Movistar Estudiantes: another year, another disappointment

Another season, another suspense. Another year, another hard, painful, deafening blow against the wall. Another life lost for Movistar Estudiantes, which in the year of the 75th anniversary of its existence did not meet its basic objective, the one expected of it by tradition, history, name: the return to the elite of Spanish basketball, to an Endesa League that for the third consecutive year he will see on television. His walk through hell of the LEB Oro, to which they fell in 2021 after flirting too much with falling off a cliff (2012, 2016 and 2020), has not yet ended. And if there is no real, palpable and, above all, stable twist in the script from the offices to the bench, passing through the squad, the goal may be far from being achieved.

The Estu will repeat the course because the Hereda San Pablo Burgos was superior in the playoff. Simple as that. He left him in the gutter at the first exchange (0-3). But that’s just the end of the story of a team reshaped (for the umpteenth time) to fight, not to rise; for the notable bass, never for the honors degree. And of those powders… Everything has a beginning and in the case of the Ramireños this is in the defeat against Marc Gasol’s Bàsquet Girona in the 2022 Final Four. At the moment the board went on to give the Catalans second place of promotion to Primera, the information about a total change in the management leadership skyrocketed. There was an offer on the table to take over the club.

And time slowed down, a parenthesis was made: what you are seeing, friend, is not reality. You have to wait because the good is yet to come and that, in a club in a coma for almost three decades is suicide. Things had to be done, but without doing too many things while waiting for a resolution that was not produced either by fast track (direct purchase) or by secondary means through the fourth capital increase since 2018, destined to give Carlos Avenza institutional control. The suitor backed out in the second round of the increase, which allowed non-shareholders to enter the game. The fear that his economic contribution, destined to acquire more than 50% of the club, would be diluted below that percentage made him give up his intentions at the end of last year.

Despite the fact that the wind of change was hitting the window, the sports project began to move. Pancho Jasen was promoted to sports director and Javi Rodríguez arrived to take over the bench. The Galician was a personal bet of the Argentine legend. Like the game proposal: fast, transition with the triple and defensive toughness as master pillars. It was an idea that he liked, traditional in the schoolyard, but he did not have the pieces required for it. They opted for players with an outside hand, streaks and electric, but who did not become specialists (Hughes, Jorgensen, Atencia, Leimanis) as was Johnny Dee. No tall forwards (guard backlog has been a major problem on defense), the fight for the rebound was in the hands of centers with an outside pitch (Démetrio) but without kilos or with kilos but without a hand to shoot and without speed (Larsen). Sean Smith had a little bit of everything: athletic and fast, he has served as three, four and five, facilitating changes in defense in almost all positions. With aspects to be polished, it is one of the most salvageable parts of the course together with Leimanis and the final stretch of Hughes, who took a long time to adapt but has left sparks of great quality…

Although it may be that, the sparks, which has condemned the Estudiantes. Because the people of Madrid have been, above all, irregular. A two-faced team. Happy, cheerful, with clear things and the ability to knock down any rival. But also complexed by his superiors (Andorra and Palencia), with the ability to collapse, the jam, the feeling that he did not know what he was doing there. What was played Two sides of the same coin that had their palpable verification during the season. The Estudiantes that started the season was one, the good one, and the one that woke up in February, was another, the bad one. The incomprehensibly horrendous: nobody understood the plummet of a team that went from 15 wins in the first 19 games of the competition to adding 5 losses in the seven duels that were from February 5 to April 1. The stoppages due to the Princess Cup and the Selection Window made a team feel very bad that linked three consecutive setbacks in that period, two of them against clearly inferior rivals (Almansa and Oviedo). The arrival of Josep Franch and Danny Agbelese did not sit well either. The point guard was not comfortable in the style of arriving and shooting and he was noticed despite the fact that his experience and quality are not in doubt. With the change of coach and game, his performance increased many decibels. The pivot, with a very long inactivity, never came to fruition and ended up leaving through the back door.

A downward trend that did not hit bottom and that took Rodríguez off the bench at the beginning of April. Jasen resigned days later: without his bet, he had nothing to do. Alberto Lorenzo finished a regular phase that resulted in seven wins in the last 15 games (only one away from home) for a final balance of 22-12. Eight wins from Andorra, first. The same as Valladolid, Lleida and Burgos, their executioner in the quarterfinals despite the fact that the people of Madrid had the home court factor in their favour.

And the problem was not the defeats. It was how those defeats were produced. Almansa, Oviedo and Albacete, teams from the bottom of the table, painted the face of a lost Movistar, at a time without a soul and without knowing what to do, and who reached the playoff as the sixth in scoring, rebounding and assists per game among the top nine in the standings. And that I can neither go nor return with Andorra (1st) or with Palencia (2nd). He closed with six defeats the eight visits to his peers, those above: he only took Guipuzkoa and Burgos.

A feeling of a half-built house that will most certainly be demolished again to start from scratch. There is no continuity since Salva Maldonado between 2016 and 2018. Whether it works or not, it always starts from scratch. And the needs are clear and pressing: a sports director and a coach who are clear about what they want, the players they require for their philosophy… and who must be left to work in a medium-long term project it rains or shines. Stability, in another word. If that does not happen, the Estudiantes are destined not to get out of a hellish roulette where financial stability is on a tightrope with a debt of seven million euros, in which more than three correspond to the Treasury that arrives every year at the end of the year. Go for yours, without taking prisoners. And with a social mass that dwindles with the passing of the seasons, disappointed and tired of the absolute nothingness in which this club has been plunged for more than a decade.

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