Coach of the Year - a closer look
MADRID (Spain) - Every year in the Basketball Champions League, the standard of coaching and depth of talent in the coaching pool increases significantly. As a result, the decision for who should win the award for Coach of the Year get's tougher each time.
As with the MVP award, the winner often comes from a team that reaches the Final Four, so in recent seasons the achievement of Ludwigsburg (2018), and Antwerp (2019) reaching the Final Four from the first round of Qualifying, made the choice to award John Patrick and Roel Moors a little easier. This year we already know that the situation can't be repeated, so the selection will be anything but cut and dried. Until we know the four teams that make it to the big show in May, it will be tough to speculate with any confidence but should any of the following three coaches steer their squad to the Final Four in spring, this is why I think they have to be favorites to take the award.
If we had to decide this award now, ERA Nymburk's Oren Amiel would almost certainly be the man in the picture. Nymburk have made the Play-Offs before but never finished top of their group, let alone finished the Regular Season with the best record in the BCL. The Czech champs did that off the back of dominating defensively and also dominating on the glass. Nymburk lead the league in Rebound Percentage, pulling down 53.9% of every missed shot on both ends. To illustrate the point, watch the video below and remember when Nymburk won a game this season with a buzzer-beating offensive rebound and putback. It shouldn't really have been a shock considering that Hankins and the crew have hoovered up 34.1% of their own misses - good for second in the BCL.
On top of smashing the glass, Coach Amiel has engineered this Nymburk squad into the best defensive unit in the league. They have allowed only 95.6 points per 100 possessions - good for first in the BCL. Maybe the most striking thing about Nymburk's defense is that its more about scheme than individual talents. Not many of the names on this Nymburk roster stand out as notorious stoppers, but together they combine to give Coach Amiel lineups with length and footspeed advantages in most positions. They have conceded a fourth-highest 28.3 opponent 3-point attempts a game but limit teams to just 31% from behind the arc - second-lowest. This isn't an accident, this is by design.
Watch the clip below of Nymburk using a 2-3 zone to completely disrupt Iberostar Tenerife's rhythm. Notice the length with Hruban in one of the guard spots allowing Dalton to play as a wing defender. Also, notice how high they played from the baseline with Hankins covering the Free Throw line and dropping to remove any dribble penetration from ball-screens. Very few coaches go to Tenerife and win the tactical battle against Txus Vidorreta. On that night, Oren Amiel did exactly that.
The best offensive Regular Season EVER. There you go, I just made the case for Oded Kattash to win Coach of the Year in one sentence and we can probably just go home now.
Obviously, it's not that simple but from a statistical perspective, this Hapoel Jerusalem team is genuinely the best offensive team ever in the Regular Season. An Offensive Rating of 121 points per 100 possessions is the best we have seen after 14 games and scary enough alone. But, when you consider that Jerusalem have shot a league-best Effective Field Goal Percentage of 59% - which is also the most efficient shooting season ever - you start to realize what a juggernaut this squad is.
What makes this team so tough to stop is the number of offensive weapons they have. When Brown, Feldeine, Braimoh, Thomas, Holland, and Mack are all averaging over 12 points a game, the team on defense is forced into making impossible decisions. Coach Kattash has a million ways to kill you with the pick-and-roll and he loves to employ TaShawn Thomas on the short roll because of his ability to finish or make the pass. Watch the two clips below from the Burgos game. In the first clip, Burgos tried to tag Thomas on the short roll but left too early, then the second clip, the same defender committed fully so Thomas found Shelvin Mack in the corner. In both clips, the defense is good, it's just that the offense is better.
Hakan Demir has guided the youngest Squad in the BCL this season into the Play-Offs. That alone is quite the achievement but to just say "the youngest squad in the BCL" doesn't do this justice. Bandirma have made the Play-Offs with two, home-grown 17-year old's ( Furkan Haltali and Alperen Sengun) playing serious minutes in the rotation. Then even outside those two, Sehmus Hazer is also in the starting unit this season at just 21 and the way the team relies on him has seen him become a frontrunner for the Best Young Player award.
Bandirma didn't just make the Play-Offs either, they made it out of the toughest group in the BCL this season. With Hapoel Jerusalem, AEK, and San Pablo Burgos from the ACB all strong favorites to progress, Bandirma found themselves in a three-way battle for one spot with RASTA Vechta and Anwil Wloclawek. The fact that both of those clubs themselves had a potential Coach of the Year candidate at the helm, should tell you what you need to know about the job that Hakan Demir has done with this young squad.
If this team wasn't enough fun already, the way they have started games at home has been one of the most enjoyable, niche things to watch for any true, European basketball nerd. Every game at home has seen Hakan Demir and his team start with the same, trademark set play. Always a zipper screen entry, then the same screener sets a rip screen on the wing. Often they have managed to catch teams sleeping with the rip screen and found Hazer cutting for an easy two. It's almost unbelievable that teams haven't been prepared to defend the play.
However, even when teams do get the scout right - as RASTA did in the clip below - the play has become such a strong statement of intent for Bandirma that good defense just makes them execute even better. Bandirma don't have the home draw in the Round of 16 but you already know that you need to be tuned in to see what they do for the first play of Gameday 2.
Another narrative to watch with Bandirma qualifying out of the toughest group with the youngest squad is that they knocked out Telenet Giants Antwerp in the process. In case you need reminding, Antwerp did pretty well themselves last season after qualifying from the toughest group with the youngest squad in the competition.
Dario Gjergja (Filou Oostende). Finally making the Play-Offs was a great achievement and Oostende could yet surprise a few people in the Play-Offs.
Txus Vidorreta (Iberostar Tenerife). Eleven new players on the roster and Tenerife already look like they have been together for years. Txus already guided them to the Intercontinental cup, you'd be mad to bet against them being in the Final Four again this year.
Burak Goren (Turk Telekom). The squad from Ankarra topped their group in their first BCL season. They look a real threat to make the Final Four. If they do, Coach Goren will unquestionably be in the running.
Porfirio Fisac (Casademont Zaragoza). Zaragoza signed off the Regular Season in style with a Dylan Ennis buzzer-beater to win the game against Brindisi (@canadiankidDJE follow him on socials and read his blog if you need a shard of light in your life). Coach Fisac has this Zaragoza team firing at just the right time. You have been warned.
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