The most successful season ever by a Polish team in European basketball history has ended with Przemyslaw Seczkowski, the CEO of Asseco Prokom Gdynia, being voted Club Executive of the Year in Euroleague Basketball.
A steady progression over several years led Asseco Prokom to its latest and loftiest accomplishments in the 2009-10 season, when they reached the Quarterfinal Playoffs, marking an all-time first for any team from Poland in Europe’s top competition. Not only that but as it is rumoured lately Prokom will be shortly receiving an A licence from Euroleaugue (automatic group qualification for three seasons).
Its arrival among the Euroleague elite culminates years of work with which Asseco Prokom met each new on-court challenge step by step while also growing a devoted fan base that underlies the team’s success. Since Mr. Seczkowski became CEO of the club in 2008, Asseco Prokom has not only raised its competitive level in the Euroleague, but accomplished a difficult change of homecourt and city without missing a beat. The results were obvious as Asseco Prokom took itself and its fans to the very brink of the Final Four this season – inspiring Polish basketball to air even higher in the future.
A native son of the region, educated in nearby Gdansk, Mr. Seczkowski’s roots are not in basketball, but business. Among his previous experience, he was an executive in various Polish banks, deputy director general for finance at the Polish post office and director of a consulting company prior to joining Asseco Poland, the software giant that has sponsored the basketball club since 2008. In his first season, 2008-09, Mr. Seczkowski presided over the team’s move to the newly-minted Gdynia Sports Arena, which opened in late 2008. The change of venue was made between the Euroleague regular season and Top 16. Although the team soon became Poland’s first to win a Top 16 game, that happened on the road, delaying a first Euroleague victory in its new arena until the 2009-10 season. But the wait was well worth it, as Prokom’s first full season in its new home would prove to be historic in many ways.
Even before the start of last season, Prokom made waves by greeting its home fans with a spectacular show in a sold-out preseason game against CSKA Moscow at which Lech Walesa, an icon among global freedom fighters, was a special guest. The same night, Mr. Seczkowski presented a check for €10,000 to help a local seven-year-old boy with leukemia. The goodwill carried over into the Euroleague as Prokom went from less to more as the season progressed.
An early home win over Armani Jeans Milano was the team’s first Euroleague victory at the new arena. The next one was historic, too, as Asseco Prokom downed Real Madrid for the first time ever, marking the Spanish team’s first loss to a Polish team in 48 years! Back home for the last game of the regular season, Prokom beat Khimki Moscow Region to reach the Top 16 for the fourth time (still the only Polish team to do so). That momentum carried the team to greater heights than ever.
Back-to-back wins to open the Top 16, including a shocking 20-point road victory at Unicaja, not only set a team record for victories in that round, but gave Prokom the highest victory margin of any Euroleague team after two games. When the team returned home and defeated CSKA Moscow, also for the first time, it had one foot in the Playoffs, which were clinched a week later when Unicaja lost. Prokom led eventual finalist Olympiacos 0-11 in their first quarterfinal game before losing twice on the road, but returned to Gdynia to give fans there yet another milestone, its first playoff victory in the Euroleague. The season ended for Prokom when Olympiacos won the fourth game of the best-of-five series, but the truth was plain to see: Asseco Prokom had arrived as a Euroleague contender and had brought a country full of basketball fans with it!