What happens during that key period of a game when nothing is happening on the court…the half-time interval? When teams go behind closed doors, the locker room is their inner sanctum. No cameras, no refs, no media is allowed. There is limited time, but there is plenty to do. Anadolu Efes Istanbul coach Ergin Ataman reveals all.
"When the buzzer sounds at the end of the first half, the players head into the locker room but for the first five minutes I leave them alone. They need some time to relax and to drink water or have a massage, because immediately after the halfitme buzzer the adrenalin is too high and they need to be ready to understand what kind of strategy we need in the second half. It's important that they have five minutes to relax and get ready to prepare for the second half. So at first I leave them completely alone. Our physical trainers are in the locker room with them, but I don't know what they do or say because I am not there!
"I am more interested in team stats than individual stats."
"Instead, I go into another room with my assistants, or if that room is too small we just stand in the corridor – any space away from my players – and we analyze the first half. The stats I especially look for are team assists, rebounds and steals. OK, I also want to know who is scoring and shooting well, but the details of assists, rebounds and steals give me a good overall view of the first half, especially comparing our stats with the opponents' stats. I am more interested in team stats than individual stats, but of course if an opposing player is doing a really great job, we will analyze what he is doing and try to find a solution.
"Another thing we have to think about is that if one of my players had a great first half, I know that on the other side of the corridor the opposing coaches are getting ready to stop him, too. So we discuss what kind of solution they will find, and what we will do about this.
"Sometimes – but not every game – I will also look at video with my assistants during this first five minutes, if they have something important to show me. We will analyze our offensive situations, look at which set offenses were successful, which parts of our defensive strategy were good or bad. I check our spacing on offense because this is the most important thing for me offensively, and look at our defensive rotations, but there isn't much time so this takes no more than two minutes.
"Then, still outside with my assistants, we talk for two minutes about the kind of conversation we must have with the players, and then – six or seven minutes into halftime – I will go into the locker room. I only have about four minutes with the players, and that time is split roughly 50/50 talking about tactical aspects and then motivation.
"The time is split roughly 50/50 talking about tactical aspects and then motivation."
"At first, I talk to the players about the mistakes we made in the first half, and any kind of changes we will make in the second half. Sometimes I will use the whiteboard, sometimes I use my own tactics board, but I never use video with the players at halftime because it's too difficult in that short time to show anything clearly and make the players concentrate on video.
"Motivation is also very important, and there can be very different motivations from game to game. For example, maybe you are up by 15 points and you must take care of this lead but not think the second half will be easy, to be ready for a reaction from the other team. Or maybe you are down 15 and need to remember that it's possible to come back and that we should continue to battle for the win.
"So the four minutes I spend with the players is half and half, tactics and motivation. I talk to the team as a group rather than individually. But after I finish the group talk, if I need to talk to an individual player, maximum one or two players, I'll keep him in the corner and talk to him for no more than 30 seconds. If one our guys had a bad first half, we try to give him confidence, encourage him to forget about the first half and get ready for the rest of the game.
"Around four minutes before the start of the second half, the players go back onto the court to get ready, and during that time I give them no instructions. They are not completely free, because we have some rules about shooting practice, but my assistants will take care of that in the same way they do at the start of the game.
"Just before the second half starts, maybe I will remind the players about the first offense we will run, and my assistants are free to remind individual players about some modifications they should remember. And that's it – we're ready for the second half!"