As his name grew, Scariolo spent time studying Spanish and he was ready when he received an offer to coach in the ACB.
"There was probably no better place to make your first step outside your country than Spain and specifically Vitoria where there was a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of desire to climb to the next level," Scariolo said.
After guiding Baskonia to the Spanish league finals and the 1999 Copa del Rey, he moved on to Real Madrid and won the Spanish championship in his first season. The next stop in Spain was a much different team, Unicaja Malaga, which he also led to the league championship as well as a berth at the EuroLeague Final Four.
He left Unicaja in 2008 and the following season was appointed as Spain’s national team coach for the first time. The skills and approach needed to handle a team loaded with stars such as Real Madrid or the national team in certain eras compared to Unicaja led to a discussion about Scariolo’s coaching philosophy.
"You’ve got to really be available to play with other teammates, to share the ball, because nowadays the defense will be able to shut a selfish, even if he’s an extremely gifted player, down much easier than before. So first of all you have to feel the will to play together with your teammates, to share the ball. And second, you have to share the will to play defense," Scariolo detailed. "Those two principles are non-negotiable. I could barely coach a player who was not really into this, committed to this. Then all the rest you can have more or less flexibility."
Scariolo’s career would also include stops with Khimki Moscow Region in Russia, Olimpia Milan in Italy and Toronto in the NBA. He was part of the coaching staff that led Toronto to its only NBA crown in 2019. After three seasons with Toronto, Scariolo initially struggled with the decision to return home to Italy as a head coach.
"I remember that the night before the day I decided was the only sleepless night I’ve had in the last 20 years, even before a game or after a game. I couldn’t close my eyes all night. And then after making the decision, I felt like, ‘hey, it was a no-brainer,’” he said.
Scariolo has continued to make history with Virtus. Last season they won the 7DAYS EuroCup crown and now he has them in the playoff race in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. At age 61, Scariolo has plenty left in the tank to build Virtus into a European force once again.
With a one-hour format of exclusive one-on-one interviews, The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas goes well beyond the playing court with each podcast to delve into the life experiences that have made his guests protagonists and legends of the EuroLeague. The Crossover debuted in 2018 and has featured such current stars as Mike James, Nicolo Melli and Vasilije Micic, coaching greats such as Georgios Bartzokas, Dimitris Itoudis and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Theo Papaloukas, Nikola Vujcic and Mike Batiste, among others.
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