Eric Reveno’s Czech coaching gig could pay dividends for Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech associate head coach Eric Reveno (on far right) spent much of the summer as an assistant coach with the Czech Republic U19 basketball team. (Photo courtesy Eric Reveno)

Georgia Tech associate head coach Eric Reveno (on far right) spent much of the summer as an assistant coach with the Czech Republic U19 basketball team. (Photo courtesy Eric Reveno)

Georgia Tech associate head coach Eric Reveno sought a temporary coaching position with a junior-national team in Europe in part to open recruiting doors for the Yellow Jackets.

Along the way, serving as an assistant with the Czech Republic U18 team has also offered him a glimpse into the apparent universality of young elite basketball players.

Some of the players are funny, some are quiet. They show up tired for breakfast and act goofy at night. They’re on their phones a lot.

“The neatest thing is how similar they are,” Reveno told the AJC. “They’re like all the kids I’ve coached over the previous stops in my career where I’ve been fortunate to coach – good kids, polite, nice, want to get better, competitive.”

A desire to make use of his furlough days led Reveno, going into his sixth season at Tech with coach Josh Pastner, to reach out to European contacts to see if there might be a coaching opportunity available in the summer. It led to a spot on the bench of the Czech junior team, which is playing this week in the FIBA U18 European Challengers tournament in Konya, Turkey.

For Reveno, who has led Tech’s recruiting in Europe for Pastner and has annually traveled there to scout junior-national tournaments, he and the Jackets will benefit from the exchange of ideas and potentially from the relationships he can build for recruiting purposes.

“It’s really positive,” Pastner said. “I think it’s positive for Georgia Tech, it’s positive for ‘Rev,’ it’s positive for everybody involved. There’s no downside.”

There is, at least, some downside for Reveno, who spent all but one week of July in Europe as he took part in three training camps with the Czech team and also scouted the U19 World Cup in Riga, Latvia. He was away from his family, although his two children have been away at school and camps and his wife, Amanda, also took the opportunity to travel. But he also missed time that would normally have been spent training Tech’s post players (assistant coaches Julian Swartz and Anthony Wilkins absorbed his duties) and observing prospects at AAU tournaments in the U.S.

“Busy, but good,” Reveno said. “Good contact-wise, good player evaluation-wise and good basketball experience-wise. It’s fun to be so immersed in basketball in July.”

From a recruiting perspective, the experience has multiple benefits. As a coach, he has been able to evaluate the Czech players much more closely than he would in his role as a Tech assistant coach, in which case he could only observe them at tournaments. (Reveno said that most top teams have about five or six players capable of playing Division I, although some turn pro and others aren’t interested in attending college in the U.S.)

Georgia Tech assistant coach Eric Reveno with Yellow Jackets center James Banks during a Feb. 25, 2020 game at McCamish Pavilion.

Credit: Georgia Tech Athletics/Clyde Clik

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Credit: Georgia Tech Athletics/Clyde Clik

Similarly, he’s also getting a better perspective on the players that the Czech Republic is playing against, both in the tournament and in scrimmages conducted beforehand. (His duties are primarily coaching the post players and advance scouting.)

Further, as an assistant with the Czech team, he’s working closely with players and can build an entirely different relationship with coaches and team officials than he might as a college coach on a scouting mission.

The opportunity for Czech players and coaches to get to know Reveno, who tutored Tech big men Ben Lammers (ACC defensive player of the year), James Banks (two-time ACC all-defensive team) and Moses Wright (ACC player of the year), could be invaluable should Tech pursue a Czech prospect. If he were in Europe solely to scout, NCAA rules would prohibit him from interacting with players and coaches.

And while the Czech Republic has sent limited numbers of players to Division I colleges, Reveno also has been able to meet coaches from other teams, such as when the Czech team scrimmaged Germany before the tournament in Turkey.

“It’s a longer-term possible recruiting benefit,” Reveno said.

That’s why, Reveno said, college coaches accepting opportunities like his are not that rare.

The language barriers are surmountable, he said. The players’ level of English varies, though presumably all better than Reveno’s Czech. Coach Lubos Barton speaks excellent English.

“It’s not bad at all,” Reveno said of communication challenges. “Americans are very spoiled. Basketball-wise, they understand me.”

A veteran of life abroad – besides his annual European scouting trips, he played four years in Japan after graduating from Stanford – he does avoid at least one regrettable American habit when communication stalls.

“I talk slower,” he said. “I don’t talk louder. I don’t make that mistake. It’s not like they’re hard of hearing. You just kind of keep it simple.”

The exchange of ideas has intrigued Reveno. Though they’re addressing the same skills, the drills in practice are all different, he said.

“I can see myself taking some back with me, and I’ve shared some things that they like,” he said.

Reveno said that the players are more versatile and play a more positionless system, a direction that Tech is heading in, along with the U.S. game in general. Among other differences he has noticed, the coaches teach a one-handed finish in which players jump off the leg opposite the one American players are taught to use. Gathering the ball and finishing at the rim – a heavy point of emphasis at Tech – is taught differently.

“And I like the way they teach it, I like some of the stuff they do,” he said. “It just gets you thinking about things differently and I’m enjoying it.”

The extended time in the Czech Republic has enabled Reveno to get out, which for him has meant some sightseeing and visiting coffee shops. (The team had camps in the cities of Brno, Kutna Hora and Prague.) As of Wednesday, the team was 1-1 in its group, with three more to play. The last game is Sunday.

It is perhaps little surprise that, if schedules can be worked out, Reveno would like to continue his role with the team. Pastner would be all for it, also.

“Obviously, he misses some workouts in the summer and some recruiting weekends, but for the long-term opportunities of continuing to build Georgia Tech’s name out there on the international scene, it’s always great,” Pastner said.