Alexey Vasilyev:
Avtodor Needs To Up The Tempo

The league's first coaching change this season took place at Avtodor with former assistant Alexey Vasilyev taking over in Saratov.
Vasilyev spoke with VTB-League.com about the changes on the court for Avtodor and explained why point guards often become excellent coaches.

- You're now the head coach at Avtodor. How has your job changed?
- I wouldn't say that anything changed all that much. Brad Greenberg set the course for my work during the preseason and determined my responsibilities, which I continue to execute. The only difference now is that I stand instead of sit during games. My biggest challenges was answering the congratulatory text messages that I received while preparing for the game against VEF (laughs).

- How prepared were you to take over at a VTB United League club? What had your career been like up to this point?
- To be honest, it's still hard for me to believe what happened. Yes, I'm the head coach and I've got a few games under my belt, but I haven't done anything significant yet.

I've been a coach for 10 years. I worked at Triumph and Zenit as an assistant for the last four years. I was an assistant on the team that won the Universiade in Kazan. I've stockpiled and processed a lot of information and interacted with a lot of coaches.

At first, there was no talk of being head coach. I came to help out Greenberg and the young guys on Avtodor's team. I figured it would be a good experience.

In the end, Vladimir Evstafevich Rodionov gave me an opportunity and I'm trying to take advantage. I think I'm ready. Ultimately, time will tell what happens. In addition, outside analysis will be much more important than my own assessment of my work.

- What's your coaching philosphy? What do you emphasize?
- It's a simple philosophy: I preach balance at all times, on both defense and offense. I love it when the team pushes the tempo, but there has to be a reason. I like aggressive basketball. Overall, I'm more focused on defense.

- What was the first thing that you changed as head coach?
- A lot has changed. We tried to increase the speed of our ball movement and emphasize defense. The defense is more aggressive and we throw in different looks. At times, we need to be more aggressive to prevent the opposition from using the same plays all game. Overall, Avtodor needs to be quicker and more aggressive, like last season. The players and the fans like that type of basketball.

- Your second game as head coach was in the Eurocup. You beat Zenit and Vasily Karasev, whom you worked under at Triumph, Zenit and the Russian national team.
- Yes, I know his methods and expectations. I know what he says during timeouts. I think I had an advantage. I had an idea of how the game would develop. The injury to Artem Vikhrov during the game also had an impact. I'd like to take the opportunity to wish him a speedy recovery.

I was just as nervous for that game as I was prior to my debut game against VEF. But my nerves disappeared with the whistle. All I could think about was beating Zenit.

- Let's talk about the team. Why did you decide to part ways with Malcolm Armstead?
- There were several reasons. We signed him with specific challenges and goals in mind. We wanted a quick point guard. He arrived and evidently had some trouble with his health. Malcolm is very talented individually, but didn't fit with the team. We talked with him and thought he would listen to what we wanted, but in the end we had to let him go.

- Has Paul Stoll done a good job of adapting to the team?
- He plays for the Mexican national team. He's very quick and can shoot the ball. Most importantly, he loves to win. He cares about it more than individual stats. He can drive the ball and cut open the defense. He's a pretty reliable shooter, plus he's not selfish and loves to share the ball.

- Vitaly Nosov recently said he doesn't believe in Artem Klimenko. What do you think: can he live up to expectations?
- I think a lot depends on Artem. He's got everything he needs to get better. I don't agree with Vitaly Nosov that Klimenko doesn't have the right attitude. On the contrary, everything's fine with him. He's extremely ambitious. Artem just needs to be mature and control his emotions. I think he's the future for the Russian national team at the center position.

- All of the current big-name Russian coaches--Evgeny Pashutin, Vasily Karasev, Oleg Okulov, Sergei Bazarevich--were all point guards. You're no exception. It is coincidence or do you think there's something more to it?
- Point guards are known as the coach on the court during the game. They run the team, control the tempo and understand which teammate is "feeling it". The point guard has to know everything. He needs to remember every play and where everyone should be on the court. That's the secret. It's easy for guards to transition to coaching, given the experience and knowledge they already possess.

- The last time Vladimir Rodionov promoted one of his assistants to head coach, it was David Blatt...
- That was a long time ago. There have been a lot of good coaches that he's helped develop. David Blatt, Fotis Katsikaris, Neven Spahija--a whole collection of big names. In the end, they all enjoyed major success and moved up the ladder. He can recognize talent, given he had the foresight to promote each of them to head coach.