By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
With Lenovo Tenerife among the lasting Basketball Champions League originals and Txus Vidorreta in charge most of the way since the launch of FIBA’s European club continental competition, naturally plenty of firsts have been centered on the Bilbao-born tactician over the last seven years.
Vidorreta, 56, took over the Canary Islands outfit in 2015 to establish himself as the team’s longtime play-caller, except for the stint at Valencia in the 2017-18 season. His tenure has been connected to both the 2017 and 2022 triumphs in the BCL. He is the winningest coach in the history of the Champions League and as of Tuesday the only coach with 100 games in the competition.
In the previous BCL return to his hometown Bilbao, he guided Tenerife to the second championship in team history. On Tuesday, it was not looking good with Surne Bilbao storming back from an early 14-point deficit and building a 13-point advantage of its own. But scoring 16 of the last 18 points of the contest, including Jaime Fernandez dancing his way to the game-winning bucket at the buzzer, turned the tables on milestone night and added yet another victory to a very long list. Over the 100 contests, Vidorreta has clinched 76 wins.
Basketball Champions League perks, know-how
The competitive environment of the BCL has helped Tenerife build a knowledge of dealing with close games and must-win situations. Despite eventually falling short of winning the Copa del Rey, eliminating hosting Joventut Badalona in the semifinals of the eight-team tournament was a recent example of the know-how stemming from tight affairs in the Champions League expanding to Spain’s competitions.
Setting up plays and prepping the players for any possible situation from the sidelines is a very demanding job. But the players actually making things happen on the court is the key part of the equation, as underlined by Vidorreta throughout his coaching career. Taking a page out of numerous coaches’ books, including the winningest NBA coach Gregg Popovich, praising the players and shifting the spotlight away from individual success has been a trend that keeps delivering for Tenerife.
However, the experienced coach must take more credit. Shaping a team overflowing with players capable of making clutch plays and him trusting any single member of the squad in tight situations is the real deal. Piling up the wins the direct reward, as was the case in Bilbao yesterday. The team-first mentality carries over from season to season.
Building a winning and loyal roster with limited but effective changes emerges among the biggest examples of club growth through the Champions League. Besides winning it all twice, settling for runner-up once, and reaching the Quarterfinals twice, Tenerife has been equally brilliant in Spain’s Liga Endeda, widely accepted as the strongest domestic league of the continent. Matching up with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona would be a challenge for any team, and the Canarias have been putting in their fair share of complications for both powerhouses and the rest strong sides of the ACB propelling extended campaigns in their own right.
Tenerife became the first team to clinch a berth in the Quarterfinals of the 2022-23 edition of the Basketball Champions League. Barring an unexpected twist of events in the last two games of the double-legged round-robin schedule, it will earn the home-court advantage for the best-of-three series awarding a spot in the Final Four. Of course, the remaining contenders will be seeking to overthrow Tenerife but resisting and instead retaining the title is merely four wins away.
Brazilian Marcelinho Huertas and Georgian Giorgi Shermadini as the headliners and both with plenty of experience in late-season must-win situations are huge positives. More of the same from Sasu Salin, Aaron Doornekamp, Bruno Fitipaldo, and Tim Abromaitis. The recent addition of young promising prospect Leandro Bolmaro covering for injured Joan Sastre adds another strong piece. So, don’t rule out Vidorreta also becoming the first three-time winner of the BCL.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League