Neven Spahija really didn’t want to take too much credit for Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Baskonia winning its first game with him as the team's new head coach. Instead, it was the team’s players who managed to figure it out - and snap a four-game losing streak.
Baskonia seemed like a different team as it blew out Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 93-74 for its first victory since defeating AS Monaco 78-66 at home in Round 5 on October 22.
“I would like to congratulate our team for the great reaction and the win. I think they got the right message in the locker room, and they played with their heart and their talent,” said Spahija, who took over from fired head coach Dusko Ivanovic on Monday.
Steven Enoch, who collected 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way to the win, said the team really didn’t rely too much on the new playcaller but just showed what the players have in them.
“I feel like we had a mentality where we knew we had to go out there and just figure it out. And that’s how we have to carry out each game as we move forward,” Enoch said.
Asked about the new coach’s influence, he added: “He gave us the freedom and told us to just go figure it out. He didn’t give us too many rules to follow. Our talent showed, and our hard work showed. I’m proud of everybody.”
The game was such a reversal of everything that Baskonia has been this season. The Spanish side came into the game as the worst offense in the EuroLeague, having scored just 68.0 points per game; and ranked 16th on defense, allowing an average of 80.0 points per contest.
The 93 points scored were a season-high for the club while the 74 points given up were the second-fewest Baskonia has allowed in a game this season - bested only in the team’s 78-66 victory over AS Monaco in Round 5.
On top of that, Baskonia shined offensively against the team that was ranked first in points allowed; Zvezda was giving up just 67.2 points per game.
“For sure it’s important. We want to win every game. Especially after we lost four in a row, we wanted to get this one with our fans at home. We left all our energy on the court. And in the end, we got the victory,” added Rokas Giedraitis, who scored 21 points including 5 three-pointers.
All told, Baskonia made 12-of-28 three-pointers for a solid 42.9%. That figure is more like white-hot considering Baskonia’s season performance from long range coming into the game, ranking second-to-last at just 28.9% on three-pointers.
Spahija knows he won’t have much time to work in any sort of new system into the team - given that Baskonia hosts CSKA Moscow on Friday.
“We will go step by step. We have to learn about the players and my system. Let’s work on my way and respect the talent and possibility for what they can do. And we will see,” said the new coach.
Figuring it out has worked for a start, but it’s up to the team and its new coach to make sure it’s not a short-lived improvement.