With the season being suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ergin Ataman visited the Crossover Podcast to talk with Joe Arlauckas.
The head coach of Anadolu Efes has headed the bench at five different Turkish Airlines EuroLeague clubs split between two countries this century.
His current team was chasing the competition record for victories before the season suspension.
“Of course, more than money, basketball is a life that you like,” Ataman explains in the podcast. “It’s more than a job. It’s different. So then, I started to work 100 percent in basketball.”
Ataman led Efes to Turkey’s first Final Four berth in 2000. After lifting the Saporta Cup in 2002 with Montepaschi Siena as Turkey’s first trophy-winning export coach, he brought the Italian team to the Final Four in 2003.
Ataman’s education at an Italian high school in Istanbul may have helped him work abroad, but he seized the opportunity to raise the profile of Turkish coaches.
“Our coaches didn’t have a chance to win something important with their local teams, and if you don’t win anything in Europe with your own teams, nobody would call you to be a coach in other countries,” he said.
Ataman soon returned to Turkey, however, as basketball there rose to match his ambitions.
All told, he has been head coach of six Turkish clubs, four of them in Istanbul. He won the FIBA EuroChallenge in 2012 with Besiktas and Turkey’s first 7DAYS EuroCup title in 2016 with Galatasaray.
But, his heart has always returned to Efes, where he has engineered a meteoric turnaround since taking the bench there for a third time in 2017.
“It was a big problem, but OK, I must take this job because, also for me, it was maybe a re-start of my career,” Ataman says.
“One month after I took the team, we won the Turkish Cup, which nobody expected because the team was in the eighth position,” the experienced coach added.
And what a re-start it has been for Ataman! A season after the team finished last in the EuroLeague standings, Ataman brought Efes to the 2019 Final Four and, after defeating archrival Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul in the semis, the club’s first championship game.
An exciting challenge to CSKA Moscow fell short in that Final, but Efes took its runner-up momentum into the current season, holding first place by three victories when play was suspended.
In the podcast, Ataman addresses his outspokenness – as when he predicted a victory in last season’s EuroLeague Championship Game, or when he criticized a player publicly this season.
But, there is no doubt that he is one of the great minds in the game of basketball, and he believes in saying what you feel.
“I believe this is not only my basketball philosophy, but also my life philosophy,” he said. “Maybe sometimes I have some problems about this, but I can’t change. This is Ergin Ataman.”
Coach Ataman and Efes are waiting to find out whether the season will resume or not in early summer. The EuroLeague already examines different scenarios in order to avoid cancel the season.