Friday Frappé: Olympiacos fumble Blatt firing
After Olympiacos parted ways with David Blatt after just one EuroLeague outing, AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris looks at how the Piraeus club mistimed their decision to fire their head coach.
After an embarrassing defeat in their season-opener in the EuroLeague, Olympiacos officials made the tough call to part ways with head coach David Blatt. A lopsided 82-63 defeat at the hands of ASVEL Villeurbanne on the opening day of the EuroLeague season finally marked the end of a turbulent 12 months for Blatt, who never seemed to get the best out of an aging Olympiacos squad despite complete overhauls of the roster over the last two summers.
Olympiacos’ decision to sack their head coach certainly seems hasty after the squad he was given to work with was limited to EuroLeague action following the club’s somewhat voluntary relegation to the second tier of Greek basketball at the end of last season.
The Israeli coach, who recently revealed he has been diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, took over the reins at the club last season after Olympiacos opted not to renew Ioannis Sfairopoulos’ contract.
A rocky season on the domestic front saw Olympiacos forfeit a Greek Cup semifinal against Panathinaikos before a similar situation in the Basket League playoffs meant the Greek basketball showcase didn’t include Olympiacos for the first time in 14 years.
While Olympiacos were the authors of their own demise on the domestic front thanks to the club’s ongoing protest to Greek officials, it was a much different story in the EuroLeague. Despite a promising start to the season, Olympiacos ultimately threw away a comfortable grip on a playoff spot before crashing to an uninspiring 15-15 record in the regular season to finish short of a playoff spot.
In most years, Olympiacos’ combined failure in Greece and in Europe would spell the end of any head coach as the Piraeus club has been a regular fixture deep into domestic and European competitions. But Olympiacos’ self-destruction on the domestic scene seemingly overshadowed the club’s EuroLeague failure as the attention in the Greek press surrounded the club’s relegation from the Basket League after three forfeits against archrivals Panathinaikos.
With the focus in the offseason centered around the rebuilding of the Olympiacos roster, the club’s European failures were left on the backburner. The decision to feature a developmental team in domestic competitions also meant that there was even more change at the club as Blatt was asked to oversee two different rosters for both Basket League and EuroLeague fixtures.
Now, Olympiacos seems to be in line for plenty of criticism for the club’s handling of Blatt’s dismissal as the club have been labeled as too hasty; however, the Piraeus giants were in fact too late to reach the decision.
Olympiacos’ brass should have made the decision to part ways with Blatt in the offseason, and although that might have seemed insensitive following the revelation of Blatt’s MS diagnosis, the club have now backed themselves into a difficult situation for whoever is appointed the next head coach.
Without a full offseason of preparation, the new head coach will need to oversee a fractured roster that has half the players featuring in Greece and the other half in the EuroLeague. But the new head coach won’t have the ability to ease into the role as Olympiacos already appear to be on the backfoot in Europe and could face an uphill battle to make the playoffs – something the club can’t go without considering the club’s domestic status.