Sasha Djordjevic said it well: “This team has a Serbian core.” He’s right about that! His Virtus Bologna just tore through the Italian Series A playoffs with a 10-0 record: 3-0 vs. Treviso in the quarters; 3-0 against Brindisi in the semis; and 4-0 against heavily favored Olympia-Armani Milan in the final, in the upset of all upsets. Only it wasn’t an upset! Not when you win 4-0. And, they had no close games in the final series, as they won by +6, +11, +18 and +11. So, this was a powerful showing by Virtus. They played 40’ of basketball every game! An example: it was 52-52 after three quarters in Game 3 and Virtus took the 4th quarter by 24-6!
Coach Aleksandr ‘Sasha’ Djordjevic had one of the best-organised defensive schemes ever seen anywhere. He knew he had a team of players between 195 cm and 200 cm in height. So, each of his players could guard a big man or a small man, a point guard or a center. That meant they could switch on any pick-and-roll situation and not get hurt. Most of all, his players were beautifully drilled in ‘help and recover.’ It’s easy to help. It’s hard to help AND RECOVER. His big man, like Julian Gamble, would stop the point guard and then hustle back to pick up their big man inside before any damage could be done. It was a masterful job of coaching.
Milos Teodosic was voted MVP of the final series and there was not much doubt about that. He made killing ‘threes’ and killing passes. He showed he could mix in one-on-one drives with his great outside game. He showed his great leadership and great charisma through the entire playoffs, especially in the final series against Milan. He hit at least one crucial shot in each of the four games. That is, he made that one basket that decided the course of the game. He was modest when given the MVP, saying that was not important, that the team was important. That’s why he’s a CHAMPION and not just a great player.
For fans in Serbia, you could say Virtus had today’s equivalent of Ranko Zeravica as its coach and today’s equivalent of Dragan Kicanovic as its star player. I coached against both Zeravica and Kicanovic and I feel the similarities are there. Djordjevic, like Zeravica, was a flawless game manager. Teodosic, like Kicanovic, was a dominant showman on the floor. They proved not only to be a winning combination but, as their 10-0 record shows, an unbeatable combination. Well, winning is nothing new for coaches and players from Serbia. Their countrymen can be proud of what they did in Italy’s Series A. They were, indeed, the Serbian core of Virtus Bologna.