By Bugra Uzar/ Buzar@eurohoops.net
Ergin Ataman, EuroLeague’s coach of the year, was mentioned as a candidate for NBA assistant jobs earlier in the summer. However, as he explained to the Turkish digital channel “VOLE” the scenario of him going to the NBA as an assistant doesn’t excite him, and also it’s more than a longshot to expect that he, or any European coach coming directly from Europe, will get the chance to be a head coach.
As Ataman explained: “My goal to go to the NBA has decreasing chances because I see that the NBA is a different world… Their perspective of basketball head coaches in Europe is very different. No European coach has ever gone from Europe to the NBA as a head coach. There is no NBA history, zero. There are some Europeans who are head coaches, like Kokoskov, but he went there 20 years ago, settled down, worked as an assistant for years, and then coached. There’s David Blatt from Maccabi, but Blatt is an American after all.”
Ataman confirmed that he had some discussions with NBA teams, but nothing solid emerged, or at least an offer that would make him leave the back-to-back EuroLeague champions Anadolu Efes, which is currently aiming for a historic three-peat: “I’ve had contact with a few teams this year. What they always say is, ‘You have to come here and coach for a while first.’ Okay, I appreciate that, but they always say, ‘The NBA is a player-based league. It’s important in the NBA. “There is a player-centered system. Coaches are very dominant in Europe. We don’t think you can manage a team here.” They don’t say it exactly like that, but you can feel it when they are talking”.
Ataman is currently working with three NBA players, Cedi Osman, Furkan Korkmaz, and Alperen Sengun, as the coach of the Turkish national team. And while it’s tempting to become the first European coach to make the move directly to a head coaching job in the NBA, this is something that at this point seems simply impossible: “It’s great to be the first to do something. I always say that I will not hesitate if an offer comes from a team in the NBA, but I see that they do not have such an intention. They just say, ‘You’ll be an assistant coach here for a few years”. Messina did just that. He went to Popovich and was an assistant coach for four or five years, but he didn’t get a head coaching offer. So frankly, I find it difficult, but if anyone wants, we can sit down and talk.”