BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Will Zeljko Obradovic be the man to take a Turkish club to the top of Europe for the first time?|
While the special weight of Turkey in European basketball is beyond dispute, the country is represented by a blank spot when one looks at the map of clubs who have conquered the Euroleague title.
In fact Turkish clubs have only won a European trophy on two occasions, the Korac Cup of Efes Pilsen (now Anadolu Efes) in 1995 and the EuroChallenge of Besiktas in 2012.
When it comes to the top continental club competition the absence of Turkey is striking, especially when one considers that no team from the country has even ever had a shot at the title.
Efes remains the one and only Turkish club to have even competed in the Euroleague Final Four, but failed to reach the gold-medal game.
It has not been for lack of trying, as for years Efes, Fenerbahce Ulker and to a great extent Galatasaray Medical park, who won the domestic BEKO TBL title last month, have put together strong rosters and made use of seemingly endless resources to achieve this goal.
Now it appears that Fenerbahce have delivered a master stroke however, by handing the reins of their team to Zeljiko Obradovic.
The Serbian maestro, who took a sabbatical year after 13 seasons at the helm of Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos, was announced officially as Fenerbahce's head coach on Tuesday.
Just like with Turkish basketball's ambition to finally conquer a Euroleague title, there can be little doubt that Obradovic is the most successful European coach in history.
Ever since guiding a youthful Partizan Belgrade side to the conquest of the trophy in 1992, in his debut season as a coach, he went on to win a further seven Euroleague finals, five with Panathinaikos and one each with Joventut Badalona and Real Madrid, which remains the Spanish giants' last until now.
While pacing the sidelines in charge of Yugoslavia, from 1996 to 1999, he steered the nation to gold medals at EuroBasket 1997 and the 1998 World Championship, as well as silver at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
With an all-time record number of Euroleague titles under his belt, the 53-year-old Serbian tactician has nothing left to prove at this point, but in Fenerbahce he is arguably assuming one of the biggest challenges in his highly-decorated career.
On the domestic front, his mission statement includes dethroning arch-rivals Galatasaray, of coach Ergin Ataman, who conquered the TBL title on an impressive unbeaten run that started in January.
On the European front, the challenge is to bring an end to the Euroleague 'curse' of Turkish basketball and, finally, help Fenerbahce and the country earn their spot on the European map of glory.