Sarunas Jasikevicius Vs Ergin Ataman. Who is a better coach?

Sarunas Jasikevicius Vs Ergin Ataman. Who is a better coach?

By Themis Prokopiou.

This is a topic that definitely needs a lot of discussion, and your comments would be extremely helpful as we are dealing with two coaches who have made their own marks on modern basketball. Their achievements, both in the recent past and today, do not go unnoticed by any fan of the sport. Sarunas Jasikevicius took over Fenerbahce and not only managed to transform the team but is also in contention to win this year’s Euroleague. On the other hand, the most successful coach, Ergin Ataman, who managed to win the Euroleague twice in the last three years, took over Panathinaikos this year, a team that finished 17th in the Euroleague last year. Not only did he manage to finish 2nd in the regular season standings, but he is also making a strong claim to win this year’s Euroleague.

The duel between Ergin Ataman and Šarūnas Jasikevičius holds even greater significance as the two teams, Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce, will face off in the semifinals to fight for a spot in the final. Regardless of the outcome of the match, these are two accomplished and outstanding coaches.

The Coaching History of Sarunas Jasikevicius

On 29 July 2014, Jasikevičius announced his retirement from playing basketball and was appointed as an assistant coach with Žalgiris. After the firing of head coach Gintaras Krapikas during the 2015–16 season, Jasikevičius became the team’s interim head coach. On 13 January 2016, it was announced that he was appointed their new head coach.

On 22 January 2016, he achieved his first EuroLeague victory as a head coach when Žalgiris shockingly defeated the previous season’s runners-up, Olympiacos, by a score of 75–55 at Žalgiris Arena. On 26 October 2016, just before the first game versus his former long-time head coach Željko Obradović, Obradović said: “I knew that he would be a good coach and in the future, one of the best in Europe.” On 13 June 2017, he was named the best coach of the 2016–17 LKL season. After the season, San Antonio Spurs and U.S. national team head coach Gregg Popovich invited him to join his coaching staff during the 2017 NBA Summer League. However, Jasikevičius declined due to previous summer commitments. He also took third place in voting for the 2017 Alexander Gomelsky EuroLeague Coach of the Year award.

During the 2017–18 EuroLeague season, Jasikevičius and his Žalgiris exceeded expectations by finishing in sixth place in the regular season. On 26 April 2018, Žalgiris qualified for the 2018 EuroLeague Final Four by beating Olympiacos in game 4 to clinch a 3–1 series win. This achievement was notable as Žalgiris had the second-lowest budget in the whole league. During the semi-final, Žalgiris played Fenerbahçe, losing 76–67. Two days later, they faced CSKA Moscow in the bronze medal game, winning 79–77 and finishing third for the season. On 20 June 2018, he was named the best coach of the 2017–18 LKL season after coaching Žalgiris to another Lithuanian League title. On 27 June, Jasikevičius signed a one-season contract with Žalgiris. He was named LKL Coach of the Year for the third straight time in 2019.

According to EuroLeague statistics, Jasikevičius’ team’s defensive rating was 97.0 during the 2019/20 season, and their offensive rating was 100.7. His tight offensive system led to only 15.6 turnovers per game in his last season. Under Jasikevičius, Žalgiris was the third slowest team with 80 possessions per game, explained by the depth of his playbook, which had more than 40 different plays.

On 2 July 2020, he signed a two-year contract with FC Barcelona. During his first season as head coach of FC Barcelona, the club won the 2020–21 EuroLeague Regular Season. On 26 June 2023, in a surprising move, Jasikevičius parted ways with the Catalan powerhouse after three seasons, despite having won the 2023 Liga ACB championship a few days earlier.

On 14 December 2023, Jasikevičius was announced as the Fenerbahçe head coach on a three-year deal.

The coaching career of Ergin Ataman.

Ataman began his managerial career with the Eczacıbaşı Youth Team, followed by a stint as the coach of the Efes Pilsen Youth Team. He then coached the BSL teams Türk Telekom, Pınar Karşıyaka, and Efes Pilsen, respectively. He served as the assistant coach of the Turkish national team alongside Ercüment Sunter during EuroBasket 1997 in Spain, where Turkey finished in 8th place. During the 1998-99 season, he spent time at Stanford University in the United States as an observer.

After returning to Europe, he coached the Italian side Montepaschi Siena and won the very last Saporta Cup with the club in 2002. He subsequently joined Ülkerspor (now Fenerbahçe Ülker) but had to quit due to personal issues, stating that his resignation was voluntary. Following his departure from Fenerbahçe, he returned to Italy and signed with Climamio Bologna, coaching there until his return to Turkey as the head coach of Beşiktaş during the 2007–08 season.

Ataman had a successful season with Beşiktaş, leading the team to the EuroCup Quarterfinals in Turin, Italy, after an undefeated 10-game streak in group B. This was the first time two Turkish teams played against each other in the competition, with Beşiktaş losing to Galatasaray Cafe Crown in the quarters. In the league, Beşiktaş finished the regular season in first place and participated in the playoffs. After Beşiktaş Cola Turka was eliminated in the quarters, it was announced that Ataman would no longer be coaching the team.

A week later, he signed a two-year contract with Efes Pilsen, where he had previously worked from 1999 to 2001. During the 2008–09 season, Ataman achieved major success, winning the Turkish League, Turkish Cup, and Turkish President’s Cup championships. On June 4, 2010, he left Efes Pilsen.

He signed a two-year contract with Beşiktaş in January 2011. In the 2010–11 season, he did not win any cups with Beşiktaş. However, the following season, he won the Turkish Cup in February 2012. He subsequently won the EuroChallenge title against Elan Chalon in the final on April 29, 2012, and finally, the Turkish League championship against Anadolu Efes in the playoff finals on June 11, 2012.

Ataman signed a multi-year contract with Galatasaray Odeabank on June 22, 2012. He won the Turkish League championship against Banvitspor in the playoff finals on June 15, 2013.

At the beginning of the 2014–15 season, Galatasaray struggled financially and faced several challenges, including player boycotts and injuries, leading to frustration and conflicts within the team. On October 19, 2014, Ataman was involved in an incident with Galatasaray player Nolan Smith, who threw a towel while being subbed out from a game against Banvit. Smith parted ways with the team the following week. On November 21, 2014, after a EuroLeague game against the Serbian team Crvena Zvezda in Istanbul, Ataman received negative publicity in Serbia for calling 300–400 Zvezda fans “Delije” terrorists. He stated that they were “attacking our police and our fans with torches and stones” and expressed concern for his and others’ safety. These comments followed the killing of a Crvena Zvezda fan by Galatasaray supporters before the game. Serbian PM Aleksandar Vučić responded, saying that Ataman was no longer welcome in Serbia. Ataman later apologized, stating that his remarks were made before he learned of the tragedy.

On June 6, 2015, he signed a two-year extension with Galatasaray, reportedly worth half a million euros per season. On April 27, 2016, Ataman’s team, Galatasaray Odeabank, defeated Strasbourg at Abdi İpekçi Arena to win the EuroCup title, marking his third European-wide championship as a head coach.

In December 2017, Ataman signed a contract with Anadolu Efes. During the 2018–19 season, he led Anadolu Efes to the 2019 EuroLeague Final Four, where they lost in the final to CSKA Moscow. On May 23, 2019, Ataman signed a two-year contract extension with Anadolu Efes.

In the 2020–21 season, Ataman won the EuroLeague title, defeating Barcelona in the final. He became the first Turkish coach to win the EuroLeague title. The following season, he won the Turkish Cup in February 2022. He won the EuroLeague title for the second consecutive year in the 2021–22 season by defeating Real Madrid in the final.

On April 21, 2023, Ataman signed a two-year contract with the Greek Basket League and EuroLeague powerhouse Panathinaikos, marking a new chapter in his career. The deal was made official on June 20, 2023.

Sarunas Jasikevicius vs Ergin Ataman Euroleague stats:

Below we will see the comparison of the two coaches from their Euroleague career and which one of them is superior:

Sarunas Jasikevicius

Žalgiris2015–161221017%Eliminated in Top 16 stage
Žalgiris2016–1730141647%Eliminated in regular season
Žalgiris2017–1836221461%Won in 3rd place game
Žalgiris2018–1934161847%Eliminated in quarterfinals
Žalgiris2019–2028121643%Season stopped due to COVID-19 pandemic
FC Barcelona2020–2140281270%Lost in the final game
FC Barcelona2021–2239281172%Won in 3rd place game
FC Barcelona2022–2339261367%Lost in 3rd place game

Ergin Ataman

Montepaschi2002–0322111150%Won in 3rd place game
Ülker2003–04136746%Eliminated in Top 16 stage
Ülker2004–0522101245%Eliminated in quarterfinals
Ülker2005–061961332%Eliminated in Top 16 stage
Bologna2006–07145936%Eliminated in regular season
Efes Pilsen2008–09104640%Eliminated in regular season
Efes Pilsen2009–101661038%Eliminated in Top 16 stage
Galatasaray2013–1427131448%Eliminated in quarterfinals
Galatasaray2014–152461825%Eliminated in Top 16 stage
Galatasaray2016–1730111937%Eliminated in regular season
Anadolu Efes2017–181841422%Eliminated in regular season
Anadolu Efes2018–1937241365%Lost in the final game
Anadolu Efes2019–202824486%Season cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
Anadolu Efes2020–2141271466%Won EuroLeague Championship
Anadolu Efes2021–2234211362%Won EuroLeague Championship
Anadolu Efes2022–2334171750%Eliminated in regular season

As we can see, Ergin Ataman has more coaching experience than Sarunas Jasikevicius, but the latter has achieved better results with a 57% win rate until the 2022-2023 season. This season, Sarunas Jasikevicius has recorded 17 wins and 9 losses in the Euroleague, giving him a 65.3% winning percentage up to the semifinal games. Ergin Ataman, who has been in charge of Panathinaikos since the beginning of the season, has 26 wins and 13 losses, resulting in a 66.6% winning percentage.

The challenges of the two coaches for the 2023-2024 season.

Ergin Ataman took over Panathinaikos, a team that had lost sight of its Euroleague goals in recent years, and with an almost entirely new roster, managed to bring them to second place and lead them to the Final Four. It should be noted, however, that Panathinaikos made significant investments this year, bringing in players such as Mathias Lessort, Kendrick Nunn, Kostas Sloukas, Juancho Hernangomez, and Mario Grigonis.

On the other hand, I believe Sarunas Jasikevicius faced a more challenging task this year. He took over Fenerbahce with an existing roster in the middle of the season and had to manage a highly diverse team, ensuring each player received adequate playing time. Despite these challenges, he achieved remarkable balance within the team. Fenerbahce is now playing exceptional team basketball and has rightfully earned a place in the Final Four.

Final thoughts.

As you can see, both coaches have an excellent track record and impressive results. If anyone should be favored, however, I think it’s Ergin Ataman, primarily because he has a longer coaching career and has managed to win the EuroLeague title two years in a row. However, Sarunas Jasikevicius’ task is much more challenging and memorable, as he managed to completely transform Fenerbahce this season, reaching the Final Four and defeating Monaco in the playoffs without home court advantage. Ultimately, the battle between the two coaches will be decided on the court, where it will become clear who will emerge as the best this year.


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Posted in Blog, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, Panathinaikos AKTOR Athens, Teams.

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