|"I had been prepared to deliver a very different press conference speech" joked Galatasaray head coach Ekrem Memnun after his team stunned UMMC Ekaterinburg |
By Paul Nilsen
When Ekrem Memnun left Ekaterinburg winless last season with Galatasaray odeabank, he could barely have imagined that a year later he would be forty minutes away from the EuroLeague Women title.
To say he successfully masterminded a surprise by toppling defending champions UMMC Ekaterinburg in the semi-finals is probably an understatement.
For most people (if not everybody), didn't give Memnun and his players a chance.
"We didn't actually scout UMMC at all during the regular season and we just watched them here and came up with a plan," explained the play-caller who has already collected the Turkish Cup and regular season TKBL title.
"I thought we actually had a really good game plan prepared and for all of Thursday, I was trying my best to continue selling it to my players.
"Now I realise that I have to thank them very much, because they definitely bought it!
"Trying to even describe what kind of achievement it is to beat such a great team like UMMC on their home court in a game of this magnitude is impossible.
"I still can't find words to describe it and I had been prepared to deliver a very different press conference speech."
Not that Memnun didn't believe in his players - far from it.
It was simply that even with the best game plan imaginable and huge belief, it would still take something seriously special to shoot down the holders.
But having been at Galatasaray for much of his life and having taken the team to a third-placed EuroLeague Women finish way back in 1999, heart and belief has always been at the very core of things.
"Let me tell you," he said.
"Since the day I arrived at Galatasaray, we were taught every single second of how to fight for this club and to always believe.
"I have coached with all of the different teams and it is always this same philosophy.
"We knew it was a small chance that we had, but this is all we needed to continue this great season and I congratulate my players."
|"She might not be tall, but she is one who certainly has a huge heart" - Memnun on Isil Alben |
Typifying the spirit and especially during the semi-final against UMMC was playmaker, Isil Alben.
The Turkish national team guard was superb and it was her five offensive rebounds which proved to be one of the main cornerstones of the success.
"She might not be tall, but she is one who certainly has a huge heart," said Memnun.
"I am proud to coach all of my players and Isil is such an important part of this team because she is one of our floor leaders."
Now the coach is sweating on the fitness of FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year, Sancho Lyttle and is not sure if he will be able to call upon the services of his star forward.
"We don't know about the situation and maybe she has twisted her ankle a little, so I think we will just have to wait and see," he claimed.
But having completed the job without her against UMMC, perhaps his team's chances won't hinge solely on whether the Spanish national team star makes it or not.
So far at least, Memnun has done a fine job and and this sentiment was echoed loudly when he took the applause of the predominantly Russian media when he left the post-game conference after beating the defending champions.