Raptors coaching candidate Sergio Scariolo's approach to achieving player buy-in

Amit Mann is joined by Gianluca Bortolomai of to discuss why Sergio Scariolo requires complete player buy-in for his system to be successful and how he's able to obtain it. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on the Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube channel.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Both of his parents were teachers, and I think that does show in a bit of his coaching methodology and how he approaches it. There is a quote here, and I want to get your thoughts on this, too. Again, from that "Crossover" interview, he says, "I prefer to use common sense, explain why I'm doing things and understand and listen. They help me do my job better."

And I think as a teacher, right, your job in those moments, is also, you have to provide knowledge, provide awareness, help a person grow. But at the same time, there has to be a willingness to adapt and learn on the fly in whatever way a person is comfortable learning, right? And that's going to be different from, as you said, from a person who's 35 years old versus the person who's 21 years old. How do you think that background has informed his coaching?

GIANLUCA BORTOLOMAI: I think, yeah, he never talked about it in these terms, but I think it shows in those ways. So, the ability to talk to everyone individually like a teacher does with his students. You don't have a group in front of you, but you have yeah, of course, you have a group, but you have a group of people, of individuals.

So you have to be able to connect with everyone in their own way even, and in your own way, for sure, because you are the teacher. You are the last voice to be heard. But in the same time, you have to be able to create a connection. And you have to be able to create a connection with a huge range of players.


GIANLUCA BORTOLOMAI: Young, veterans, role players, top stars. So you have to be able to talk to them, to listen to them. And I think in this is shown by the comments his players. Every player that talks about him do it in a good way. They have always positive thoughts about him. So I think that really say something about him as a teacher, as a teacher.

AMIT MANN: And you need that buy-in from everyone, especially with the principles that I like to talk about, because with his system, it is so much about cohesion and connectivity and making the extra pass and so forth. So if you don't have buy-in, things kind of fall apart, right?


AMIT MANN: And so, he needs that buy-in from everyone. So with that in mind, what are the things that you would say are the principles of his offense and defense, or just from his team? Like, when he's going in to a meeting with this team beginning of the season, what are the things that he's saying? This is what we're going to do this year and these are the things that are not negotiable.

GIANLUCA BORTOLOMAI: Yeah, we already talked about cohesion, and that's, of course, the most important part. But in terms of offense, defense, you can see that he always wants to play together, both ends. So, he maybe prefers a slow pace transition, a slow paced game.

I want to take my time to choose the right play, instead of run, run, run and try to score a quick basket. And they always try to look for the extra pass. And as we said before, yeah, for sure you have to rely also on the genius of your top players.


GIANLUCA BORTOLOMAI: So you have to be able to recognize the time during the game where an individual play, it's needed. But if you look at the individual plays that his top stars do, usually are assists or extra passes. [INAUDIBLE] is an extraordinary passer.

So it reflects the spirit of the team. I want to pass more. I want to involve the teammates more. I want that everyone is in rhythm to create a strong offense. And that results in a lot of open spaces, corner 3's, and of course, sometimes like incredible passes. No-look or alley oops from I don't know where. And that's fine.

He's also a traditionalist in some way, because he plays a lot of pick and roll, 1 to 5, like the short guy to the big guy. And it's something that maybe it's not that effective in NBA as it is in Europe, but it's something that could be perfect in the NBA, especially with the rosters that the Raptors have. With the arrival of Poeltl, they started to play that kind of pick and roll. So it's something that Scariolo could improve or perfect in his own way.

And defensively speaking, we already mentioned the box and 1 that he brought back with his NBA experience.

AMIT MANN: Mm-hmm.

GIANLUCA BORTOLOMAI: I think it's all about the effort. He sets some goals. I read an essay he wrote for the league. And he talks a lot about the effort, to make an extra effort, like deal a ball or in order to contest the shot, in order to grab a rebound, in order to feel all the areas, all the spots on the court, to stay really close to your opponent.

And he sets that kind of goal. Like, we have to contest 50% of the shots of the opponents. We have to try to steal at least five balls per game. We have to grab at least 10 offensive rebounds, and something like that. He sets some goals. And these are common goals, not necessarily individual goals. Because in order to achieve that, you have to play together.


GIANLUCA BORTOLOMAI: And that's something that I think it's at the very core of his principle all around.