Karasev Triumph-ant In Moscow

13 February 2014
Vasily Karasev (Ural Great Perm)
Vasily Karasev was an accomplished player and has eased into coaching since giving up pounding the hardwood

Dimitris Kontos

Coach Vasily Karasev discusses with Triumph Lyubertsy's EuroChallenge campaign, why playmakers turn into coaches, his philosophy, the Russian national team and his son, Sergey.

Vasily Karasev is a native of Saint Petersburg but has tied his fortunes with a Moscow Region club, Triumph Lyubertsy.

The 43-year-old former Russian international choose to terminate his highly decorated playing career at Triumph and for his son Sergey, to start his at the same club when he was just 15 years old.

Karasev joined the coaching staff of Triumph following his retirement and was promoted to head coach midway through the 2011/12 season.

He made an impact already during the early days of his reign, as Triumph overcame a 0-3 start in the EuroChallenge Last 16 to qualify to the quarter-final play-offs and then knocked out favourites Fuenlabrada to reach the Final Four of the competition.

During his tenure, Triumph qualified for the VTB United League play-offs on back-to-back seasons, reached the Eurocup Top 16 last year and are back in the EuroChallenge this season, currently occupying second place in Last 16 Group K with a 3-1 record.

You are facing Royal Hali Gaziantep on Tuesday in a clash that could determine qualification or even top spot in Group K. The Turkish team has been on a roll since Jure Zdovc took over as their coach and defeated you in the reverse fixture in Russia. What do you like about them as a team and what explanation you have for their winning streak?

Since they changed coach they first of all changed their defence. So Gaziantep as a team now play much better defence, they put more emphasis on defence than they used to do. That's the main reason why they are a better team now. We played the first game at home following a very hard schedule and it really showed during the game, we were not in good shape. Next week it will be similar, because just two days ahead of the game in Turkey we play at VEF Riga, a very important game for us because it will basically decide third place in our group in the VTB League.

Triumph Lyubertsy head coach Vasiliy Karasev, EuroChallenge Final Four 2012
In his short career coaching, Vasiliy Karasev has already been to one EuroChallenge Final Four 2012

Do you think Triumph can beat Gaziantep on the road?

Of course we will try to do our best to get first place in the EuroChallenge group but it will be a very long trip, so a lot will depend on our medical and physical conditioning team, who have a tough job to get the players ready for this tough trip and two games. I can tell you we have already started preparing for Gaziantep.

Some players (like Kyle Landry, Dmitry Kulagin or Evgeny Valiev) are the same as in the 2012 Triumph side, but overall your roster has changed a lot. Do you have the depth as a team to make both the VTB League play-offs and repeat the EuroChallenge Final Four appearance of that season?

We have a totally different team now, especially because our young players have matured. So hopefully we have a better roster now than two years [ago]. Even though Sergey [Karasev] is not here, Tywain Mc Kee is not here, Jerry Jefferson is not here, we think that we have the right team because our Russian players are more experienced and our foreign players are more confident this year. We are looking forward to a good finish in both the VTB and the EuroChallenge at the end of the season.

Triumph's fast-paced game reminds one of teams that had Vasily Karasev at the point guard spot. Was it your choice to establish a style of play as a coach similar to the one you liked to follow as a player?

We look at our players first and we look at the team we are going to play against. We try to be successful not only when we play teams with average budgets, so to speak, but also against teams like Khimki, like CSKA Moscow, like Lokomotiv Kuban. We understand that if we go with slow basketball, half-court basketball against these teams, they will out-play us, for sure. That is why during practice we prepare ourselves to play an up-tempo game and with this kind of basketball we can be competitive in the VTB League or in the EuroChallenge.

The VTB league's all-time most successful (in terms of W/L percentage) coaches list includes Sergey Bazarevich, Jure Zdovc, Evgeny Pashutin and yourself. Why are there so many point guards of your generation there?

It's quite simple really, it's in the word, 'playmaker'. He is the guy that makes the plays because he is in a position where he can see the court better than anyone else, better than the big guys. So the playmaker has to rule the game and is already a coach on the court and he cannot care only about himself but also about four other guys who are on the court with him. That is why you already start thinking about your teammates more and of course at the end of your playing career you already have more knowledge, more experience, more feeling of the game and that is why point guards become better coaches.

You are in the Top-15 of that list although you were still playing five years ago. Do you feel you have accomplished a lot as a coach in a short amount of time?

You know, actually I don't think I am still at the best level right now, I am still learning, growing up as a coach. I have more experience now than last year or two years ago, but still have things to improve to become a good coach. It's more or less the same evolution process for a coach as it is for a young player.

You were the Russia head coach at EuroBasket last September and played against Italy it the First Round, now Russia have been drawn against Italy [and Switzerland] in the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round. What do you think about these upcoming clashes with the Italians in the summer?

4. Sergey Karasev (Russia)
Vasily Karasev believes his son Sergey is NBA-ready and just needs to be given the playing time to prove it

It's a very good team, very well-coached team, with players that know their roles. They didn't change the coach, they didn't change the players, they will have the same system and they play as a team, from the point guard to the big guys everybody knows exactly what is supposed to do. This is their big strength. They didn't have star players, maybe except [Marco] Belinelli, but it's very hard to beat them, you have to be on the same level as a team and you have to have your high quality players. But even if you have the best players on paper, you still have to play as a team and have high discipline on the court to have a good chance to beat them. Otherwise [playing Italy] will give you a lot of problems. We had a hard time [at EuroBasket 2013] and I know that, it's really hard to have success in Europe. We brought a lot of young players [on the Russian team] to give them experience.

Have you been to Cleveland yet? How is Sergey doing?

Yes, I've been during the weekend break. He is doing fine, he is a little bit upset about playing time. He seems comfortable there in Cleveland, he is keeping in touch with everybody and he works hard to improve his game time, to play for the Cavaliers.

Have you ever thought that maybe he needed more time in Europe, that he went to the NBA too soon?

As a father, I will always say that my son is ready. And if we talk about Sergey as a basketball player, he has a very high basketball IQ. He was always like that since he was very young, with the club, the junior Russian team, the senior national team. He was maybe not physical to handle on defence a player who is stronger but what he showed in Europe is that he is a good scorer, he is a high basketball IQ player and he proved here that he can play. Maybe they think that he is not ready yet but he is, he just needs the chance to show it.



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