With the Greek coach leaving the club a few days ago, many people are still wondering whether the Catalans should have given Giorgos Bartzokas the opportunity to retain his place as the team’s head coach, despite having a disappointing season.
One year ago, the 2013 Euroleague winner with Olympiacos Piraeus was appointed as Barcelona’s head coach, replacing Xavi Pascual, who was a member of the Catalans for eight years (2008-2016).
Bartzokas had just made a tremendous season with Lokomotiv Kuban, leading the Russian team to the 2016 Euroleague Final Four, for the first time in the club’s history.
So, the Spanish squad’s administration thought the 52-year-old coach was the ideal person to help the Spaniards become dominant both in the ACB and Euroleague.
However, things didn’t work out very well in the beginning. More specifically, the Greek coach’s plan was to create a roster with versatile players that could adapt to different playing styles and offer solutions in more than one positions on the floor.
Such a case was former Lokomotiv players, like Malcolm Delaney, Anthony Randolph, Chris Singleton and Dontaye Draper, who were great both defensively and offensively and enabled Bartzokas to create certain plays that let him take advantage of his players’ talent.
In Barcelona, though, the situation was completely different. Apart from Tyrese Rice and Stratos Perperoglou, who could execute very well offensively, almost no other member of the squad could make the difference in Bartzokas’ tactics, which prevented the 52-year-old coach from creating a team that could play at very high standards for 40 minutes, just like Olympiacos and Lokomotiv Kuban did in 2013 and 2016, respectively.
Consequently, Barcelona was transformed into a rather “soft” side, which couldn’t be so effective against better and tougher teams and create a much-needed winning streak.
However, Bartzokas helped Aleksandar Vezenkov enhance his overall performance, by giving him plenty of playing time and letting him have an active role in the Catalans’ tactics.
The other major issue that Bartzokas had to deal with was the high number of injuries the players suffered during the season.
Almost every player in the active roster was forced to miss at least one Euroleague game, due to injury, and, as a result, the squad was struggling to improve its chemistry level.
Players that had a crucial role in Bartzokas’ game plans, like Brad Oleson, Ante Tomic, Juan Carlos Navarro, Perperoglou and Petteri Koponen, remained out of action for a significant period of time, preventing the Catalans from being competitive for a series of games.
That said, the club couldn’t turn things around and claim one of the first eight places in the regular season, so they failed to advance to the playoffs, ending the regular season in a disappointing way.
To make matters worse, Barcelona lost to Valencia in the Spanish league’s playoffs and, consequently, Bartzokas was forced to leave the team, despite being under contract with Barcelona.
However, I believe that Bartzokas should have retained his place in the squad’s bench for another season, as he has proved he is capable of leading a team to the top.
As it’s certain the club will make many changes to the roster, the experienced coach would have the opportunity to acquire players that would fit to his tactics and ideas in order to create a decent and tough team, like the ones he had in Olympiacos and Lokomotiv Kuban, respectively.
Moreover, I can’t understand why the administration made such a decision, given they had kept Xavi Pascual as head coach for eight years (2008-2016), although the Catalan coach won the Euroleague title only once (2010) and suffered many painful defeats in the playoffs and Final Fours, respectively.
On the other hand, the 52-year-old coach has earned the respect of the European basketball world, thanks to his accomplishments with Olympiacos and Lokomotiv Kuban as well as his effective playing style, and certainly deserved a second chance in the club’s bench so as to help the Catalans become again one of the favourites to win all titles in Spain and Europe.
One way or another, the administration can’t now change their decision and the club is already trying to hire a new coach, whereas Bartzokas is one of the candidates to become the new head coach of the Greek National Team.