| ||Jeff Taylor has been covering European basketball since 1997, when he first worked on the television program SLAM. He has been a basketball writer and broadcaster since that time, traveling the continent and covering the game in depth for FIBA Europe since its launch in 2003. |
One thing great teams must do to remain competitive is to undergo change.
Three EuroLeague Women clubs to do so in recent times have been Sparta&K M. R. Vidnoje, Ros Casares Valencia and Bourges Basket.
Clubs don't always get it right.
Several months ago, immediately after Jordi Fernandez led Ros Casares into the Quarter-Finals, the Valencia team showed the coach the door and put Natalia Hejkova in charge.
Hejkova, four times a championship-winning coach in the EuroLeague Women as coach of Ruzomberok (1999 and 2000) and Sparta&K (2007 and 2008), steered the Spanish team past Bourges and into the Final Four.
|Point guard Silvia Dominguez, who signed from arch-rivals Perfumerias Avenida, is one of the many new faces at Ros Casares this season |
Ros came up short of the title, though, and ended up second to Perfumerias Avenida in Spain's Liga Femenina.
This season, despite winning plenty of games, Ros looked like a side that was not reaching its full potential.
After improving to 8-2 with an 84-70 victory over Lotos Gdynia on 14 December, the club dismissed Hejkova and handed the reins to Roberto Íñiguez.
Ros haven't lost a game since and have looked almost unbeatable, although it's helped Íñiguez that superstar Maya Moore joined the team in January.
"The team has made a radical change and now we're on the path to where the team can achieve its aims," Ros Casares general manager Carme Lluveras said.
"Our aim is not winning, but the club's aim is to achieve the maximum based on the quality of the team that we have and right now, we're satisfied."
Ros Casares on Tuesday host CCC Polkowice in Game 1 of a best-of-three Round 2 play-off series.
The side that wins will be among the eight teams to compete in the EuroLeague Women Semi-Final Round in Istanbul in late March.
Bourges have also had to cope with change.
At the end of last season, long-time boss Pierre Vincent announced he was leaving the team to coach the ASVEL men's team and Bourges appointed Valerie Garnier as his replacement.
The French giants, who welcomed Celine Dumerc back to the club following her two-year spell with UMMC Ekaterinburg, didn't have the services of veteran center Emmeline Ndongue until January because of the Achilles tendon injury she suffered at the EuroBasket Women.
The team has gradually improved under Garnier, who will serve as assistant to Vincent at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Ankara, and Ndongue has brought leadership and a combative quality to the side that has made it more formidable.
"At the beginning of the season, it was really tough for us because we had a lot of injuries, sickness, new coach and new girls so it was a mess," Bourges forward Endene Miyem said.
"Now, it's better. We're working to improve our collective play and I think it's working."
Ndongue has made a big difference, both with her basketball ability and her leadership.
"Some of us knew Pierre Vincent really well, but this is just life in basketball," Ndongue said.
"Changes happen and you just have to get used to it. Now, I think we're in a good way.
"I hope we can get better and go further, but we'll see."
|The beginning of the season "was a mess" but later things started falling into place for Bourges, says forward Endene Miyem|
Bourges now face a difficult Round 2 best-of-three series against Rivas Ecopolis.
Unlike Ros Casares and Bourges, Sparta&K have had stability at the coaching position with Pokey Chatman.
Having led the team to its fourth EuroLeague Women crown in 2010, Chatman guided Sparta&K to a runner-up finish last season.
Sparta&K lost Sue Bird to Russian rivals UMMC Ekaterinburg and said good-bye to others, yet still claimed a first-place finish in Group C.
"Sue Bird's a collegiate, WNBA, Euroleague Women, Russian League and Olympic champion, that played in our system for years," Chatman said.
"That element cannot be replaced.
"Fortunately, we were able to sign Becky Hammon, although different from Sue Bird, she has been extremely productive and I have not had to languish over the loss of Sue."
Sparta&K lost other players, too, but they brought in some very good ones, too, like Seimone Augustus.
The USA international, prevented from playing at the 2010 World Championship because of health problems, battled back and led the Minnesota Lynx to the WNBA title last season.
"Gosh, I can't begin to express to you how fortunate I am to coach Seimone, again," Chatman said.
"She's a gem! In every aspect.
"The basketball is the most obvious, however she's also extremely coachable, loves to be challenged, is a great teammate, etc.
"I could go on and on, but I think you get the point."
Sparta&K now have a hard Round 2 series against Nadezhda, but Chatman doesn't care.
She enjoys the challenge of the EuroLeague Women, and this is something that she has transmitted to her players.
"I love the strength of so many teams," she said.
"Every team presents a different set of challenges, and therefore your preparation has to be on point - every drill, every practice, every video session.
"It is what makes competing so exhilarating."