Dogus Balbay was almost too young to remember – but remember he certainly does – how Anadolu Efes Istanbul won the hearts of Turkish basketball lovers.
Club president Tuncay Ozilhan had nurtured the club since taking over second-division Kadikoyspor in 1976 and renaming it for his family business's beer brand, Efes. Quickly promoted to the Turkish first division, where it has been ever since, Efes dabbled briefly in a second sport, table tennis, but otherwise retained a laser-like focus on basketball, its president's first love.
The first dream was realized in 1996, when Efes won the Korac Cup to become Turkey's first-ever continental trophy-winner in a team sport.
"This club, when it was founded, obviously it was very small, but our president, Mr. Ozilhan, he made a lot of investment in the club and he treated it as his baby," Balbay says now. "Winning the first European [trophy] in Turkey...was such a big thing that everybody became a basketball fan because of this cup, and this cup kind of united people in Turkey. All the young kids and everybody else, they just loved the sport of basketball and the way that Efes represented us in the European arena."
Efes would go on to become the first Turkish team to reach a Final Four, in 2000, under a young head coach named Ergin Ataman. But by the time Balbay came to the club in 2011, after several years in the United States, he would have heard about Efes having become somewhat snake-bitten in its quest for another Final Four.
Despite compiling an impressive 63.8% win rate (67-38) in the EuroLeague between 2001 and 2006, Efes kept falling agonizingly short of the EuroLeague's crowning event, once missing it by a single three-point shot and another time losing a last, tie-break game in the playoffs. In the next five years before Balbay joined Efes, its win rate had dropped to 43.4%, based on a 36-47 record, and no playoffs appearances.
But Balbay also would have known that the bond between Efes and its fans was unbreakable. That was exemplified by, of all things, a team excursion to a classical music concert in early 2013, during Balbay's second season there, video of which has become a classic in the genre of fan tributes to their clubs.