The Turkish tactician had plenty of reason to celebrate as his team won its third straight game.
Ataman joins 200-win club as Panathinaikos starts to roll
Ergin Ataman added another milestone to his impressive Turkish Airlines EuroLeague career in Round 9 of the 2023-24 season, as Panathinaikos Athens stood strong with an impressive 90-76 victory over Virtus Segafredo Bologna. That triumph marked Ataman’s 200th win to date in the EuroLeague and it was also a performance that showed the new Panathinaikos project is starting to really roll.
Ataman joined an exclusive club of coaches with 200 EuroLeague wins, becoming just the seventh man to accomplish the feat. The all-time leader in wins is Zeljko Obradovic with 339, followed by Ettore Messina (302), Xavi Pascual (241), Pablo Laso (239), Dimitris Itoudis (217) and Dusko Ivanovic (206).
Ataman’s journey to 200 wins
The 57-year-old Ataman, who is in his 17th season coaching the EuroLeague, reached that achievement of 200 wins in his 397th game as a head coach in the competition.
Altogether, 11 of his wins came with Montepaschi Siena (2002-03), 22 with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (2003-06), five with Fortitudo Bologna (2006-07), 10 in his first with Anadolu Efes Istanbul (2008-10), 30 with Galatasaray Istanbul (2013-15; 2016-17), 117 in his second spell at Efes (2017-23) and now five with Panathinaikos.
Panathinaikos on the right track
Speaking after the Greens’ win against Virtus, which improved Panathinaikos’s record to 5-4 and was the team’s third straight victory, Ataman was particularly pleased with the entertaining style of basketball that was on show.
“I liked this game. [It’s nice to get] the 200th win like this and not how we played two days ago [when we beat Zalgiris Kaunas, 73-71],” said Ataman. “We played good basketball. Virtus is a very good team.
“Some parts of the game we played great defense. Offensively we moved the ball very smart, very well. It was one of our best games this season in the EuroLeague. I am proud of this 200th victory with good basketball.”
The Turkish tactician arrived in Athens this offseason under plenty of pressure, having been tasked with replicating the project he undertook at Efes. In just a few years, Ataman transformed Efes into a EuroLeague superpower and won back-to-back EuroLeague crowns in 2021 and 2022.
After a few barren years at OAKA, Panathinaikos’s leadership came calling as the clubs wants to start winning again, having last reached the EuroLeague Playoffs in the 2018-19 season and won the last of its EuroLeague titles in the 2010-11 campaign.
The fans are truly behind the team
In addition to Ataman, the club brought in some big-name new players and expectations immediately went through the roof. Fortunately, the fans are fully on board with the project and have come out in force to cheer on the Greens, be that at home or on the road.
After having won four of its last five games, a crowd of 13,852 took their seats at OAKA for Panathinaikos’s game against Virtus. And Ataman loved feeling the push of the supporters.
“I am very happy because the arena had [13,000+] fans. That is my dream, to have this atmosphere and start to win, start to have synergy with the fans and play basketball that the people enjoy,” Ataman said of the back-to-back crowds of more than 10,000 fans.
“We didn’t just win the game, but I think all the supporters here enjoyed the game, especially the last quarter and my players’ hustle.”
Ataman knows better than most just how much those fans can give Panathinaikos a boost at OAKA, having been on the receiving end with his previous clubs. But now, if it wasn’t clear already, the Greens’ fans can feel that the Ataman era is already starting to take hold.
Beating an in-form Virtus, which had won six of its last seven games, has not been an easy task this season. However, Ataman also has the weapons to do just that.
One of those weapons is Mathias Lessort, the team’s French center who starred last season at Partizan Mozzart Bet Belgrade. Yet, Lessort was not aware that Ataman had just celebrated his 200th EuroLeague win as a head coach.
“Congratulations to him. That’s why he is here, because he’s a coach who knows how to win. We want to be a winning team, so having a coach who can win like this is amazing for us,” Lessort said.
Many wondered how quickly all the star pieces could click together. But just nine games into the season, Ataman is showing why he is one of the greatest.