Hapoel Holon will begin the 2021/22 season with an unexpected new face on the sidelines in one Maurizio Buscaglia. The Italian bench boss joined the club after Stefanos Dedas surprisingly asked to leave in order to take over AEK Athens back and be closer to home in Greece.
However, one man’s loss is another man’s gain as Buscaglia will take over the reins of a Holon squad that went to the Final 8 of the Champions League, captured the Balkan League title while also challenging for the Israeli league and State Cup titles. With a solid base already in place for the purples, the Bari born coach will look to build upon the success of last season while adding in his own ideas and style into the mix.
In order to find out what type of style Buscaglia will indeed employ on the Holon Arena court The Sports Rabbi was in touch with three Italian basketball experts, Federico Gaibotti from Basket Universo, Alessandro Maggi who is with Sportando and Real Olimpia Milano along with Davide Fumagalli from EuroSport.it and Basket Caffe.com as they helped unpack the new Israeli league coach who moves to his first domestic league outside of his birth country.
“He’s a clever coach with a flexible mentality,” Gaibotti began. “He doesn’t have a specific way of playing. He just does the best (in strong cooperation with his technical staff) to make his players face any opponent properly.”
Maggi compared his style of play to that of Milano’s head coach Ettore Messina who has a number of Euroleague titles to his name, “Messina-style. Hard defense, play in the picture, play very hard without a center. He prefers a small-size center in order to change up on defense.”
“Buscaglia is a coach with a great work ethic,” explained Fumagalli. “Ha has had a lot of experiences since he was young as he began to coach when he was eighteen in the minor Italian leagues (Perugia, Mestre are among the teams he coached) and was able to conquer them through his results over the years. As was seen above all with Trento, his game is based on a controlled pace, solid defense and his teams do best with a small lineup and flexible roles, without real bigs but with athletic and mobile players who are also able to defend against the guards. On offense, he allows the players the freedom to create.”
The 52-year old’s longest tenure with one club was at Trento for a full decade between 2010-2019 where he was able to establish himself as one of the best in the business. Not only was Buscaglia successful in Italy where he helped take the northern club up to the top league, he also won the 2016 Coach of the Year award in the EuroCup where he was able to take the team all the way to the semifinals of the competition.
“At Trento he teamed up Salvatore Trainotti who is now the Italian National Team Sport Director and they built a good team,” Maggi said. “They selected quality Italian players including Davide Pascolo, Toto Forray and Diego Flaccadori along with hungry and very tough Americans in Dominique Sutton, Dustin Hogue and Shavon Shields and built a solid defensive team. Interestingly enough he always gets off to a bad start and ends up not qualifying for the Italian Cup but he always finishes big.”
Gaibotti agreed that the key to the club’s success had to do with Buscaglia and the management staff being on the same page, “Buscaglia and all the members of the club (from the management to the technical staff) were on the same wavelength, not only selecting players but also in sharing the same values, the passion for the sport and their ambitions. Trento’s success benefited not only the team and the fans, but the entire territory.”
“He created a masterpiece in Trento, taking the club from the third to the first division along with playing in two Italian League finals (2017 and 2018) as well as a EuroCup semifinal (2016)! In that environment, Buscaglia was able to work in serenity, without too much pressure and built very competitive teams step by step by having key players such as point guard Toto Forray.
“In Trento, he knew how to get the most out of the players that general manager Salvatore Trainotti was able to sign as L’Aquila became a model in Italian basketball because every year, after losing the best players they managed to stay on top. This says a lot about the great work done by Buscaglia, one who does not like the spotlight too much but prefers to talk about himself with the results of his teams.”
However, after all of the success Buscaglia had with Trento his last two stops on the coaching circuit perhaps did not go as well as he had planned as he struggled to make his mark at both Reggio Emilia and Pallacanestro Brescia.
“Reggio Emilia was his first team after Trento and it’s not always easy to do well when you find yourself in a completely new environment which was no different for him either,” Gaibotti stated. “After a good start, the team had a streak of poor results which prompted the club to terminate his contract. In Brescia, he arrived during a tough time and his aim was to revive the team which was not playing its best. For the most part he succeeded in the task, however, over the stretch run of the season he saw the team suffer seven defeats out of the last nine games.”
Fumagalli brought up a couple of other issues that created problems for Buscaglia, “Reggio Emilia saw many ups and downs and then the season was stopped by the pandemic. A new owner arrived and it was decided to exonerate him despite having a contract. At Brescia, on the other hand, he arrived after the club had won only won 4 games our of their first 16 and at the beginning he managed to build on good results. However, some players changed and the club lost many games at the end of the season and the club decided not to hold him back. I think that Buscaglia is a very good coach but he needs some time to apply his ideas and perhaps not under much pressure. After so many years at the same club in a sort of “comfort zone”, it is not easy to repeat those results elsewhere.”
As for his relationship with the players Maggi described Buscaglia as having “a normal character, professional with no particular connection,” while Gaibotti delved a bit deeper into who he really is, “He’s a coach that wants to take out the best from every player, not only as basketball players but also as people: he tries to understand their ups and downs as well as they mindset.”
Fumagalli also chimed in on the coach’s character and how that has also helped in developing players, “He manages to build an important relationship with his players based on mutual respect and trust. He is a coach who does not need to shout or raise his voice but relies heavily on the personality of his players on the court. Under his leadership important players have grown such as Dominique Sutton, Aaron Craft, Dustin Hogue and Shavon Shields, who played a leading role with Olimpia Milano in the Euroleague last year. As a person he is calm, polite, humble and kind and a very knowledgeable coach from a technical point of view.”
Although Buscaglia hasn’t coached in a domestic league outside of Italy, he took over the Netherlands National team program and was able to guide the team to the European Championships.
“I hope he will do well and I believe that he has the skills and experience to achieve good results. It is true that he has never coached a club outside of Italy but Buscaglia boasts important experiences abroad, both as the coach of Trento in the EuroCup and as coach of Holland. In less than two years, he has managed to take the Oranje National Team back to Eurobasket for only the second time in the last 30 years. Buscaglia also had an experience in the United States in 2016 when he was on the Brooklyn Nets coaching staff at the Summer League in Las Vegas.”
How the Italian will handle this challenge is yet to be seen but Gaibotti explained what he feels Holon will need to have in order to their new coach to succeed, “This will yet be another first experience: certainly he will not change his philosophy both in coaching and in relating with the players, but he will have to be good at quickly understanding how to keep to the high standards of the Winner League. Furthermore, it will be important for the club to have the patience, space and time to let him coach: in short, he dragged the Netherlands to the European Championships, so why not let him do what he needs to?”