Play hard and have fun is the Brindisi formula, says coach Vitucci
BRINDISI (Italy) - To most people, summer in the Italian region of Puglia evokes images of kicking back to enjoy the sun, the seaside and some of the best food in the known universe, but for Happy Casa Brindisi management that part of the year is about something entirely different - adapt and evolve.
Every coach has in their mind an idea of the system or style they prefer, but if you are not smart enough to adapt to the players you have, then you are going the wrong way - Frank Vitucci
Take last summer as an example: Brindisi, fresh off their first ever campaign in the Basketball Champions League, recruited seven new players but they had nearly completed their 2020-21 roster by late July.
"We are quite used to the fact that almost every summer our best players are moving to a different situation, maybe better financially, so we know that we got to change whilst trying to maintain the same basic principles in terms of basketball style," explains Happy Casa Brindisi head coach Frank Vitucci.
"We try to select guys that want to come to Brindisi to work hard in a good environment.
"They can have the individual satisfaction that they will work well and take an important step in their career.
"My staff and I are trying to do our best to select the right players and make them understand from day one that this team is like their second family.
We are better this season because of that experience and I have to say that the BCL is very well organized, the competition made the right decision to adjust the Regular Season format - Frank Vitucci
"I think every basketball coach has in their mind an idea of the system or style they prefer, but at the same time if you are not smart enough to adapt to the players you have at the moment and develop it accordingly, then you are going the wrong way."
Brindisi most definitely went in the right direction this season. They are currently sitting in second place in the Italian Serie A standings on a 12-5 record, when last year they were at 13-8 when the league was suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the BCL, the Italian side have advanced to the Play-Offs for the first time in club history.
Thanks for the love 🤞🏾 https://t.co/5xCSk82hBb— Dangelo Harrison (@DeeHarrison21) February 14, 2021
"Last year we were a bit unlucky not to make the BCL Play-Offs but our Regular Season group was very competitive, we had Casademont Zaragoza and JDA Dijon, both of which eventually made it to the Final 8," Vitucci said.
"It was a little bit hard for us to make the adjustment of playing in both the Serie A and in a competitive European competition like the BCL, we didn't have such a deep roster.
"But our first year in the BCL was a very good experience that we used for this season: we've put together a deeper roster, we organized better everything that is necessary to compete, even though travel is much more complicated this season because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
My mantra, the phrase I tell my players before they step out on the court is 'play hard and enjoy it' - Frank Vitucci
"I think we are better this season because of that experience and I have to say that the BCL is very well organized, the competition made the right decision to adjust the Regular Season format.
"It was wise to reduce the groups to four teams and it helped us a lot that we only had to play every two weeks. We've enjoyed a lot the Regular Season and we're very excited to play in the Play-Offs.
"I hope it will be an experience that will help my team become better. For us just playing in the Play-Offs is a little dream, we will try to enjoy it and then maybe advance to the next little dream..."
Not every team gets to live the dream, but Brindisi will certainly enjoy the process. Ever since coach Vitucci arrived at the club in December 2017, and despite the frequent changes to the roster, the one common thread between the various iterations of the team has been that players are enjoying themselves on the court.
A basketball team is not about adding 10-12 good players together, it's about everybody having his own role, his right spot and to be able to draw satisfaction from that - Frank Vitucci
"My mantra, the phrase I tell my players before they step out on the court is 'play hard and enjoy it'," the Venice-born tactician explained.
"They are playing basketball, so of course they have to enjoy what they are doing and have fun, there are not many things in life as fun to do as playing basketball.
"But at the same time, you must know that you have to work hard every day. As a player you reach a point where you understand that hard work is what enables you to perform well and have more fun, and that every piece of the team must be pulling in the same direction.
FRANK & BIG ELIO 🤝@coachVitucci raggiunge Elio Pentassuglia per numero di vittorie in @LegaBasketA ottenute sulla panchina biancoazzurra ⚪🔵— HappyCasaNBB (@HappycasaNBB) February 3, 2021
Nel mirino il record detenuto da coach Piero Bucchi a quota 60 🎯
Congratulazioni coach 👏👏👏 #NBBrecords #ForzaBrindisi pic.twitter.com/03IvKcli1h
"There are obviously some rules to be respected, because we are not five random guys each one playing on their own on the court."
It is a fine balance between chosing the players that will fit Vitucci's system and the coach adapting to the players at his disposal.
"I would not say it's 50-50, maybe it's 60 percent the system and 40 percent adapting to the players," the Brindisi head coach said.
It's possible D'Angelo misses the first couple of games in the BCL Play-Offs, so we are monitoring the situation with the club and maybe we sign a player - Frank Vitucci
"It's clear there are some players I like watching more than others, but the first question I ask myself is whether that good player is somebody that will fit the system we have and the rest of the team.
"[Building] a basketball team is not about adding 10-12 good players together, but it's about everybody having his own role, his right spot and to be able to draw satisfaction from that.
"We also don't have a lot of margin to make mistakes, we don't have such a big budget so if we go wrong with one or two players we are in trouble for the whole season, so selecting the right players in the summer is very important to us."
Brindisi didn't make any mistakes, but they were none the less handed a blow in the final game of the BCL Regular Season on January 27 when their star player D'Angelo Harrison suffered an injury. The 27-year-old shooting was the competition's second-leading scorer at that point.
"In the short-term, a good team can find solutions to make up for the absence of one or two players and play well without suffering too much," Vitucci said.
"But it's a tough adjustment when you are missing a big star like D'Angelo, so what my players have done without him makes me very proud.
"We've played five games since his injury, we won three and lost two with the last possession in our hands, like in the Italian Cup Final 8 Semi-Final (against Pesaro).
"If the rest of the players can take this as a chance to play together, to have more responsibility, it's the best thing you can do when you are missing a player who usually takes the big shots.
"It's possible D'Angelo misses the first couple of games in the BCL Play-Offs, so we are monitoring the situation with the club and maybe we sign a player that can help us during his absence or even through the end of the season."