In the beginning of July, Avtodor announced new head coach, Gordon Herbert. The Canadian had worked with German Skyliners over the past 7 years, plus consulted Brooklyn’s Kenny Atkinson.
In this special, Gordon Herbert told about coming back to Europe from NBA, new Avtodor leaders and team’s season goals.
What did you know about Avtodor before signing the contract?
I noticed the club when I coached Skyliners. We played Avtodor twice in the second round of 2015 Eurochallenge. We lost by 3 points at home and took away win in an incredible game with two overtimes. It was our third game in 5 days and we won all of them in the OT.
Have you heard anything about Avtodor playing style?
I know the team has always played fast, offense-driven basketball.
Will you remain the focus?
Yes, we want to follow the tradition. We’ll try to play up tempo, and use fast breaks as much as possible. However, we hope to play tight defense to obtain possibilities for transition.
You’ve met Russian teams before. What can you say about those games?
I remember, when I worked in France we met CSKA, played in Saint Petersburg. With Skyliners, we had tight games against UNICS, Avtodor and Enisey. To be honest, Russian top 5 teams are really strong: 3 Euroleague and 2 Eurocup teams, that’s a big thing. Other teams can also show some spine and make a surprise.
Your colleague from Canada national Brad Grinberg worked in Avtodor. Have you got any advice from him?
No, I didn’t talk to Bread about it, it was my own decision.
You had 7 years with Skyliners, meanwhile Avtodor hired and fired a lot of coaches. Getting nervous?
I had a total of 10 years with Skyliners, it was really stable. I terminated the contract in February for the only reason that I wanted to continue my work with Canada national team. No, the story with Avtodor coaches being dismissed doesn’t scare me. That’s how it works with this job in Europe today. You have to come to the team and do what you believe in.
You could’ve stayed in NBA team coaching staff. In 2019/20 season you were in Brooklyn Nets coaching staff.
I thought about staying in the NBA, but I didn’t know what was going to happen in the league after the season was paused. Plus, Kenny Atkinson left the club. That’s why I decided to come back to Europe where I can hold together club and national team.
Why did you chose to come back to Europe?
Most of the time I live in Europe and of course I want to be a part of Canada national team. With Avtodor I can remain Canada coach, while German clubs wouldn’t let me do it.
This is one of the most talented national teams today. What’s the key?
Steve Nash, the best Canadian in the NBA, made a huge contribution to Canadian basketball. Plus Raptors had their positive effect, a lot of young guys play basketball in Toronto and go to American schools by the age of 14-15. The main challenge is that Canadian NBA players can’t come to the national team during the season. But anyway, we have a group of young and talented players.
Your son Daniel will be your assistant in Saratov. What can you tell about him?
He’s been helping me over the last few years, he does scouting and knows the players. When Daniel was 14, he suggested that I sign Kyle Hines for Skyliners. At that time, Hines played in the second Italian league. Moreover, his picks were Marcus Slaughter, Jordan Theodore, Sean Wood, Shavon Shields, Justin Cobbs and many other players who eventually came to Skyliners.
Who’s going to be new leader of Avtodor?
It’s hard to say now, but I really liked Makiev and Vzdykhalkin during the first practice sessions. I also hope that one of the young players (Mikhailovskii, Kvitkovskikh) can become a team leader. Speaking of non-Russians, Markel Starks and Drew Gordon can be leaders both on and off court.
What are the team’s goals?
We want to play basketball that’d bring joy to our fans, and of course get to the playoff. But short-term and long-term goals will be discussed with the players when the team gets together.
VTB United League thanks Avtodor’s press office for organization of this interview.