Dusan Alimpijevic: The EuroCup Upset Specialist

2024-03-19T17:58:42+00:00 2024-03-19T20:12:59+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

19/Mar/24 17:58


Dusan Alimpijevic talked to Eurohoops about the latest comeback of Besiktas in the BKT EuroCup and the coach’s next big target — creating one more upset in the semifinals.

By Semih Tuna / Stuna@eurohoops.net

As the coach of Bursaspor, Dusan Alimpijevic had a remarkable run in the 2021-22 EuroCup. He was voted the competition’s Coach of the Year after leading his team to the final against Virtus Bologna despite not having home-court advantage in any postseason round. Getting the title in Italy was the only upset that Alimpijevic couldn’t pull off.

They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but two years later, Alimpijevic has already led Besiktas to two small miracles: beating defending champion Dreamland Gran Canaria on the road in the eighthfinals, and then coming back from being 21 points down to stop higher-ranked Hapoel Shlomo Tel Aviv in the quarterfinals.

Can he and Besiktas keep it going in their best-of-three semifinal series against Mincidelice JL Bourg en Bresse that starts on Tuesday, March 26?

Eurohoops talked with Alimpijevic and we have the answers.

Coach what happened in the first half against Hapoel? We’re not used to seeing your teams start so slow in elimination games.

“It was a little bit of a matter of authority, you know. This kind of thing happens; basketball is a game of mistakes. So it sometimes happens, you know. The main thing is that if you can react to change the game, this makes you even stronger. Of course, nobody wanted to start like this (laughs). But the second half makes us believe in everything we’re doing.”

After the first half, what happened in the locker room? Is there any detail that you can share with me about your halftime speech or was it all “rated” stuff?

“Ha, ha, never. But I can ask Derek (ed. note: Needham who was sitting next to him) how that speech was. Hey Derek, how was the halftime speech?”

Derek Needham: “It was a great motivational speech! (laughs)”

“If you want to call the speech like that, okay. So it was a usual halftime speech when things were not good (laughs).”

Did you think at any point that you were going to lose this game?

“To be honest, it was a terrible first half. So, of course, anybody can think something like that because we didn’t do anything of what we agreed from the beginning, from our preparation. At halftime, we talked about how we should play but we believed in the team’s character. Also, we believe in something special in this group of people. So we never lost our faith; I never lost any kind of trust in this team. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. But the most important thing about this team is our character.”

We can guess the answer but we should ask. Are Jonah Mathews and Matt Mitchell big-time players?

“For me, the Besiktas team itself is a big-time team. Of course, sometimes some of these players need to step up. We have several times when several names stepped up. I cannot even say one name that is more important than any other. I cannot say that Kerem Konan’s rebounds are less important than anything else.”

Coach, also you gave very important minutes to Kerem Konan, an 18-year-old. It looks like he is repaying your trust. How do you rate his development?

“This is something like my personal standard, you know. To give something to young people and to develop some domestic players. And I believe this is also something that any European team should do. I’m talking about Spanish, Serbian, Italian teams. So I’m talking about all of us, including me as a foreigner in Turkey. We are here now, and we will leave later, but you should want to give the most important things to domestic players. Not only Kerem, Samet Yigitoglu (ed. note: born in 2004) is also the future of Turkish basketball and we’re taking care of him a lot. And I will be very happy with our work in the future.”

Do you think that you’re closer than ever to playing in the EuroLeague? After the game, you said that Besiktas will embrace it like no other club.

“Look, we will take the chance for sure. If this chance comes to us, we have to hug it like it’s our brother (laughs). Besiktas is ready to play in the EuroLeague. But we have to go step by step. We have already performed above all the expectations. We have to be modest, our feet have to be on the ground, and to be aware of what we’re doing and what we have in front of us. So we have to stay humble, to be grateful for this opportunity, and to take steps one by one.”

Besiktas is going to play its semifinal home game in the Sinan Erdem Arena. Do you think that the arena will be packed and do you have any message for the fans?

“Of course, I think it will be packed. Our team deserves it, I know that our fans love the way we’re fighting. So it will be packed for sure and everybody will enjoy it.”