“Have you ever seen a rookie team make the playoffs?” questioned Oleksiy Yefimov, with a smile, on December 26 in Marseille. At that time, when half the way had been covered in the Euroleague and AS Monaco was in 13th place in the table with six meager victories on the clock, no one could have predicted the outcome of this Friday, April 1, 2022. If maybe not the Ukrainian sporting director… “I’m still convinced that a few games would be enough to change the dynamic,” he said. “This is one of the reasons that made us say that we had to change the coach. It’s still early to give up in the Euroleague. The next two games can change everything. »
A success labeled Sasa Obradovic
Three months later, the prophecy came true. Thanks to Anadolu Efes Istanbul’s victory over ALBA Berlin (87-77), AS Monaco secured its place in the top eight. This not only secures you a ticket to the playoffs, but also the renewal of your EuroLeague lease for the next season! Or, in addition to the title of champion of France, the achievement of the biggest goal of the year for the Rock club, which had invested massively to achieve its goals (6.7 million payroll, even before the signing of Dwayne Bacon). “Getting to the playoffs is crucial,” Yefimov admitted in December, looking ahead to renewing Monaco’s commitment to the EuroLeague. “Of course it is extremely important. Once you’ve tasted the EuroLeague, once you’ve seen how incredible the competition is, you don’t want to go back…” And yet, circumstances didn’t help President Fedoricsev’s club validate such an achievement. Currently 7th in the classification, the Roca Team would even be 5th without the exclusion of the Russian clubs!
Sasa Obradovic ‘saved the season’ Monaco says Mike James
(photo: Sébastien Grasset)
No one will ever be able to give Zvezdan Mitrovic the honors he deserves, in particular that of having installed ASM among the gratins of continental basketball by winning the European Championship last year, but this achievement bears the mark of one man: that of Sasa Obradovic. . Back in mid-December on the shores of the Mediterranean, the Belgrade coach could win the Euroleague coach of the year trophy on his return to the Monegasque season. Before his arrival, the Roca Team seemed like a montage of individuals, without chemistry, unable to defend (a single trip below the bar of 80 points collected during the first leg). Thursday’s second half in Milan is one of the strongest proofs of his impact on this ground: only 26 points conceded. Upon his arrival, the former Red Star coach had identified the main evils of the Principality’s locker room: a dissatisfied atmosphere, the absence of a strong group. so he got aggregate to create a team spirit and it worked so well that Monaco remains in a series of 12 wins in 15 games. “Sasa’s approach, how he runs the team, the things he changed saved our season,” Mike James said in late January on The team. “This new energy has changed our dynamic. We play to our strengths more, I have more of the ball up front, we feed Donatas Motiejunas in the low post, Dwayne Bacon gets the ball in the places he likes… Sasa’s philosophy, passion and desire to win are contagious. Our former coach was sometimes too… passive, he didn’t pay the same attention to detail. At first, Sasa can be annoying, like a boss who repeats the same thing to you a thousand times until you execute it exactly how he wants. It’s exhausting, but when you feel his will to win and see the result, you can only try to follow him. He helped us a lot. »
And now, goal of the Final Four?
And if AS Monaco’s European season is already a success, the Roca Team can legitimately aim higher. Best attack in the competition, on an exceptional dynamic, endowed with some of the best individuals on the continent (Mike James, Dwayne Bacon…), the team from the Principality has something to scare any potential rival in the playoffs: FC Barcelona , Real Madrid, Olympiakos or Milan. It is enough to remember the demonstration against the team from Piraeus last week (92-72), the victory snatched in Lombardy on Thursday (72-64) or to observe how Real is losing momentum to be convinced. First French club in the playoffs since 2001, AS Monaco will certainly not go to the quarterfinals with a flower in the gun, to compensate for the numbers. So a French team back in the Final Four for the first time since ASVEL 1997? From now on, we would not bet against…