08 October, 2019
04 October, 2020
Txus Vidorreta (TENRF)
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Which coaches have left their mark in the BCL?

MIES (Switzerland) - Let's start with the easy, uncontroversial part: basketball is the most brilliant sport the wit of man has ever devised (if you thought otherwise, of course, you'd probably not be reading this).

Furthermore, and unlike what is happening in other sports, even purists embraced early on the introduction of advanced stats which made nearly every aspect and detail of this beautiful game measurable to a previously unimaginable degree.

Sasha Djordjevic (left) and Txus Vidorreta at the Final Four 2019 press conference in Antwerp

We can now collect and interpret enough data to accurately quantify the performance and efficiency of any player, and there are even metrics that can project how a player is likely to fare in any given scenario.

However, as is the case in every sport, we still cannot accurately measure the contribution of coaches. More often than not, we tend to overlook the impact of myriads of factors - from team chemistry to injuries - and we judge a coach based entirely on their team's winning record.

Even coaches themselves have now accepted this approach and will rarely try to point out that their work also involves player development, building a team culture, and other aspects which are not immediately apparent.

There is no possible way of knowing whether one coach would have won more or less games than another, given the exact same team, under the exact same conditions, in the exact same season.

There are however some undisputable achievements or milestones a coach can reach, and we take a look at some of them in an effort to pay tribute to some coaches who have left their mark in the Basketball Champions League.

A Legend In The Making

No coach has had a bigger impact in the BCL than Txus Vidorreta, who's already set the bar very high for his future colleagues. The 54-year-old Spanish coach is the only tactician to have reached the Final in both of his full seasons at the helm of a BCL team. He won the inaugural edition of the competition with Iberostar Tenerife, in 2016-17, then parted ways with the club but returned in 2017-18 to lead the Canary island team back to the title game, albeit they lost to Virtus Bologna that time.

Vidorreta is the only coach to have won more than 40 BCL games (42 in total) and he is also the all-time leader in Regular Season victories, with 34. The Bilbao-born play-caller has coached Tenerife in a total of 56 BCL games, which means that his winning percentage in the competition is 75 percent.

It's worth reminding that Vidorreta has extended his contract with Tenerife so he will be back in charge when the 2019-20 season resumes in September, and he will get a shot at making it three out of three Finals.

In terms of geography though, Belgrade would be the undisputable cradle of BCL champion coaches. Both of the two tacticians who succeeded Vidorreta at the top of the podium were born in the Serbian capital. Dragan Sakota led AEK to the 2017-18 title and then Sasha Djordjevic, who took over at Virtus Bologna for the final five games of the 2018-19 season, led the storied Italian club to the trophy conquest.

Dragan Sakota talking to his AEK players in the locker room shortly before  the 2018 Final

Right Place, Wrong Time?

Interestingly, the two coaches who sat on the Tenerife bench in the year of Vidorreta's absence have also left a mark in the league. Nenad Markovic, who was at the helm of the Spanish club during the start of the 2017-18 season but left the role as early as December, is the only one in competition history to have coached two different clubs in more than 20 BCL games each.

The Bosnian tactician was at the helm of Pinar Karsiyaka for 20 games before signing with Tenerife and, after he parted ways with the Spanish team, he took the reins of Gaziantep and has already been in charge of the Turkish side in 28 games in the competition.

Fotis Katsikaris, who took over from Markovic at Tenerife with the 2017-18 season under way, led the Spanish side in 16 games in the competition and established two BCL records during his short tenure.

Under the Greek tactician, the Spanish team won by an average margin of 14.3 points per game, which is the highest average point differential among coaches with at least two games in the league. Katsikaris also posted the highest win-loss percentage on the road in competition history, winning 88 percent of his games away from home.

David-Oded Kattache is withing grasp of the highest winning percentage in the BCL

Like A Hurricane

He came, he saw, he won - albeit it didn't last long. Javier Juarez won 11 of his 12 games in charge of UCAM Murcia, for an outstanding 92 percent win-loss ratio, the absolute highest in competition history.

Nonetheless, Zvezdan Mitrovic holds the record for the highest winning percentage in the competition among coaches with at least 20 games under their belt, as AS Monaco won 83 percent of their BCL contests during the Montenegrin coach's tenure. Mitrovic led the French league club to back-to-back Final Four appearances, but in 2016-17 they finished in third place and the following season they fell to AEK in the gold medal game.

Mitrovic's win-loss percentage is so impressive, you might think there can never be a strong contender for his throne. However, David-Oded Kattache is not only well-placed to dethrone Mitrovic, but he is also presented with the unique chance to achieve this feat while being crowned - quite literally.

The Israeli coach has led Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem to 28 wins in their 34 games in the competition, which translates to a winning percentage of 82 percent. In the event Hapoel lift the 2019-20 trophy in September with Kattache at the helm, the Israeli legend will improve to 31 wins in 37 games and will therefore claim top spot from Mitrovic, with an unassailable 84 percent.

Interestingly, Mitrovic and Kattache have each won 94 percent of their respective home games and they are the only coaches (with a least 10 games in the BCL) in competition history to have surpassed the 90 percent win-loss mark at home.

Mitrovic also holds the best Regular Season win-loss record at home, winning all 14 games Monaco played in that stage over their two seasons in the competition. Ronen Ginzburg however, who has at the helm of Nymburk in the 2016-17 season, is the only coach to have registered an eight-game win streak at home.

Former Strasbourg boss Vincent Collet is the only coach to have logged 60 games in the competition

The Virtue of Perseverance

Coaching is a high-risk job in European basketball so every long-serving coach is appreciative of the fact he gets to pace the sidelines in charge of the same team long enough to leave a legacy behind, as was the case with Vincent Collet.

The French play-caller was the boss of SIG Strasbourg for almost a decade and became the first coach to reach 60 games in the BCL, before parting ways with the club midway through the current season. The FIBA EuroBasket 2013 champion, who had of course been in charge of Strasbourg since their first game in the inaugural BCL season, recorded 32 wins in those 60 games (53 percent).

Dario Gjergja is not only poised to outlast Collet in terms of length of tenure - the Croatian coach will complete a decade at the helm of Filou Oostende if he stays with the Belgian champions for one more year - but also to surpass him in BCL games.

Gjergja is set to reach 49 games in the competition in September's Round of 16 Game 3 clash with Tenerife and, should Oostende prevail, he will pull even with Collet in the opening game of the Final Eight. The Belgian champions have won 28 of their 58 BCL games under Gjergja, which translates to 48 percent.

Tenerife will of course stand in the way of Oostende and, as we saw above, Txus Vidorreta is in third place for most BCL game coached, with 56.

He surpassed this season John Patrick, who coached Riesen Ludwigsburg in 54 games in the competition and has left an inedible mark on the German side, despite the fact they never reached the title game. The American coach steered Ludwigsburg to the 2017-18 Final Four and won Coach of the Year honors that season. Patrick tasted victory in 29 of his 54 BCL games with Ludwigsburg.

Another coach whose name is linked to the same club for many years now, Walter De Raffaele, is only the fifth play-caller to have reached the 50-game mark in the BCL. The 51-year-old Italian who has served Reyer Venezia as an assistant or as head coach since 2011, led the Veneto club to 32 victories in their 52 games in the BCL.