Credit: Milliyet newspaper
Credit Milliyet newspaper

After winning the EuroLeague trophy for the second year in a row, Anadolu Efes Istanbul head coach Ergin Ataman is at the center of European basketball once again.

Filip Petrusev

Filip  Petrusev
Filip  Petrusev
MIN: 5.69
PTS: 3.19 (63.81%)
REB: 1
As: 0.17
ST: 0.06
BL: 0.11
TO: 0.33
GM: 36

The flamboyant coach sat down with Umit Avci of Milliyet newspaper to talk about the EuroLeague season, his coaching philosophy, the struggles of making the playoffs, and the upcoming summer of coaching the Turkey national tėam.

"Of course, it was a great joy when he won. We were in front of 20 thousand fans. It was a huge feeling," Ataman started off. "But believe me, I was very calm before the game. For example, I was so excited in our first finale that I couldn't sleep at night."

"I always had a doubt in my mind, but this year I was very calm. That's the experience," he continued. "I was just concentrating on the game. If I hadn't already experienced that excitement in the game, maybe I could not have made the same moves. But when the match ended and I won the 2nd championship in a row, I experienced great joy."

"If you remember, I said that this time I will raise my fists in front of an audience. Europeans are not very used to this," the coach claimed. "But in the end, everyone likes it. This is entertainment now. You will show your feelings when you win or when you lose."

Sertac Sanli was a big part of the first EuroLeague title for Anadolu Efes. He left for FC Barcelona in the offseason, and the Turkish team had to search for his replacement.

"The most impressive thing at the beginning of the season was Sertac's departure. Sertac had a big share in last year's championship and the team got used to him," Ataman remembered. "After he left, we actually agreed with [Jock] Landale, but there was an NBA exit and he used his right after he played very well in the Olympics."

2-pointers this season

Points made: 19,3
Accuracy: 56,8%
Place in standings: 11
Record max: 28
Record min: 12
Most made 2FGs: Vasilije Micic

"We took a risk with Petrusev. The young player was named MVP in the Adriatic League. The fact that he came to such a high-level team for the first time and that he could not reach that level physically was a bit of a mistake for us," Ataman admitted.

"Dunston was also very out of shape at that time, everyone was saying this guy couldn't play anymore," the coach continued. "Psychologically, the saturation of last year's Euroleague championship, self-confidence, sassiness that affected the whole team, perhaps starting with me, the fact that the opponents took the field more motivated against us, these made us panic and we were tense when we did not get what we wanted."

Despite the early struggles, Ataman always maintained his high self-esteem.

Ergin Ataman with a Turkish journalist
Ergin Ataman with a Turkish journalist
Credit Milliyet newspaper

"You cannot live in fear. This is my style," he explained. "I motivate myself first, I believe in myself, I motivate my players in this way, and I put it out. While doing this, I want to intimidate my opponents and put them under stress. Especially when there is a question mark in my mind, when it is said that they will not be able to do it this year, I do it even more."

"As such, no team can come up against us comfortably, they always have a question mark in their minds," Ataman shared his thoughts. "Some create unnecessary motivation, like the Greek press. You know, mind games, as they say, this is my system."

Anadolu Efes game might seem pretty simple compared to other EuroLeague teams. There are a lot of isolation situations and simple plays. Ataman has an explanation.

"We currently have about 50 sets in attack and we use them from time to time, but our biggest weapon is the ability to make quick decisions in the fast break," the coach explained. "If we restrain the player in the fast break, we cannot get efficiency."

"On defense, I don't like very complex systems. I don't like to switch in man defense. Why would I switch when I have a guard that plays 30-35 minutes like [Shane] Larkin? I also don't like the half-court defense very much because you have to train hard and we can't do that at this match tempo," Ataman continued.

"I don't think that a match can be won at this level by working out for an hour the day before the match and defending the field and surprising the opponent. I don't want to confuse the players with all of these. The player should focus on doing what he does best."

Anadolu Efes received criticism from Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul fans earlier in the season when Efes' vote in part decided that the games of all three Russian teams in the EuroLeague would be annulled, essentially eliminating Fenerbahce from playoff contention.

"This voting was already very wrong. I laughed when I heard that. If you leave it to the clubs, of course, everyone will look at it from their own side," Ataman explained. "After all, it's a competition. What Barcelona and Real Madrid want may not be the same for others."

"It was Monaco that suffered the most from this decision. Monaco played incredibly in the remaining matches though and advanced to the quarter-finals. That's why I have difficulties understanding the criticism," the coach told Umit Avci. "It seemed strange, but I respect everyone's opinion."

After showing success on the European front, Ergin Ataman was hired to be the head coach of the Turkey national team. The first hurdle - the upcoming EuroBasket 2022.

Ergin Ataman
Ergin Ataman
Credit Milliyet newspaper

"Why did they invite me to the National Team? Because that expectation was created," Ataman explained. "This man won 5 trophies in Europe, won two EuroLeague titles in a row, and was selected as the coach of the year last year. We have such a coach and our national team has not been at the desired level for 10 years."

"They have already deemed me worthy of that task for this. I would not have accepted this task if I had not believed in it at this pace," he continued. "Why do Spanish, French, and Serbian players join the national team? To become champions."

"We will aim for the championship mentally. If we do this, we will be successful, even if we do not become champions, I consider ourselves to have failed. That's what I say, and I'm not afraid of it either," Ataman finished his statement.

The EuroBasket 2022 starts on September 1st. Turkey will play against Montenegro, Georgia, Spain, Bulgaria, and Belgium in Group A of the tournament.

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