It’s a trivia question with an expiration date – and that date is tomorrow. To wit: “Which head coach holds the record for longest time between Euroleague titles?”
For the next, what, 26 hours or so, the answer is “Alexander Gomelsky.” Most well-known as the Team USSR coach, the Naismith/FIBA Hall of Famer took the Euroleague title in 1960 with ASK Riga and would return to take the championship with CSKA Moscow in ’71.
But this year’s matchup of CSKA and Olympiacos automatically changes that. Featuring coaches Jonas Kazlauskas and Dusan Ivkovic, the record will be rewritten at tomorrow night’s Euroleague championship. Kazlauskas was handed an all-star lineup with Moscow this year to return to his first EL Final Four – never mind the championship game – since 1999; in that season, he brought a Žalgiris squad which included the likes of George Zidek, Thomas Masiulis, Saulius Štombergas and Tyrus Edney to the top.
And though Ivkovic has been more of a presence in Euroleague play since the 90s, the coach’s title drought is even longer than that of Kazlauskas, having taken the championship with Olympiacos back in the Reds’ only triple crown season of 1997.
Though over the past 15 seasons Ivkovic has taken four national cups, three domestic titles and one Eurocup, winning the biggest club competition has evaded his grasp. Perhaps the cruelest turn in this span were the three consecutive visits his CSKA teams made to the EL Final Four from 2003 to 2005 ending in one third- and two fourth-place finishes, only to see Ettore Messina break the Red Army through to the top spot in 2006.
An interesting side note: Both Kazlauskas’ and Ivkovic’s championship victories represent the only Euroleague titles for their respective clubs.
Whoever wins the big game tomorrow night, then, an all-time great coach is guaranteed to receive another highlight on an impressive résumé … one that’s been more than a decade in the making. And the birth of a new answer to a key Euroleague trivia question…