While Erdem Can’s first big chance as a head coach in top basketball was very successful at the helm of Ankara Türk Telekom, his second chance with Istanbul’s Anadolu Efes went awry. Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
While Erdem Can’s first big chance as a head coach in top basketball was very successful at the helm of Ankara Türk Telekom, his second chance with Istanbul’s Anadolu Efes went awry. Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Why did Efes’ new era end with dismissal?

Basketball OlyBet 14.02.2024

EuroLeague basketball club Istanbul Anadolu Efes fired head coach Erdem Can after the 24th round. His task as Ergin Ataman’s successor was to return the Turkish giant to the top of Old World basketball. But why did the supervisor’s mission go awry?

Having won two EuroLeague titles with Ataman – according to the Turk, three, because they were the leaders before the premature end during the unfinished corona season – last summer was a whirlwind of changes for Efes.

In addition to Ataman, several important members left the team, among others Vasilije Micić, one of the leaders of the team, who finally moved to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA. Efes’ top management announced that they will be in austerity mode shortly, but with several hefty contracts and stars this season, the goal was to fight for the top spots.

In the Estonian basketball media, it has been stated multiple times regarding Can, that he is a newcomer to the EuroLeague. Yes, the Turk, who did a great job with Ankara Türk Telekom last season and steered the club to the EuroCup final in the second-strongest series of the Old World, had not been a head coach in the EuroLeague before but Can worked for nine years as an assistant coach of another Istanbul giant, Fenerbahce, and got to work with the legendary Željko Obradović, among others.

In addition, Can spent one season as an assistant coach of the NBA club Utah Jazz and he had also worked for the Turkish national team, so the talk about his lack of experience in top basketball was a clear lie or ignorance.

In addition to some Turkish players, they were supplemented between two seasons with, for example, Darius Thompson, who shone in Baskonia and became one of the best point guards in the EuroLeague. Also, Derek Willis, a very good shooter, and Tyrique Jones, who shone in the EuroCup with Türk Telekom.

In the case of Efes, it was clear that their biggest stumbling block could be the injury crisis because if the seven or eight-man core of the team was top-notch, behind them there was a big drop in the quality of the players. Unfortunately for Can, the injuries did come…

An excuse you don’t want to hide behind

In the meantime, Efes had to play in a situation where Rodrigue Beaubois, Elijah Bryant, Will Clyburn, Tibor Pleiss, Ante Žižić and Willis were all out with an injury.

Of course, in sports, no coach or athlete wants to hide behind injuries, but looking at Efes’ current season, you can’t ignore it and its impact. Justus Hollatz, who was crowned world champion with Germany, is a decent man at a certain level, but he cannot stand the level of the EuroLeague and there should not be a match where he plays for more than ten minutes. But for example, in the 13th round against ALBA in Berlin, the manager had to race for almost 36 minutes and Hollatz also had a good match, but ALBA is not a EuroLeague-level team.

At the same time, the management of Efes must be praised because Can was supported by the hiring of winger Mike Daum and center Dan Oturu. The Americans, who were thrown into the water, coped with their tasks either well or even excellently at times, but during the big injury crisis, the guarding also needed supplementation, but it did not come.

Efes’ injury crisis is well illustrated by the fact that during Can’s era, i.e., during 24 rounds, only four ballers participated in at least 20 matches. Next, Willis and Hollatz had the most games (15).

Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Very poor defense

Right from the start of the season, it was clear that the weakest side of the 16-time Turkish champion was defense because while the attack statistics were above average, they were among the weakest in the league when it came to stopping the opponents during Can’s time. For example, Efes allowed opponents to score 120.56 points per 100 attacks.

There, the defense was poor both on the perimeter and under the basket, but often both elements are connected. To put it simply: if you’re constantly getting passed by defenders, you need Walter Tavares or Moustapha Fall under the basket or you’re going to be ripped in half in paint.

Shane Larkin, the locomotive of the team, is primarily an offensive player whose defense has never been anything spectacular. Thompson is no slouch in defense, but he cannot be considered a lock, and Baskonia officials also said last summer that after Thompson’s departure, they wanted someone in the guard who was more physical and could control the opponents’ most dangerous guard.

The injuries of Bryant and Beaubois put a strong seal on Efes in the perimeter defense. Okay, the Frenchman didn’t miss too many games, but he won’t be racing against the opposing attacking stars for 40 minutes, especially in a situation where Can needed a strong contribution from him in shooting as Thompson has been poor in attack and Larkin’s load is huge.

Regarding the under-the-basket area, it was clear that there were no rulers of the three-second area in defense. Pleiss is 221 cm tall, but he is not very mobile, so he will inevitably get into trouble when defending the game from the cover. Žižić has always been an attack-oriented centre, and the new addition Jones will remain a bit small at number five in the EuroLeague, it also took him a long time to adapt to the Old World’s top level.

Looking at the statistics, Efes’ defensive game has not improved with Oturu either, but the center with a Nigerian and US passport can fulfil the role of rim protector better than his colleagues. After all, you may have some good individual defensive players, but the foundation of a good defense is only laid by teamwork. And Efes needed a lot of that.

It remains to be seen whether and how the Efes defense will change under the guidance of the new head coach Tomislav Mijatović, who has been employed at Efes for the past 14 years. The first signs are encouraging, as they beat Milan 79:73 in the 25th round, but one cannot fail to note that the Italian club is one of the worst attacking teams in the EuroLeague.

This week’s round could provide a more accurate picture of Mijatovic’s impact and tactical changes, as Efes have had time to prepare against Maccabi Tel Aviv and Israel’s team is above average in attack.

Croatia’s golden opportunity

Although Efes’ main problem with Can was defense, the attack was not cloudless either. First of all, it should be pointed out the relatively poor long-range shooting, because in 24 rounds, the Turkish giant made 35.42% of three-point shots, although there are plenty of good shooters. Only four clubs scored worse than Efes.

Efes’ attack also lacked sharpness. For example, 18.3 fouls per game were committed against them, which is second behind Žalgiris Kaunas in the league. It’s true that you can’t point the finger at injuries here, as Larkin, the team’s sharpest man, has remained healthy, but Thompson, for example, hasn’t been as active in attacking the basket as he was last season in Baskonia.

Efes and Can parted ways after an embarrassing 70:96 loss to Žalgiris, where the honor and pride of Lithuanian club basketball led by 30 in the second quarter. The coach was constantly furious with his men, but the ballers could not bring any breakthrough in the match. Sceptics would say that the players simply stopped listening to the coach.

It is believed that the cooperation of the Turks ended also because, nine rounds before the end of the regular season, Efes’ position in the EuroLeague was difficult, but not cloudless, but there were no signs that the game could significantly improve with Can even in a situation where injuries no longer plague the team.

Mijatović, who worked as an assistant coach for many years, now has a golden opportunity to prove himself to the Efes management, when Maccabi, who are last in the play-in, are three wins away from them. Thursday’s battle in Riga is therefore extremely important because if they lose, Efes will have to accept that for the second season in a row, they have no business in the qualifying games.


This piece of content has been lovingly crafted by the hard-working sports people of OlyBet. Hope you like it!