Anadolu Efes’ Donnie McGrath left his old stomping ground in Kaunas last night with a win as his side beat Zalgiris 66-57.
McGrath hit 12 points off the bench for the winners, as he was one of four players in double digits in the scoring column for Anadolu Efes.
But for McGrath, it was a quiet return to Lithuania’s second city. No big cheer, no tribute video. Just a business trip without the expected emotion involved when a former player returns to his old club.
The American guard spent one season at Zalgiris, winning an LKL title before moving on to Russia and then to Anadolu. But McGrath has fond memories and says that it was good to be amongst old friends again.
“It is always fun for me to come back here and play in this great environment,” the 30-year-old said.
“The fans here are great and I was also playing against some guys that are my friends from my time in Zalgiris. I’m excited that I had a chance to play and to contribute to the win tonight.”
The win assured Anadolu Efes’ progression into the Top 16, as the Turkish side aims to reach their first Final Four since 2001 in Paris.
That was the last time a team from Turkey were in the Final Four.
Anadolu coach Dusan Ivkovic last tasted Euroleague glory back in 2012 in Istanbul. He led Olympiacos to what was a rather unexpected triumph at the Sinan Erdem Dome and looks to repeat his heroics next May at the Barclaycard Center in Spain’s capital city.
The veteran Serbian play caller was in a sombre mood this week as his former national team assistant and close friend Aco Petrovic passed away on Tuesday, a mere 48 hours before Anadolu took to the court in Kaunas.
Petrovic was Ivkovic’s assistant coach at Eurobasket 2009 in Poland when a young Serbia squad took home the silver medal.
Ivkovic dedicated the win to his late friend.
“I want to dedicate this win for Coach Aco Petrovic, who sadly couldn’t see the game,” Ivkovic said.
“He was my good friend, he was close to Zalgiris and it is heartbreaking that he isn’t with us anymore. We still have two more games left and we need to work more to gain experience for the next round.”