The Euroleague Basketball Institute Annual Workshops tipped off with meetings for the head coaches of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague clubs in Barcelona on Monday and Tuesday.
Monday's first session was opened by Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu, announcing Ergin Ataman of Anadolu Efes Istanbul as the winner of the Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year award, as chosen by his peers in the room.
Bertomeu was also keen to thank the coaches for their important contributions to completing a full and exciting 2020-21 season despite the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In the difficult situation, we had to take some uncomfortable decisions, but we wanted to finish the season according to the calendar for the benefit of all the clubs, players and fans," Bertomeu said. "I am very grateful to all of you for your cooperation during this challenging season."
The session continued with an overview of the action on the continent's courts over the past 12 months, from the uncertainty of last summer to the eventual finale in Cologne, with an emphasis on the uniquely competitive nature of the season.
The evolution of the EuroLeague was discussed, too, as the coaches were shown details of how the competition's five-year-old joint venture partnership with IMG has led to a marked improvement in the quality of the product for fans to enjoy through television coverage and digital content.
The coaches also heard about the organization's plans for the next few years, with an emphasis on the importance of continuing to connect with digital audiences, making deeper investments into the quality of the product, and ensuring clubs operate with sustainable business models, a priority for both the league and individual clubs.
Concerning the upcoming 2021-22 season, head coaches heard about why FC Bayern Munich and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne are becoming EuroLeague licensed teams and about the wild card status of ALBA Berlin, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and Zenit St Petersburg. They were also given an overview of the season calendar and some of the complexities involved in its execution, such as varying arena availability, preferences of television partners, and the aim of regularizing the travel demands placed upon players.
All the topics discussed were aimed at continuing to give fans the best possible experience of the game. Georgios Bartzokas of Olympiacos Piraeus spoke for all his fellow coaches in expressing his hope that those fans will be able to return to arenas next season: "We have a very special connection as a club, as a team, with our fans. You know how very important our warm crowd is for Olympiacos. And every coach has the same opinion – fans are very important for the atmosphere of the game."
The workshop continued with a day-long meeting on Tuesday with the competition's officiating department. The session was led by Richard Stokes, Euroleague Basketball's Senior Director of Officiating, and allowed the coaches and officials to analyze together the intricate details of the on-court action to gain a shared perspective on how best to interpret the rules to make the game even more exciting for the fans.
Dimitris Priftis, head coach of EuroLeague returnee UNICS Kazan, explained why sitting down with the officiating department is invaluable: "The meeting with the referees is a long one and also very helpful. We clear up some things, exchange some opinions and express our questions to the officiating department. Building a better relationship with the referees is very important because they are a part of the game and we need to cooperate with them. We are not in separate positions. We are not opponents. We have to be friends and build a good relationship with them."
Andrea Trinchieri of FC Bayern Munich summed up the positive mood of the workshop as he said: "There are a lot of things going on and I believe that hearing what is coming in the future for the EuroLeague is very important in order to adjust because being capable of adjusting is the most important thing – how to play, how you build a roster, which are the goals of the EuroLeague, how to expand and implement the whole product."