Nothing can erase the great achievements that David Blatt accomplished as Darussafaka Istanbul's head coach over the previous two seasons. But now the coaching maestro is with Olympiacos Piraeus and the pregame ceremony on Thursday in which he was awarded his 7DAYS EuroCup championship ring from last season's title run was his last formal activity with the club.
As Blatt exited the Darussafaka stage, Toney Douglas walked in. Though the victory over the Reds was his fifth game with the club, it was the first time that Douglas looked settled in comfortably as a team leader. He embodied all the things Coach Ernak said he expects from the team after the game in the press conference: "I am really thankful to my players because of the hustle and the smart action at the end. We are trying to build the team's character and personality, we are trying to build a reputation here the last two weeks, and I want everybody to know that Dacka, from today on, will be one of the most hustling, most physical teams in any competition we take part in."
Douglas was aggressive, physical, tough and calculated. His fast hands and good reading of the passing lanes not only led to 5 steals, which tied the club record, but also kept the Olympiacos guards on edge all night. Accordingly, he outscored (19 to 14), out-assisted (9-8), out-stealed (5-1) and committed fewer turnovers (1-4) that the two point guards he faced, Vassilis Spanoulis and Nigel Williams-Goss, despite playing 10 fewer minutes.
He shined most in the first quarter and late in the game. Douglas produced 6 points, 3 assists and 2 steals in the first quarter to spark Darussafaka to a fast start and a 24-12 lead after 10 minutes. He stepped up again late after Olympiacos rallied to within 72-69. Douglas scored a reverse layup, added a jumper and made 3 of 4 free throws, which allowed his team to hold on for a memorable win.
For one night, he was the Darussafaka hero. And if Douglas continues to produce big games like this one, he will work his way into the fans' hearts, just like David Blatt did.