Simone Pianigiani, Head coach of Montepaschi Siena has devoted his coaching career to his hometown club leading his team to the Italian Championship in all five seasons since taking over as Head coach. Pianigiani has helped to transform the club from an Italian league challenger to Euroleague contender. Simone Pianigiani has also since 2009 taken the role of the Italian National team Head coach.
Read below Simone Pianigiani speaking to Future Stars on his progress in the Euroleague Top 16.
FS: How do you assess your season so far? In Euroleague you qualified to Top 16 with relative ease, winning all the games in your group so far. However on the domestic front you sustained a couple of unexpected loses and are very closely followed by a large group of teams which include both Emporio Armani and Benet Cantu. Did you expect such a tough campaign at home?
SP: Although we’ve had more losses in Italy than in the past, we’re happy with how our season has gone so far because we’ve maintained a high level despite a series of injuries and a situation that’s ongoing since the start of the season like that’s unprecedented here. Obviously, we’re worried because we’re not out of danger yet, so we don’t know yet if our season can still be a successful one, and especially if we’ll be competitive in the last stages of Euroleague. But so far the team has proven to have great mental strength and the desire to react to problems together.
FS: In Top 16 you were drawn to a very peculiar group with Real, Unicaja and Gescrap BB. What was your initial assessment of this group? Was playing against 3 teams coming from the same country an additional factor making your situation more difficult?
SP: When you make the Top 16, each group is unique and difficult. It’s true that it was a strange situation and that Real was the favorite. It was also true that for Spanish teams, there was less stress in terms of travel and a better understanding of each other, but I think that playing teams from the same country is an added stress and so it balanced it out. That being said, Real Madrid is standing out thanks to their skills and depth of roster. I think that like in all the other groups, everyone had a chance in this one and the games will be very hard-fought.
FS: After 3 games in the Top 16 you are in a very commanding position in your group. You not only won all of them but absolutely crushed opposition including an away victory against Real which you beat by 19 points. Would you shed some light on these 3 games, you seem to be winning with remarkable ease? Does that mean that as a team you are reaching your optimal level?
SP: No, nothing is certain yet. Top 16 , due to quality of the opposition and toughness of travelling schedule , can change all of a sudden and even though we played excellent games, this group is still a balanced one. When you have to play two close games against the same team you have to be able to improve and to increase the level in terms of execution and defensive concentration during these games. The second game, for those who won previously, is never similar to the first one, on the contrary it is more difficult and anything can happen. At the same time it is true that the team has started recovering some players therefore it has more capabilities to be consistent compared to the team we saw some months ago.
FS: Bo McCalebb is showing tremendous form in Top 16. How would you describe his influence and importance to your team?
SP: Surely Bo is a very important player for us because the role he plays and level of his skills. The team has been built in a way that might allow him to have his own space, at the moment the team is doing a great job in taking advantage of his skills.
FS: You had a tremendous campaign in Euroleague last year. Your series against Olympiacos was absolutely iconic and you looked very well in the Final Four. Do you think that thanks to this experience you can do even better this year?
SP: You can’t make comparisons between one season and the next in Euroleague. That’s even more true this year with the injury problems we have. But obviously, as we’ve always done in recent years, we’ll focus on one game at a time and try to challenge every team with our drive to win; the drive of a small city that tries to measure itself up each year against big, European metropolises.
FS: We are an organization which is dealing with high profile events for young players. Please explain why there is a very few young players who play an important role in Euroleague or even Euro Cup teams. In the 80’s or 90’s teams like Jugoplastica and Partizan were able to dominate the European scene being based on a very young players?
SP: Our sport has changed a lot – the rules, free circulation, the type of game. For those who play Euroleague today, the experience and habit of playing such a high number of games, especially while being familiar with each other, is very important in shortening the prep time for games, and that’s why top clubs try to steal players already tested in this type of journey.
FS: Which young players impress you mostly this season in Euroleague?
SP: Undoubtedly Madrid’s Mirotic is continuing along his growth process. But there are other young athletes able to show their potential without having the same impact on the league as Mirotic.