particular club if it's just too bad.

Every story is different. Some teams make changes ahead of big events in domestic championships and national cups. For example, Svetislav Pesic had a worse EuroLeague record than Sito Alonso in 2017-18, but he won Copa del Rey nine days after the hire.

Ergin Ataman took over Anadolu Efes from Velimir Perasovic in 2017-18 and had a worse winning record than his pier (4-14, 22.2%). But he remained at the club after the season and started the rebuild that followed with a golden era of Efes basketball.

Maybe it brings new hopes and the sense of a fresh start, but the numbers clearly show that the unpleasant gamble of coaching change during the season is usually a bad bet.

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Thank you for digging in, really interesting topic!
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