The yearly meeting between Turkish Airlines EuroLeague head coaches and their traditional exchange of ideas with Euroleague Basketball executives including the officiating department marked the continuation of the Euroleague Basketball Institute Annual Workshops on Wednesday and Thursday in Barcelona.
The two-day work session came at the end of a breakthrough season for European basketball, the first in which all the best clubs from around the continent played each other, and the coaches were unanimous in asserting that the change of format improved the competition and will continue doing so in the future.
"We are looking forward to making it even better," CSKA Moscow head coach Dimitris Itoudis said. "The fans are excited, the games are played in a way that it is unanimous that the quality is there. We are very pleased and very enthusiastic to have a lot of numbers, a lot of thoughts, a lot of potential moves shared with us that may bring the league to be in an even better position."
Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu emphasized the pivotal role of coaches in paving the way toward more innovation by offering their opinions about how the game is played on the court and how the organization can engage existing fans and attract new ones.
"It's always about moving forward and making improvements with the fans uppermost in our minds, and to have our coaches as partners in this process is essential," Mr. Bertomeu said. "We all know they are protagonists on the court, but their role as leaders in our sport and our league makes them vital to what happens off the court, too. They are key contributors to the decisions that we need to make to keep getting better."
Among the data presented to coaches was evidence of exponential growth in audience numbers thanks to the new competition format, which produced unprecedented jumps in the numbers of people following EuroLeague games in arenas (13% more), on television (32%) and through digital platforms (166%). Those gains meant 56% more revenues for the league and a 50% increase in the economic benefits distributed to the clubs in the 2016-17 season.
The coaches also discussed their role as spokesmen for the league and its clubs with an eye toward communicating with new and younger generations of fans and helping their players and clubs connect to them through new technologies.
"With a tablet, with a smartphone, you can do almost everything. You can go anywhere in the world. So I believe that coaches should grant access to not only basketball – you can always watch a basketball game – but also to what is behind the game, behind the life of a player or a coach. I believe that we are going in the right direction," Brose Bamberg head coach Andrea Trinchieri said. "The EuroLeague is an unbelievable brand. It's an unbelievable product. There is a lot of hunger for these things in the younger generations. We just have to be a little bit open-minded. It's extremely important."
On Thursday, the attention of the coaches turned to improving the game as it's played on the court during an all-day meeting with the Euroleague Basketball officiating department. Led by Richard Stokes, Euroleague Basketball's Director of Officiating, a review of on-court situations from throughout last season gave way to a discussion of rules, regulations and interpretations aimed at making the games even more dynamic for participants and spectators alike.
"By meeting with our coaches as a group after each season, we come to a consensus on key situations in the game. When coaches get back to their players they can instruct them going forward just as we can fine-tune how the referees officiate," Mr. Stokes said. "By working together like this, we can improve the game experience year after year for everyone."
"I think this is the best way to try to improve our game," Zalgiris Kaunas head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius said. "I think you really understand better the officials' side of the coin – what they see, from what perspective they view things. Last year we came together trying to clean up the game as far as the fastbreak goes. I think we saw a cleaner game, I think we saw a faster game, which was the emphasis. It's good to see the things you talk about in June will come into play from October onwards."
Included in those discussions with the officiating department on Thursday was the coaches' agreement to expand the use of instant replay by referees to more situations in games.
"It is a great moment talking to the officiating department because only here can we share opinions, talk openly, look each other straight in the eyes and have the same target, the same goal – to make the game even better and more attractive for fans," Itoudis said. "This is what we work for and that is a great opportunity that Euroleague Basketball gives us."