Soccer

Exclusive: Flamengo Basquete Head Coach and two-time NBB champion Gustavo de Conti on the Mengão’s season

Flamengo Basquete, the six-time NBB champions,
Played their penultimate game of the canceled 2019/20 campaign, courtesy of the well-documented Covid-19 pandemic, on March 12, 2020, in the 13th edition of the Basketball Champions League Americas, which invariably witnessed the Mengão, the reigning NBB champions, defeat LNB outfit Instituto de Cordoba, 66-64, in the Semi-finals of the competition.

The marginal yet pivotal victory against Instituto de Cordoba, an industrious Argentinean side, signified Fla’s decisive second win in the best of three series, which advanced Flamengo Basquete through into the final of the 2019/20 Basketball Champions League Americas.

Flamengo Basquete, who won the opening game of the three-game series against Instituto de Cordoba, 63-54, defeated LMBP club Fuerza Regia, the astute Mexican top-flight standout, in the Quarter-finals of the BCLA with comprehensive victories of 90-67 and 103-76 to ultimately win the best of three series to triumphantly book their place into the final four of the Basketball Champions League Americas.

LNB club Quimsa meanwhile defeated San Lorenzo, 91-84, in their first game of the Basketball Champions League Americas Semi-final best of three series encounter. However, Quimsa’s Argentine counterpart, San Lorenzo, who also competes in the LNB, Argentina’s elite professional basketball league, steadily evened the series in game two courtesy of winning the contest, 100-87.

Flamengo Basquete’s talismanic captain, Marquinhos, who represents the Brazil men’s national basketball team, averaged 14.7 points per game throughout the 2019/20 Basketball Champions League Americas campaign; Marquinhos played at the Rio 2016 Olympics for Brazil alongside the likes of Cristiano Felicío, Marcelinho Huertas, Alex Garcia, Nenê and Leandro Barbosa.

Eloy Vargas, the Dominican Republic men’s national basketball team center, meanwhile averaged 14.8 points per game throughout 21.4 minutes per contest for Flamengo Basquete in the Basketball Champions League Americas this past term, while averaging 8.3 rebounds per game. Elsewhere, Carlos Olivinha averaged 8.3 rebounds per game with Mengão teammate, Franco Balbi, the majestic Argentine, leading in assists per game (6.7) in the 2019/20 Basketball Champions League Americas.

Prior to the abrupt cancellation of the 2019/20 NBB season, Gustavo de Conti’s in-form side topped the NBB table, winning an impressive 21 games from 24 contests in the league. Moreover, Flamengo won five NBB games consecutively before the official cancellation of the 2019/20 NBB season.

Two seasons ago, February 17, 2019, Flamengo Basquete finished as runners-up in the FIBA Intercontinental Cup, courtesy of losing to AEK Athens, 86-70. Anderson Varejão, the energetic hustling center/forward, formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers, contributed 21 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks for Flamengo in the loss against the Greek club.

However, current Flamengo Basquete Head Coach, Gustavo de Conti, affectionately known as Gustavinho, an accomplished two-time NBB champion and three-time NBB Head Coach of the Year, formerly the Assistant Coach of the Brazil men’s national basketball team, has created a dynasty to behold at Flamengo Basquete’s Carioca Arena 1 alongside Assistant Coach, Fernando Pereira.

FOX Sports Radio 96.9FM/1340AM’s Dean Perretta briefly caught up with Flamengo Basquete Head Coach, Gustavo de Conti, to discuss the Mengão’s 2019/20 season, winning trophies with Flamengo, Marquinhos’ leadership and qualities, coupled alongside the Brazilian recollecting the NBA’s Orlando Magic hosting the esteemed Rio de Janeiro-based club at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

Dean Perretta: Gustavo, as a three-time NBB Head Coach of the Year and two-time NBB champion, can you talk about data and analytics company InStat and, of course, the importance of how InStat plays a key role in your technical briefings, both pre and post-game when addressing and coaching Flamengo Basquete players?

Gustavo de Conti: InStat is a tool that helps me a lot with pre and post-game analysis. I am a Coach who greatly values numbers, advanced statistics, but also who likes to watch and rewatch the images of the matches and practices over and over. InStat really helps me with this. I do not waste time and it always delivers the content with quality and agility.

Dean Perretta: Flamengo Basquete’s 2019/20 season, the 100th season in club history, as well as the Mengão’s 12th season in the NBB, was unfortunately cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, can you talk about the highlights from the season and the expectations and targets for the next campaign?

Gustavo de Conti: It was a historic season of many celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Flamengo’s basketball. Unfortunately, it was cut short due to the (Covid-19) pandemic, but even so, good memories remain, since we were leading the NBB with a great advantage over the other teams, and we had just qualified for the finals of the Basketball Champions League Americas, which was the most important tournament of the season, without losing any games. The memories of our last home match, against Instituto de Cordoba, from Argentina, remain. We were down by 20 points and, after the break, we made a historic turn, closing the Semi-final series 2-0 and qualifying for the big final. We are now with the expectation that, when possible, we can play for the title of the BCLA.

Dean Perretta: With regards to Flamengo captain, Marquinhos, who has been in Rio de Janeiro since 2012 – can you talk about his leadership and character, as well as his basketball IQ and vision?

Gustavo de Conti: Marquinhos is a champion, a very important leader of our team, a player who has matured a lot during the last two seasons. He is more confident, more focused, training better and because of that, his game is evolving day by day. Most importantly, he is making every other player, and the team as a whole, play even better.

Dean Perretta: Can you talk about Flamengo Basquete’s well-storied local rivalry, Clássico dos Milhões, against Rio de Janeiro-based clubs Vasco da Gama and Botafogo, as well as the pride it brings to Mengão fans to win these games?

Gustavo de Conti: Unfortunately, Vasco da Gama didn’t play last due to internal reasons, but Botafogo did and was a great rival. We’ve had much more wins than losses in the last two years playing them, but it was always a hard game, played point by point. These are regional classics, where soccer rivalry is transmitted to basketball, and when it’s a positive rivalry, it magnifies the games and attracts the crowd.

Dean Perretta: Lastly, October 5, 2018, Flamengo Basquete played the NBA’s Orlando Magic at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, where the Magic won, 119-82. Marquinhos scored 19, Anderson Varejão 12 rebounds, and Franco Balbi with eight assists in the contest. However, can you talk about this otherwise memorable game and your experience coaching this encounter against the Magic?

Gustavo de Conti: It was a very good experience for me and for Flamengo. Having the opportunity to play against an NBA team is for a few (outside of North America), and I think that we enjoyed it well. The structure and investment are incomparable, but we matched Orlando Magic and the NBA when it came to fans. We divided seats in the Arena and there were lots and lots of Flamengo fans rooting, shouting, celebrating, and supporting us, in the middle of Orlando, many miles from Rio de Janeiro. It was very moving to me. After that game, I had the opportunity to be Assistant Coach of the Brooklyn Nets during the NBA Summer League, which was also a great experience and great for my development as a Coach, helping the Nets during that month of training and playing.