Interview: Onur Coşkun
Darüşşafaka coach David Blatt gave an exclusive interview to TrendBasket on the media day of the team. You can find his sincere answers to our questions below.
How was the preparation period so far?
We have, much like the last year, had an excellent preparation so far. Guys came in on time, in shape, hungry and ambitious. I’m very happy with the progress we made since the beginning of the training period. We are a new, young, relavitely inexperienced team and it will take time for this team to grow into everything I expect that we can be. But the work that has been done up to this point has been outstanding. We have a lot to look forward to.
So you’re happy with the team, in general…
So far so good. Thank goodness we stayed relatvely healthy. [There were] only minor problems but nothing serious. We’ve done well in our practices and preparation games. I think we’re building a good group.
This season will be a little bit different for you than last season. You will be playing in EuroCup. How do these changes affect you and the club?
There’s a lot of affect to it, honestly. This was not the expectation that I had coming in. Things happened and didn’t work out for us. We couldn’t stay in the EuroLeague, even though we had a good season as a team and an organization. We were a quality team and quality program but the reality is we didn’t stay in the EuroLeague, our budget has changed significantly, we will be participating, once again, in a very strong Turkish League and what is now looking like the best EuroCup competition that has come along in history. Once you know what you’re dealing with and what you gotta do to put everything else behind you and focus on the task at hand, you go about being the best team that you can be. We built a good, young team and we do have many, many steps we have to take to be in the highest level but we got great guys, good character, motivation and willingness to learn. I think we need this in order to develop into a top level teamand that’s what we hope to be.
How did you feel at the very moment when you found out that you won’t be playing in the EuroLeague?
I was very sad on a number of different levels: First, it was my expectation that we would be in the EuroLeague. That’s why I originally came to the organization. But I’ve been working with wonderful people, who have treated me very well and very fairly. They have allowed me professionally run my part of the business in the way I see that it needs to be run. I’m happy here. Despite the fact that there were opportunities to go different places, I ultimately decided that I want to stay for one more year. Next year, I’ll be free to decide on whether I wanna find my way back in the NBA or to some other possibilities that exist. I’ll have the freedom to do that at the end of this year.
In the preparation games, it became evident that your players like up-tempo basketball. Did you want to create a team that plays like that?
We did have in mind to find players who were more in the beginning of their career, rather than in the end of it, while building the team. We tried to take younger, more athletic, more active, more exciting type of players; find guys we felt like we could mold into a style and a system that suits their skills and our needs. We’ll be a team that is competitive and hard to play against.
What can you say about FIBA’s new schedule?
I’ve spoken about this before and I’ll say it again: The situation that exists benefits no one. It hurts not only the players, but also the clubs, national teams, and most importantly, fans. I feel that the organizations need to put their heads and hearts together in order to find a better solution for the good of everyone. As things stand right now, egos serve badly in the game of basketball. That’s something none of us want. I hope clearer heads and purer hearts will solve the issues.
European players have been complaining about the lack of player rights. What has been done in the NBA regarding player rights has often been compared to what we have here. You know the both sides…
I think players need to be more proactive about protecting their rights. In the NBA, for example, there is a very strong and powerful Players’ Association. Obviously in Europe, there’s a different situation because there are many countries and many different leagues and organizations. Nonetheless, players need to create a viable association. Also, I would expect from the teams and the leagues to promote and foster this, in order to help basketball and help themselves, too; because Players’ Association will hold teams accountable for their rights, just as much as leagues can hold players and agents accountable for what’s happening on the business side.