The 2023-24 EuroLeague season will have the first-ever EuroLeague play-in tournament. Previously, the top-eight teams advanced to the playoffs and were matched up in a best-of-five series accordingly. But this season will be different.
Using the format NBA fans are becoming accustomed to, the seventh and eighth-placed teams will face off with the winner locking up the seventh seed and the loser playing the winner of the game between the two teams placed ninth and tenth. The winner of the matchup between these two teams will qualify for the final playoff spot.
On a somewhat chilly Thursday night in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Baskonia hosted Maccabi Tel Aviv on the backend of a double-round week. Both teams were coming off of losses to open the week, Maccabi to Real Madrid, and Baskonia lost to Bayern Munich in overtime. The two teams were separated by only one game in the EuroLeague standings, with Maccabi in eighth at 13-11 and Baskonia tied for ninth at 12-12. The game had serious implications for the play-in tournament and was a near must-win for Baskonia after they lost their away fixture against Maccabi back in December.
This game featured political demonstrations, another chapter in player’s ongoing feuds with officiating this season with Wade Baldwin IV perhaps crossing the line, and a Baskonia victory thanks to great shooting from Markus Howard, Vanja Marinkovic, and Nikos Rogkavopoulos. Maik Kotsar and Chima Moneke also played 37 minutes each with other Baskonia bigs and Tadas Sedekerskis out for the evening. With this win, Baskonia moves into ninth and ahead of Maccabi who’s now in tenth. They would meet in the first round of the EuroLeague play-in tournament if it started tomorrow.
While the EuroLeague play-in tournament is new, Baskonia’s head coach, Dusko Ivanovic, is not. Well, not really. Ivanovic took over Baskonia before their Round 6 matchup with Partizan Belgrade. While Ivanovic’s arrival was new for this season, he’s very familiar with Baskonia. This is his fourth time coaching the club in his nearly 30 years as a head coach.
Ivanovic is adored by the club's supporters and has brought them three Liga ACB titles — one from each spell in charge of the club. While supporters adore him, players don’t always reciprocate those feelings. Ivanovic is known for lengthy and exhausting training sessions, and sayings such as, “tiredness does not exist.” But regardless of what people think of his style, it brings results.
The three ACB titles from previous years speak for themselves. Still, this season, Ivanovic took over when Baskonia was 1-4 and they immediately won four games in a row and seven out of their first eight under Ivanovic to shoot back up the standings and into the play-in hunt. Fighting for a spot in the play-in is new to Ivanovic, but far from the first time he’s had to face a unique challenge. EuroLeague, Baskonia, and even Ivanovic himself have changed throughout his coaching career.
“Like basketball changes, so do I,” Ivanovic told FanSided in the postgame press conference. “I think everything goes together. Obviously, my philosophy has remained the same from the very beginning but like you said basketball changes and I have to adapt to those changes too.”
With Ivanovic instilling a powerful resiliency into the Basque club that has helped shore up their defense, he has enabled them to lean into everything Markus Howard and Chima Moneke can provide on the offensive end. This team looked dead in the water when Ivanovic took them over earlier this season, and Ivanovic’s ability to get them back in the fight for postseason basketball serves as a reminder that no matter how much EuroLeague and the game of basketball changes, Dusko will be forever.