The decline of Atenas de Córdoba: from the golden years to flirtation, for the third time, with its first decline in the National League

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Thirty-nine uninterrupted appearances, nine titles, more than 1,850 match wins and an army of legendary players allow Athens stand as the most important team in the history of National Basketball League. That golden past only makes these days of irregular progress even more opaque: a week before the end of the regular season of the competition, the Cordoba team already knows that it will have to permanence risk in a playout series for the third time in the last five seasons.

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Sunday’s 90-81 loss against mercedes communications at the Carlos Cerutti sports center sentenced on Greek dispute that series to luck or truth. This result came as no surprise, as this fate had been drawn from the very beginning of a season far from the glorious years and very close to the difficulties of the last five years: after the last playoff qualification in the 2017 / 18 season hand in hand Nicolas Casalanguida (lost in the semifinals to San Martín de Corrientes), has always flirted with the first descent in its history.

Since the first edition of the League in 1985, in which it finished second IronAthens has been, for a quarter of a century, the permanent animator of a competition in which consecrated nine times, more than any other club: the first, in 1987; the latest, in 2009. During that time, they had players of the stature of Marcellus Milanesio, Hector Campano, German philoia, Diego Osella, Leander Palladino OR Fabrizio Oberto.

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The defeat against Comunicaciones on Sunday condemned Atenas to play in the play outs.  Photo: Athens Press.

The defeat against Comunicaciones on Sunday condemned Atenas to play in the play outs. Photo: Athens Press.

In recent years, sporting results have been far from optimal, hand in hand with a reduction in economic investments. Part of that decision was linked to the construction of its own stadium in the General Bustos district (Cerutti belongs to the Municipality of the Cordovan capital). After several postponements, the building, with a capacity of 3,500 spectators, should be ready in the middle of this year. No one dares to say whether Athens will keep its place in the League at that time.

“Some time ago we decided to finish the stadium by sacrificing the team’s lineup. We’ve been at the bottom of the table for four years, but this year our stadium is practically finished.”highlighted the historic president Philip Labaque in September 2022, when he presented the squad for this campaign. At the head of that squad was Claudio Arrigoni, the coach who had taken over the team in December 2021, after a bad start to the season that had sent off Sebastián Saborido. With Arrigoni in charge, Athens managed to escape from the bottom of the table and were one step away from accessing the re-table in 2021/22.

Along with DT, the club also made the decision to keep the veterans center for this tournament Omar Cantonto the base Augusto Alonsoto Mexican Fabian James Already maximum araujo, one of the young promises of the League. And added to the experts Alexander Konsztadt AND Federico Marianiand a triad of foreigners consisting of Romeao Ferguson, Arkem Joseph AND justin bag. Things were expected to improve with that endowment, but nothing went as planned.

Claudio Arrigoni has managed just eight games for Athens this season.  Photo: National Basketball League Press.

Claudio Arrigoni has managed just eight games for Athens this season. Photo: National Basketball League Press.

Seven defeats in the first eight games closed, at the beginning of November, with the cycle of Arrigoni, man of the house. This was nothing new for Athens, who in 12 of the last 20 seasons had not completed the tournament under the same manager they had started with. But that instability has reached its limit this season, hand in hand with poor results.

He replaced Arrigoni Sebastian Gonzalez, another man trained in Athens, who had already led the team in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons, and who had won a Super 8. His second experience lasted just over a month: seven consecutive defeats forced him to withdraw. The campus was left in the hands of one of his assistants, Elio Villafane (just 31 years old), who had no better luck: he was fired after 10 crashes in a row.

In mid-February, Lábaque turned to the experts Álvaro Castineira, who headed Independiente de Tandil in the Federal League. “I’m surprised the team is where it is, it clearly wasn’t set up for that, it’s not a team that has won a single game,” said the DT on the day of his inauguration, who debuted with a 71 win -58 in front of the San Lorenzo. That victory ended a streak of 23 setbacks, the second worst streak in league historysurpassed only by Andino de La Rioja’s 30 consecutive missteps in the 2002/03 season.

Athens has won just five National Basketball League games this season.  Photo: Athens Press.

Athens has won just five National Basketball League games this season. Photo: Athens Press.

With Castiñeira, the path was a little more solid. Even the Greek He achieved something that seemed impossible: between March 24 and April 2 he achieved three consecutive victories against San Martín de Corrientes, Unión de Santa Fe and Oberá Tenis Club, all in Cerutti. In those nine days he won more than in the previous 166 days of competition. However, the backpack was too heavy and the last falls against Riachuelo and Comunicaciones condemned him to play in the play outs.

The multiple coaching changes weren’t the only signs that things weren’t going well. Before completing the first month of racing, the three foreign arrivals for this season had already left: Joseph, Satchell and Ferguson were replaced by Deion McClenton, Guillermo Díaz and Dominic Morrison. And in December point guard Augusto Alonso terminated his contract, replaced by the American Javion Blake.

With these changes, Athens completed the four allowed by the tournament regulations. But the problems didn’t end there. In January, the Puerto Rican Díaz left and the management decided to cut Morrison (he only played 10 games). By then, the team only had six senior chips. And in the rain, in the wet: at the end of March Javion Blake left to play in New Zealand. All this has led to an increasing role for some youth players such as point guards Matías Stanic (17 years old) and Máximo Araujo (20), or striker Octavio Sarmiento (21).

Javion Blake played 17 games this season for Athens (averaging 12 points) before leaving for New Zealand.  Photo: Athens Press.

Javion Blake played 17 games this season for Athens (averaging 12 points) before leaving for New Zealand. Photo: Athens Press.

With so much trembling in the coaching staff and squad, it’s not hard to think of the responsibility of leadership, the third leg of the tripod upon which the success (or failure) of any high-performing team in a team sport rests. . However, the Athens leadership is perceived as unaware of this debacle. At least that’s what President Lábaque said on January 25, when he gave a press conference that raised fuss in Córdoba.

“We are in the worst moment in the history of Athens. We never suspect this situation, which was not caused by us. We did everything in our power.”, supported the leader, supported by Elian Villafañe; Nicolás Arduh, the then manager’s main assistant; and team captain, Omar Canton. At that time, the Greek he was last, with a 1-18 record.

That day, Lábaque loaded the ink on Claudio Arrigoni, who had been sacked more than two months ago. “We said yes to everything. I told Claudio: ‘Assemble the team as you see fit’. The team was completely assembled by the technician. Then we made the necessary changes, we brought in the best coach, very expensive foreigners and there were no results,” he said. Of self-criticism, zero.

Felipe Lábaque, president of Athens.  Photo: Athens Press.

Felipe Lábaque, president of Athens. Photo: Athens Press.

With this staggering landscape, it is no surprise that the most successful club in the league’s history have finished at the bottom of the table in the last leg of the calendar and already doomed to contest the stay play-outs for the third time in the last five seasons: in 2019 they beat Quilmes de Mar del Plata and in 2021 they defeated Bahía Basket. On those two occasions, they had home-field advantage in the deciding series.

This time, only a miracle will give them the edge in the best-of-five clash that will determine relegation to the Argentine league. To do this, they must win the two remaining games against Platense at Cerutti and against Instituto (the best team in the regular phase) at Ángel Sandrín, and hope that San Lorenzo or Unión (his opponent will come out of them ) lose all remaining games.

Source: Clarin

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