Interview with Izzat Ismail, coach of Beirut Basketball Club

After the Basketball Coaching Clinic: “MASTERING MAN TO MAN DEFENSE”, we had the opportunity to speak with Izzat Ismail, sports for development specialist and professional basketball coach from Lebanon. He proves himself as one of the most talented young coaches in the Middle East and has achieved great results with his team, Beirut Basketball Club, during last season.

1. How can you describe the basketball coach clinic organized by 16 sports agency and jump shot basketball agency this Sunday? and what does it mean to you being the coach speaker of this clinic?

First of all, I want to thank you for highlighting on this event and thank both agencies on putting their trust in me. In my opinion, such initiatives are highly needed for the basketball sector, especially that most of the people are quarantined due to the current situation (lockdown). It gives us some hope for a better future
The content of the clinic was attractive for several coaches, 84 coaches and players from 17 different countries joined the zoom call meeting and 4400 viewers were watching the event live on (dribbling and IBBT Facebook pages). The main challenge was in delivering the messages in a clear way since we are providing the information from online from our home and we don’t have access to the courts to actually implement the ideas or plans. But thanks God the participant’s feedback was positive

2. What were the main ideas of this clinic?

Mastering Man To Man defense was the main topic of this clinic, it was divided into 2 sessions:
– man to man defense rules and regulations.
– pick and roll – specific situations
during the clinic I mentioned different philosophies and shared with attendees what I believe in and what is my favorite defensive rules

3. Tell me a bit about basketball in Lebanon? Is there any clear idea regarding the past and coming season?

As most of the countries around the world, we couldn’t finish the last season and I don’t think the clubs are still able to resume it (except few), as besides the covid19 outbreak in the country we also have the economic crisis and the issue with withdrawing or transferring dollars.
Concerning the coming season, the image is not clear yet, as I heard, a federation meeting will be held during this coming week to take the right decisions, that best suits the clubs, the players, the technical teams and the country in general.
the situation in the country is crucial, Lebanon is suffering from an economic crisis, and I don’t think the clubs are still able to invest in the game like the previous seasons.
Hoping to have clear mitigation and action plan in managing the situation and ensuring business continuity of the game.

4. I see there are many connections between Turkey and Lebanon on the basketball field. Which ideas from the Turkish basketball could be imported with success to improve basketball in Lebanon?

Not really, I had several visits to Turkey in the last period but it’s not related to any link between both federations. Since I’m the head coach of Beirut basketball academy, I was trying to create a twining between my club and one of the biggest clubs in Istanbul in order to share knowledge and experience.
Creating a link between both federations will be of an added value but I don’t think I can do it on my level ? as this is federation managers job.

There is a lot of things that we can learn from the Turkish basketball (structure, professionalism, managing championships, hosting big events, developing young talents, etc..) but this not the real point now. The situation in Lebanon is different from turkey. The yearly budget of the Ministry of Sports in Lebanon is around 2 million dollars, for all clubs and federations!! hehe yeah, it’s funny I know, but do you think we can build a strong sports generation with this low budget?

Most of the efforts that are put in the game are individual efforts, (you can ask Mr. Akram Halabi, the president of the federation in Lebanon or Mr. Nadim Hakim Beirut’s Club president they can give you more details regarding this situation and where we stand financially)

5. We heard from your agent that you might be coaching out of the country next season? Where exactly? And what are your personal goals for the next years?

This might be an option, but nothing official till now, I have unfinished business with my club. I wish the country’s situation helps us achieve our common goals and objectives in the near future.
If I renew my contract with my team for 1 more season, the target will be to help build a strong youth generation by creating a unique youth development programs. And of course, win more titles with the team?

7. What is coach Izzat’s dreams in basketball? And do you have the support needed in your country?
Qualifying with the Lebanese women national basketball team to the world cup, and coaching a Euroleague women’s team. I’m so lucky because I’m surrounded by such great people, I have full support from my family, my current club and the federation.

8. Reducing the number of foreigner players from 6 to only 5 in the domestic league of Turkey was – from my point of view – a brilliant idea in order to grow local players. What were the effects of this rule applied since 2 years ago?

It has its positive impact by giving more chances for the local players of course, but on the other side, having a higher number of foreigners bring more audience and media coverage for the league. As for Turkey, they have already the TBL league which is a great competitive platform that helps local players to enhance their level.

Photo: Izzat Ismail’s Facebook

Gratian Cormos