Kokoskov used 'time' to turn Fenerbahce into a force

Jan 29, 2021 by Euroleague.net Print
Kokoskov used 'time' to turn Fenerbahce into a force

Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul was in rare form on Thursday in trouncing Khimki Moscow Region for its eighth straight win. While it would be an exaggeration to say that what Fenerbahce is doing under Coach Igor Kokoskov in their first season together is something never-before-seen, many things his charges accomplished in Moscow have not been seen in more than a decade.

The club had the second-best two-point shooting night in EuroLeague history by making 29 of 34 two-pointers (85.3%). The best ever – 87.5% by Panathinaikos Athens against EWE Baskets Oldenburg – was in 2009. Four Fenerbahce players posted performance index ratings of at least 23 - Lorenzo Brown (25), Nando De Colo (23), Dyshawn Pierre (26), Jan Vesely (27). The last time that happened in a EuroLeague game was 11 years ago. Together they helped the club record a collective PIR of 155, which tied the ninth-best ever in the competition and smashed the Fenerbahce record of 143, which it set as Ulker against Kinder London Towers in October 2001!

Many things have fallen into place for Fenerbahce to roar back from a 5-10 start to the season that included three losing streaks of at least three games and four losses by at least 20 points. Jan Vesely fully recovered from leg injuries that had plagued him. Nando De Colo also shook off injuries that sidelined him for over a month. EuroLeague newcomers Pierre and Jarell Eddie found their stride. And Marko Guduric arrived.

Modestly, Coach Kokoskov credited something besides himself for the team's recent surge: "Everything requires time. If you could just put guys together and roll the ball and play basketball, then anybody could put a team together," Kokoskov said after the game. "Our guys are dedicated, they're a good group of guys, they work hard and they’re willing to sacrifice for each other. And it requires time. Time was the biggest reason and factor that impacted our team. It's just the middle of the season and there's still a long way to go."

Of course, it has not simply been 'time' that has made Fenerbahce a force. It's also what Kokoskov has done with the time and how he has convinced his charges to buy into his style. The game in Moscow could have been what some call a "trap game." Fenerbahce was riding high and coming to play a last-placed Khimki side that had already lost 14 in a row.

"It was a very tricky game, very tough game, tough opponent because they were relaxed, they were loose and they played with guys who are capable of creating their own shots," the coach explained. Kokoskov not only had his players ready, but they were quick to credit him, too.

"We came here with the mindset that their backs are against the wall, that they have nothing to lose, so we tried to stay with the game plan," Vesely said.

"It was good that we stayed together throughout the whole game, followed the coaching plan," Pierre added.

Even the opposing coach on this night, Khimki's Andrei Maltsev, volunteered words of praise for his counterpart: "Coach Kokoskov found a European style of play, while not all the players were in the squad today, their roster is even larger. We can only admire how Fenerbahce's players were ready, determined to fight, and after the game held the day before yesterday, they were able to show such fast basketball."

It is a true credit to Kokoskov that his players have bought into his philosophy after a rough start to the season. Their current run is no fluke; half the victories on the team's streak have been by at least 20 points. If against Khimki they did things we haven't witnessed in more than a decade, who know what to expect next from Coach Kokoskov and co.