By Antonis Stroggylakis/ Follow @AStroggylakis
Besiktas advanced to the Turkish Basketball Super League Finals in a swaggering fashion after routing much more powerful (at least on paper) Anadolu Efes in Game 4 on the road and winning the semifinals 3-1.
Their return to the Finals for the first time since 2012 (when they won the whole thing) was also a personal achievement for Besiktas head coach Ufuk Sarica. Yet not exactly the first time he immensely bruises Efes in a postseason series.
Actually, Sarica has won every single playoffs battle he has given against his former team after they parted ways almost five years ago.
Considering how he was sacked midway through 2011/2012 following elimination in the EuroLeague Top 16, each and every of Sarica’s victories vs Efes has symbolized something of a “payback”. A “retribution” delivered by the now harbinger of Nemesis Ufuk Sarica, against the club that didn’t support him when the very first calamity arrived, but axed him and essentially betrayed the initial long-term trust they had showed when they signed him on a multiyear deal on summer 2011.
While Efes management obviously had every right to feel disappointed for not even getting close to reaching their Final Four ambitions and needed to lay the blame on someone, firing Sarica was pretty much an undeniable proof that they didn’t truly believe in his potential and that they lacked the patience needed to see him grow as head coach.
This would gloriously happen in Sarica’s next destination.
The Turkish coach moved to sign with Pinar Karsiyaka in summer 2012 and would proceed to elevate the team’s status and bring successes perhaps previously undreamed of by everyone affiliated with the club.
He wouldn’t meet Efes in major game where a title or qualification was at stake until the next season. In the 2014 Turkish Cup Final the team from Izmir beat Efes 66 – 65 (Bobby Dixon 16 points, 6 assists), winning the competition for the first time in the history of the franchise. But it was just the prologue in Sarica’s revenge sequence. The first blood he drew off Efes.
Later that year, Karsiyaka met Efes in the first round of the league playoffs. Efes was considered the heavy favorite, carrying extra motivation after what took place in the Cup Final and owing home court advantage. The two teams went to the do-or-die Game 3 with the series tied 1-1 but against all odds, Karsiyaka won 67 – 73 in Istanbul following a great second half and with Dixon once again doing most of the offensive damage (14 points, 8 assists).
If Sarica and Karsiyaka were considered underdogs in the above cases then in the 2015 Championship Finals were the darkest horse imaginable. Sure, they had just managed to eliminate almighty Fenerbahce in the semifinals but as much as this was a testament of how dangerously scrappy they were, it also served as an argument that they had exhausted all their strengths and that the juice that led them to the title series was all but spent in the clash vs Zeljko Obradovic and his players.
Quite the contrary…
What followed completed what is by far the biggest surprise in the recent history of Turkish domestic competitions. Sarica led his team to the League title after winning two matches in Izmir and two in Istanbul, including the decisive Game 4 (71 – 85). This time Juan Palacios was the protagonist of the last Final with 22 points plus 10 rebounds, an unlikely hero that Sarica molded to a focal character in some of his favorite pick n’ pop systems, when many other teams and coaches had disregarded him as insufficient.
This was the crowning achievement and the most colorful and fascinating chapter in Ufuk Sarica’s “Book of Vengeance”, authored with his successes against Anadolu Efes throughout the years.
The latest episode took place today (7/6) of course after Besiktas blew away Efes in “Abdi Ipekci”. And who’s to say it’s going to be the last?