After leading his team to the Euroleague title in dominant fashion, Regal FC Barcelona head coach Xavi Pascual has been voted winner of the Euroleague Basketball Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy for the 2009-10 season. In just his second full campaign as head coach at this level, Pascual guided Barcelona to the best record in the Euroleague this season and to the club's second Euroleague crown. At 37 years old, Pascual becomes the youngest coach to win the award. The Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy is awarded annually at the end of the season through a vote of all Euroleague head coaches. This season's runner-up was Dusko Vujosevic of Partizan Belgrade, who led his club to its first Final Four appearance in more than a decade. Vujosevic won the award for 2008-09. Asseco Prokom Gdynia head coach Tomas Pacesas finished third in the voting after his team became the first from Poland to reach the Euroleague quarterfinals. The Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year award debuted in 2005 and was won that year by Pini Gershon of Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv. In order since then, previous winners were Ettore Messina of CSKA Moscow in 2006, Zeljko Obradovic of Panathinaikos in 2007, Messina again with CSKA in 2008, and Vujosevic last year.
Virtually unknown two-and-a-half years ago when he was named interim head coach at Barcelona, Pascual quickly established himself as one of the best young coaches in the business. A lifelong Barcelona fan, Pascual spent years in the Spanish minor leagues before working his way up the ranks to become an assistant at the club. His chance to take over the head of the bench came just before the start of the 2007-08 Top 16, when he was named interim head coach. Pascual proceeded to lead the club to within a victory of the Final Four before marching Barcelona to the Spanish League finals and getting re-hired, without the interim status. The 2008-09 season, Pascual's first full campaign on the Barcelona bench, brought him to the forefront of the coaching ranks. That year, Barcelona returned to the Euroleague Final Four for the first time in three seasons, then finished up in style by winning the Spanish League title.
Last season, Pascual firmly established himself among the game's elite. Despite having to integrate five new players into the team, Pascual had Barcelona playing dominant basketball from the start of the season. Barcelona went through the Euroleague regular season undefeated, winning by an averaged margin of victory of 20.8 points while boasting some of the best team defense the Euroleague has ever seen. Though their victory streak ended at 11 games with an overtime loss at Partizan in the Top 16, Pascual and Barcelona merely started another, proceeding to win the rest of its Top 16 games to reach a Quarterfinal Playoffs encounter with archrival Real Madrid holding homecourt advantage. After splitting the first two games of the best-of-five series at home, Barcelona won Games 3 and 4 on the road in the Spanish capital to secure a Final Four berth. Once in Paris, Barcelona overcame CSKA Moscow in a defensive slugfest in the semifinals before overpowering Olympiacos in the title game to celebrate the 2010 Euroleague championship.
All told, Barcelona's 20-2 record for the season included the fewest losses by a Euroleague team all decade. Pascual's part in Barcelona's exceptional season cannot be overstated. Working new stars onto a roster that was already full of them required that every player sacrifice some of his brilliance to make the team better. In a short time, however, Barcelona boasted a clear mission with well-defined roles and top-notch organization on both ends of the court. Most important, Pascual established a team in the truest sense of the word, full of players dedicated first and foremost to winning. It is no wonder that, under Pascual's tutelage, Barcelona has also turned its home court, Palau Blaugrana, into a fortress where the team has gone 23-2 in Euroleague games with him on the bench. But even away from home, and most notably at the Final Four in Paris, where the team succeeded despite playing two different styles in the most pressure-packed games of the season, Barcelona's dominance was so impressive as to make his coaching peers choose Xavi Pascual as the best on the bench this season.
The Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy pays tribute to the legend who was the winning coach of the first three Euroleague titles, from 1958 to 1960, with ASK Riga. Gomelskiy, the father of basketball in the Soviet Union and Russia, led CSKA to its last Euroleague crown before the modern era in 1971. He passed away in 2005 at age 77. Since then, the award has been handed out to the best coach of each Euroleague season, as voted by his peers.
Previous Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year winners
2009 Dusko Vujosevic, Partizan Belgrade
2008 Ettore Messina, CSKA Moscow
2007 Zeljko Obradovic, Panathinaikos
Ettore Messina, CSKA Moscow
Pini Gershon, Maccabi Elite