Sergio Scariolo talked about Virtus Bologna, Spain NT, the FIBA-EuroLeague dispute, and the burden that players in Europe have to carry on their shoulders due to the heavy schedule.

Credit: FIBA
Credit FIBA

On the occasion of Virtus Segrafredo Bologna's visit to Athens for the EuroLeague Round 9 game against Panathinaikos, Sergio Scariolo sat with Greek broadcaster NOVASPORTS to discuss several topics pertinent to his team and European basketball. 

The Italian coach, who led Virtus to the EuroCup title last year before he went on to win a 5th gold medal with Spain in the 2022 EuroBasket, has been lifting trophies incessantly for the past three years. 

"I can't say that I haven't enjoyed these past years. NBA championship, World Cup, EuroBasket, EuroCup, Italian Super Cup. I mean, I can't complain about the moments I'm living," he commented before Virtus took on (and lost to) the Greeks on Wednesday night. 

Scariolo spoke about the success that the Spanish national team is having under his guidance, as the Roja has won four EuroBaskets and the 2019 World Cup. But things were different last time out, as Spain wasn't slated to go all the way before the tournament started.

"If you consider that we were the 8th or 9th seed in the Power Rankings before the competition started, you can say that the toughest medal we won was that one," he admitted.

"But nothing happened by magic, it happened for a bunch of reasons. Players worked hard, we found great chemistry. We had won a lot before, and the pressure to be at the height of our past was there," he added before making another special mention to the team's captain.

"Rudy Fernandez is a great player and human being, and also a fantastic leader. He enjoyed it a lot, in a different role than before."

After the EuroBasket, Scariolo embarked on his second season with Virtus Bologna, the club's first in the EuroLeague since 2008. Describing how he built the roster, the experienced tactician conceded that because of his obligations with Spain, a lot of work was done by the front office.

2-pointers this season

Points made: 17,7
Accuracy: 51,8%
Place in standings: 14
Record max: 26
Record min: 12
Most made 2FGs: Mouhammadou Jaiteh

"Basically, I didn't build the team myself. I gave a basis to the management on how to complete it and make it competitive," he said.

"We believe in having made a good job, considering the financial frame we've been given," he continued.

"My ambition is for us to play better basketball, and be a more solid team every week. We'll see where that will drive us. Of course, we want to be in the pack of the teams that will fight for the playoffs. We haven't played a quarter of the season so far, so we'd better be cautious and patient until we make serious judgments."

Referring to the teams and players that have stood out so far, Scariolo mentioned Fenerbahce, whom he called "impressive" because "they're playing very well on both sides of the floor." He also praised Efes' Will Clyburn for having been "amazing."

"The competition is equal. Many great teams - Olympiacos, Efes, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Monaco, and many great players," he said. 

In his capacity as a coach working both at the club and the national team level, Scariolo uttered his opinion on the FIBA-EuroLeague dispute and the hectic calendar which leaves players and coaches little room to rest during the season.

Echoing what ELPA's Managing Director Bostjan Nachbar had told BasketNews a week ago ("The focus should be on optimizing the current schedule without adding more games in any competition", Scariolo thinks that the schedule should be lighter.

"First of all, we can't increase the number of games players give," he clarified.

"People compare the EuroLeague to the NBA. But I've been there for three years, and I know how it is. Conditions, logistics, and rosters are completely different.

I think we're close to the limit of the maximum number of games for players in a season; especially considering that in Europe, every game matters. You can't be relaxed, or rest some players because everybody can beat you," he pointed out. 

Scariolo holds that all the stakeholders (FIBA, EuroLeague, teams, players, and coaches) should sit at the table. However, he also maintains that his peers should (be allowed to) do more in that respect.

"I'd say coaches should have a louder voice because they're the ones who're on top of every single little detail about basketball every day, in terms of game knowledge, schedule, preparation, and methodology. So, hopefully, that will happen.

I'm a little more optimistic than before, but we're still to see some solid signs," he argued.

As a former Toronto Raptors assistant coach and member of the team that won the NBA title in 2019, Sergio Scariolo was asked about Giannis Antetokounmpo's growth. 

"On an individual level, Giannis has been the most unstoppable player in the NBA," he replied.

"You can't guard him with just one player, you need to mix coverages, and matchups, and put 2-3 men on him.

I'm happy that he eventually won an NBA title because I know how much passion he puts into his game, in his daily work, and how much desire he has to win with his team."



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