Euroleague Basketball is proud to announce that Benetton Basket Tamoil head coach Oktay Mahmuti has been chosen as the 2008-09 Eurocup Coach of the Year, a new award introduced this season. In just his first full campaign in Treviso, Mahmuti led Benetton to the Eurocup Final Eight by posting the competition's third-best record in the first two rounds, 9-3. Benetton qualified to the Last 16 early as possible after winning its first four regular season games. Once in the second round, Mahmuti's team again won four in a row to qualify first to the Final Eight, where the team will fight for the title of Eurocup champion from April 2 to 5 in Turin, Italy. Mahmuti's success in advancing to each step of the competition so early was all the more impressive since much of his roster was unacquainted with Europe's second competition before the season started. Considered one of the great defensive minds in the sport, Mahmuti honored Benetton's offensive tradition, too, by making his team the third highest-scoring in the competition. For all those reasons and more, one of the most accomplished young coaches in basketball, Oktay Mahmuti, emerged as the winning choice to be Eurocup Coach of the Year.
The Eurocup Coach of the Year is part of an expanded awards structure meant to enhance the recognition of the finest Eurocup players and coaches for their efforts throughout the season. Earlier this week, Milan Macvan of Hemofarm Stada was selected as the 2008-09 Eurocup Rising Star Trophy winner. Euroleague Basketball and its in-house experts will also select players for the All-Eurocup first and second teams and the Eurocup MVP. The Eurocup Final Eight MVP award will go the best player at that event as voted by accredited journalists in attendance during the title game.
Mahmuti, who turned 41 earlier in March, was born in Skopje, FYROM, but moved to Turkey as a teenager. He started his coaching career at Eczacibasi's junior team in Turkey before joining Efes Pilsen as the team's assistant coach in 1992. There, Mahmuti learned from legendary Turkish coach Aydin Ors, who led Efes to the 1993 Saporta Cup final, losing against Aris in Turin, Italy, and to the 1996 Korac Cup title, downing Stefanel Milano in a two-way final series, the first continental trophy by a Turkish team. With such accomplishments, Ors and Mahmuti helped Efes to become a reference point in Turkish basketball. Mahmuti then worked for Ergin Ataman, helping the team reach the 2000 Euroleague Final Four, another first for Turkish teams. Mahmuti was promoted to head coach that summer and led Efes Pilsen to four consecutive Turkish League titles, from 2002 to 2005. He also helped Efes advance to the 2001 FIBA SuproLeague final four and came within one win of reaching the Euroleague Final Four in 2004 and 2005. Mahmuti parted ways with Efes in 2007 and joined Benetton. Despite winning its regular season group, Benetton suffered an early exit in the 2007-08 ULEB Cup. This season Mahmuti has already led Benetton to the Italian Cup semifinals. After winning its Eurocup groups so far, in both the regular season and the Last 16 of the Eurocup and, with the best record in the competition, to the Eurocup Final Eight His basketball philosophy includes strong defense that comes from playing a physical and intense style that demands full concentration. This award confirms Mahmuti as one of the best coaches in European basketball.