Moments after the finale of the EuroLeague Final and while he was giving his customary post-game flash interview, newly crowned back-to-back EuroLeague champion Ergin Ataman got showered with booing by the thousands of Olympiacos Piraeus fans that had packed Stark Arena. The same Olympiacos supporters that saw their team fell to Ataman’s Efes in a heartbreaking fashion in Thursday’s first semifinal.
The booing was so loud that one could hear it from everywhere. But Ataman didn’t mind. On the contrary, one might say that he even enjoyed it.
“Thank you to Olympiacos fans,” Ataman said. “I know that two days ago it was an upset for them. They made the organization fantastic. If Olympiacos fans weren’t here, we’d play in an empty arena. They made it great.”
“In the hotel today, everyone come to take pictures with me,” Ataman added. “I told you, Turkish people and Greek people, we are neighbors, we are friends.”
The win over Real Madrid marked a season finale for Efes that was vastly different with how the campaign began. The Turkish side had the worst-ever start by a EuroLeague champion with a 2-6 record and didn’t look exactly like “repeat material.”
But Efes gradually began raising the level of its game, mostly in the second-leg of the regular season to make the playoffs, advance to the Final Four and now level Belgrade with the champions’ trophy with them.
“Everybody asked to make back to back everybody said it’s impossible, very difficult for one team to make the back to back. I understood that in the beginning of the season because something was going wrong. Something didn’t work like before.”
The more the team’s performances improved, the more Ataman recovered his famous, unyielding confidence that his players are going to make it to the end of the road again. “In the second part of the season, in the most important part of the season we come back to play with emotion and I take again the confidence and make the prediction that we’ll win the back-to-back title”
Ataman has now become European champion on a club level two years in a row. What’s the next big goal for him? Leading the Turkish national team to the gold medal in the EuroBasket
“My personal goal: I promise to the Turkish country that it’s time to win with the national team”