In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Spanish National Team head coach and Toronto Raptors assistant coach Sergio Scariolo joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss the EuroLeague, NBA, Spanish development, coaching and the Spain pick and roll.
Scariolo started his coaching career in the early 1980s, as the assistant head coach of Brescia, and then Pesaro In 1990, after returning to Pesaro, Scariolo won the Italian national league title, at age 29. In the following year, he moved to the Italian 2nd Division with Desio. In 1993, he was again in the Italian 1st Division, as the head coach of Fortitudo Bologna, where he remained until 1997. In that year, he moved to Spain, to TAU Vitoria, where he won the Spanish King’s Cup, and made it to the final of the Spanish national league. In 1999, Scariolo was hired by Real Madrid, which he immediately led to win the Spanish national league title.
From 2003 to 2007, Scariolo was the head coach of the Spanish club Unicaja. In five seasons with the club, he was able to win the Spanish League championship, the Spanish King’s Cup, and made it to the 2007 EuroLeague Final Four.
From 2008 to 2010, Scariolo was the head coach of the Russian club Khimki Moscow Region. Starting with the 2011-12 season, he became the head coach of the Italian League club EA7 Milan. In June, he became the head coach of Laboral Kutxa.
He was fired after the end of the 2013–14 season, and then dedicated all of his time to coaching just the senior Spanish national team. While the head coach of the senior Spanish national team, Scariolo won the gold medal at the EuroBasket 2009, EuroBasket 2011 and EuroBasket 2015, and the bronze medal at EuroBasket 2017. He also won the silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, and the bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. He also coached Spain at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. In 2019, Scariolo led Spain to victory in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
In July 2018, he was hired by the Toronto Raptors as an assistant coach, aiding them to win their first NBA championship.
“Strategy-wise there are a lot of things that the NBA already imported from Europe.”
“I spend most of my time watching games . . it’s really important that you try to digest the information and understand what is really useful for you and what you can reproduce with your team.”
“[In the Euroleague . . ] There are a lot of excellent offensive sets, zone offenses, baseline out-of-bounds plays. There are a huge amount of wrinkles on the basic set plays that everybody uses.”
“The big difference is that most of the NBA sets are run in the transition mode without stopping the ball and calling the play.”
“In the Euroleague we like to start the offense on one side, make the defense collapse on one side, and change sides . . and send a strong attack on the other side.”
“The Spanish club teams are some of the best organized . . with a solid mentality . . they know how to put the team in the right condition to win.”
“What you want to see is the desire to share the ball and the desire to play defense.”
“There is a pretty huge percentage of where your game plan is not going to work . . for whatever reason. I don’t like to be forced under pressure to improvise or invent something brand new . . I spend part of my time before the game thinking about what could happen . . what could be a second option to our strategy if the first option is not working.”
“In Europe, players learn how to play earlier . . in most high schools [in the U.S.] there is a lot more talent and a lot more athleticism but I don’t see . . how to play team basketball, how to read and react.”
“The decision making is more developed in the top European programs than most of the U.S. high schools.”
“[Whether it’s] 3-on-3, 4-on-4, or 5-on-5, you have to correct. You have to make them understand why they are doing something . . what you will do if the opponent reacts in one way, what you will do if the opponent acts in another way . . it requires a lot of time and a lot of instruction.”
[On correcting mistakes] “It’s a matter of recognizing what kind of mistake it is . . sometimes it is an execution mistake not a decision making mistake . . [in that case] most of the time it doesn’t really make sense to stop and correct the player.”
“When a mistake is repeated by many players or is a repeated decision making mistake from one player, then you get to a point where you have to stop and correct.”
[On Spain pick-and-roll] “The starting point is a strong, flat back screen . . there are situations you have to recognize . . we want to show them to our players beforehand.”
“If you can guard the ball and you are able to go over the first screen in a great way, then offensively you are in trouble.”
“As a head coach, what I want to receive from my assistants [in a scouting report] are clear ideas about priorities . . difficulties our players will face in the game and the options we have not just to stop them [the opposing team] but also to surprise them.”
“As an assistant coach what I am trying to do is make sure . . we know what kind of defensive coverage we will probably find . . which kind of our actions would work better against these coverages and which kind of different defenses we might face.”
“I don’t like to switch just for the sake of it. The bottom line is we have to be effective.”
“Be ready and open to learn . . go watch other coaches . . to learn and understand why they are doing what they do . . And listen, mostly to your players.”
Selected Links from the Podcast:
1:00 – Euroleague and National Team Experience
3:00 – Coaching in the NBA
7:00 – Comparing Euroleague and the NBA
11:00 – Different Sets in NBA and Euroleague
14:00 – Spanish Basketball Success
18:00 – Technical, Tactical Philosophy
22:30 – A,B, and C Plan
27:00 – Game Day Adjustments
29:00 – Allowing Players having Freedom
33:30 – Process of Stopping to Coach
36:30 – How to Defend Spain Action
38:30 – Pick and Roll Decision Making
40:00 – Preferred Back Screen Angle
43:30 – Wrinkles
46:00 – Spain Pick and Roll
50:00 – Switch Process
52:30 – Important Lessons as a Coach
54:00 – Conclusion
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