Five coaches who will be talked about in Euroleague circles this summer

With the Turkish Basketball Super League (BSL),  Liga Endesa ACB (Spain), Lega Basket Serie A (Italy) and LNB (France) nearing it’s conclusion in the next week or so, the European domestic basketball season is practically finished. While for some, this means a break from basketball. For others, (such as myself), it means scouring the European basketball hot stove and rumors over Twitter.

Unlike the NBA, the player hot stove Europe stretches from now-to-August. At the conclusion of the NBA Summer League, it becomes clear who is going to be playing on a NBA team in October, and who most likely is bound back to Europe or the D-League (Well, G-League I guess now). However, in June, the biggest news centers on coaches, especially when it comes to Euroleague jobs. Which coou coaches are in? Which coaches are out? Which rumors are true? Which ones are unfounded?

Of course, you could argue a lot of names will be discussed as possible hires (or fires). However, I have focused on five names European basketball fans should pay attention to this summer who will have an impact on a Euroleague club or two this summer. First though, let’s take a look at some coaches who barely missed the cut.

  • Ufuk Sarica, Besiktas: An underrated coach who took Besiktas to the BSL Finals, and has showed some fight against heavily favored Fenerbahce (though they are down 3-0, and with the promise of an empty arena for Game 4 due to fan sanctions, they most likely will be swept). He won the BSL with Pinar Karsiyaka in 2014, which got them their first Euroleague berth in club history. He’s an excellent X’s and O’s guy, and he gets the most out of his talent. He also will be the head coach for the Turkish National Team this summer as well. However, I don’t know if he has the kind of reputation yet for a job outside of Turkey.
  • Andrea Trinchieri, Brose Bamberg: Another season; another BBL title for Bamberg and Trinchieri. The Italian-Croatian head coach is one of the most brilliant offensive minds in Europe, and he is bound for a Euroleague A license job after succeeding with smaller clubs such as Bamberg and previously Cantu in Italy. However, he has apparently agreed to an extension with the German club, and Olimpia Milano, a rumored destination for Trinchieri, decided to go with former Hapoel Jerusalem and Siena coach Simone Pianigiani. Therefore, he’ll most likely wait at least one more year with Bamberg before making that jump to a bigger European club.
  • Ioannis Sfairopoulos, Olympiacos: So far, nothing has been mentioned yet, and his job seems safe, as the concern now is building the roster. However, the epic collapse to rival Panathinaikos in the Greek Basket League championship (they were up 2-1 and had Game 5 in Piraeus), as well as the lack of a Euroleague championship hasn’t exactly made his status sturdy by any measure. He’ll probably be the coach in October, but if he gets off to a slow start, don’t be surprised to see him as the first coach gone in the Euroleague.
  • Dimitris Itoudis, CSKA: Rumors began to spread after the Final Four that a collapse in the VTB finals would send Itoudis packing, especially with David Blatt formerly on the open market (more on that in a bit). However, Itoudis dispatched Khimki in convincing fashion, and he once again claimed the throne as one of the top coaches in Europe.

All right. Here are five coaches you will be hearing about this summer who will be having an impact on the Euroleague this summer.

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Sito Alonso (formerly of Baskonia)

The Spanish Alonso was let go by Baskonia this week, as the club decided it needed to go in a different direction. Coaches don’t last long in the Basque country, as Alonso was the club’s sixth coach since 2012. That being said, Alonso didn’t have a poor season by any means. The club finished second in the ACB with a record of 23-9 in the regular season, and seventh in the Euroleague with a record of 17-13, qualifying for the playoffs. However, the Vitoria-based club was swept by CSKA in the Euroleague, and was upset by third-seeded Valencia in the semifinals (including a loss at home in game 1). Despite the solid paper numbers, it wasn’t enough for Alonso to get another year as Baskonia’s head coach.

However, I do not imagine Alonso will unemployed for a long period of time. Alonso has a sterling reputation as a developer of youth talent, as he coached the Spanish U-20 team in 2013. One job he has been tied to is the vacant Barcelona job, where he was a candidate last season before it ultimately went to Georgios Bartzokas. Barcelona is going through a rebuilding process, as it is trying to restock its developmental teams, and try to build (relatively) within rather than hang their hat on veteran free agent talent (which has burned them the past couple of seasons). Alonso, with his youthful energy and Spanish coaching experience, could be the guy to fit that description perfectly.

(Update: Just after I posted this, Barcelona announces that they have hired Alonso. Hat tip to the comments below)

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Georgios Bartzokas (formerly of Barcelona)

Since we’re speaking of Barcelona, the next coach that will be discussed is former Barcelona coach Bartzokas, who was let go after a disappointing season where his club finished sixth in the ACB (22-10, behind Unicaja and Tenerife, clubs they usually are head and shoulders above budget-wise) and 12-18 in the Euroleague (11th overall). Bartzokas struggled to implement his style with an aging club, and multitudes of injuries didn’t help him either in his first and only season in Catalan country.

That being said, there are mixed opinions out there regarding Bartzokas’ ouster. Some felt it needed to happen, as he was just an emergency choice last year after Zalgiris head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius didn’t work out (and seems to be the case again this year, as Saras is re-signing with his home country club). Some though felt he was slighted, as he didn’t have the right mix of talent to really make his system work. An up-tempo, defensive-oriented coach, Bartzokas could be a good fit at clubs such as Baskonia (though it appears that they are going to go with former player Pablo Prigioni) or Maccabi Tel Aviv, who both play a fast-pace, but could use improvement in terms of keeping opponents from scoring the ball.

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Dusko Ivanovic (currently of Khimki)

Ivanovic is a Euroleague coaching veteran, as he has coached Baskonia, Barcelona and Panathinaikos to varying levels of success. He came on last year with the Moscow-based club, and this season, he got Khimki to finish second in the VTB, which qualified them for the Euroleague. Dusko is an animated coach, who gives a lot of freedom to his star players, and that helped Russian star wing Alexey Shved, who earned VTB MVP honors this year during the regular season.

Unfortunately, Ivanovic didn’t end the postseason in the most inspiring way. Khimki was absolutely throttled by Moscow rival CSKA in the Finals, as they were swept easily 3-0, and really were never close in any of the three games. If that wasn’t enough, guard Jacob Pullen put the Montenegrin coach on blast, saying this about the Khimki head man according to Sportando.

Without an A license, and only 1 wild card spot available in the Euroleague under the new format, Khimki can’t afford to go through any growing pains in their return to Europe’s top competition. Yes, Dusko got them back to the Euroleague, and he should be appreciated for that. But considering how this season finished, it’s entirely possible that Khimki may be looking for a replacement in the next week or so.

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Pablo Laso, (currently of Real Madrid)

A month ago, Laso was on the top of Europe when it came to coaches. His Real Madrid club finished with the best record in both the ACB and Euroleague, his best player (Sergio Llull) won the Euroleague MVP award, and they had made the Final Four, looking for their second Euroleague title in three years. However, since the Final Four in Istanbul, the wheels have just came off for the Spanish juggernaut. The club finished an uninspiring fourth, getting absolutely blasted in the third place game by CSKA. They have looked uninspired in the playoffs, as they went three games with 8th seeded Andorra in the first round, picked up the slack against Unicaja (won 3-0), but now are on the verge of one of the biggest upsets in ACB history, as they are down 2-1 to Valencia with Game 4 on Friday at Fuente de San Luis.

It sounds crazy to see a coach go from the title of “best in Europe” to “possibly jobless” in less than a month, but this is Real Madrid, and the standard is incredibly high in the Spanish capital. The roster is one of the best-paid in Europe, and is chock full of former NBA stars (Ayon, Randolph, Fernandez, Nocioni for example). A domestic title should be the minimum expectation, and it’s entirely possible that Laso might not even accomplish that. Laso is a solid tactician, but he has come under fire for his stubbornness with rotations, and his inability to connect with the non-Spanish players on this roster. It’s possible that if they fall victim to Valencia, Los Blancos could upgrade this summer with a coach who is not only more adventurous rotation-wise, but also stronger in terms of relating better to the diverse roster. Maybe a return for Ettore Messina (who hasn’t found a NBA job despite being an assistant for a good while) or a Spanish welcome for…David Blatt?

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David Blatt (currently of Darussafaka)

Blatt apparently turned down a 3-year offer from Maccabi Tel Aviv, a club he won a Euroleague title with in 2014. For now, he says he is staying in Istanbul with Dacka, even though they will be regulated to the Eurocup next year after primary sponsor Dogus Group jumped ship to Fenerbahce. The reasoning behind Blatt’s decision to reject Maccabi’s lucrative offer? Blatt wants to return to the NBA after next year, and he only has 1 year left on his contract with Dacka. After next season, he will be free to negotiate with NBA teams without worry of a buyout. That wouldn’t be the case if he returned to Tel Aviv (where there would be some buyout agreement, due to it being a three-year deal; I can’t imagine MTA would give him an out where he could leave scott-free after all the turmoil they’ve experienced since he left).

But, as with all things in the European basketball scene, what is true today doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be true tomorrow. Blatt, despite his pledge of commitment to Dacka, could change if the right offer comes up. What if Madrid offers him the head job with a low buyout after 1 season? What if Khimki lets go of Dusko and offers Blatt a 1-year deal, since they are only guaranteed to be in the Euroleague for that timespan? (Blatt coached the Russian National team and was rumored for the CSKA job if they parted ways with Itoudis.) I know Blatt says he’s going to be with Dacka in 2017-2018, but I can’t imagine Blatt is done listening to any possible offers that might come up this summer.

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11 thoughts on “Five coaches who will be talked about in Euroleague circles this summer

  1. Πάτε καλά; June 16, 2017 / 11:47 am

    HI, S. Alonso just signed with Barca
    http://www.euroleague.net/news/i/7vsfmxhxm8i4sioj/barcelona-hands-reins-to-alonso

    As for Blatt, he is waiting for an NBA job within the next 18 months and hence, he does not want to commit to any serious relationship with a big team right now.

    As for Sfairopoulos, if he fails to qualify to the next f4 and fails to win the Greek Cup, I am not even sure that he will finish the season. In addition, players do not exactly like him, I believe that their next choice will be Vangelis Angelou but there are other possible candidates for the job (V.Colet, D. Priftis even Mr Bean if he is still unemployed).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pierre Marie Corbacho June 16, 2017 / 2:16 pm

    Thanks for the notification. As soon as I posted my piece, I saw on Twitter rumors that Alonso had just got hired by Barcelona. That official Euroleague press release all but confirms it. It’s an interesting hired, and he makes a lot of sense for Barca in terms of development. What will be key is what kind of team they put around him, as that was Bartzokas’ downfall last year. Thoughts on the Alonso hiring?

    I would say the smart money is on Blatt staying. His stock really went up after the Cavs got steamrolled by the Warriors. Lue’s coaching was a bit uninspired during the series, and I think people realize that Blatt deserved a little more credit than he got for that Championship team. I think he was hoping to interview this summer for NBA jobs, but surprisingly, no jobs became open (this is a remarkable period of stability in the NBA as there were no firings at the end of the season, a first in as long as I can remember). I think Dacka provides a nice out, because if a NBA job became open during the year (there are some jobs that could be open if some teams have slow starts, like the Suns, Pacers, etc.) he probably could leave with little consequence. On the other hand, I do wonder about the Khimki job. I know they don’t have the budget of CSKA, but like a lot of Russian clubs, they do have some money to spend. I don’t see Dusko lasting through the summer after this latest stretch, and I know Blatt has some history in Russia. While it’s no plausible, I feel like that could be an opportunity, since they are a club whose Euroleague status is temporary, and they just want to win now, which Blatt could do. Of course, it’s a high risk situation. Competition will be a lot easier in Eurocup, while Khimki’s chances of doing any damage in the Euroleague probably will be slim (playoff berth at best).

    I am surprised Sfairopoulos hasn’t been talked about more this summer. After all, you could argue that he had a similar season to Pascual last year, and Barcelona kicked him to the curb. And I am not surprised by the players statement. They really seemed for the most part to quit on him during that Game 5, and he’s incredibly inconsistent with his minutes distribution (he really jerked around Erick Green and Khem Birch last year). Maybe Olympiacos management is more patient, but considering the fanbase, that just surprises me. Like you said, he really needs a bounce back next season, and if the results don’t happen immediately, I would not be surprised to see him fired during the year.

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  3. Πάτε καλά; June 17, 2017 / 6:49 am

    What a year for Spanish basketball- a year where Real and Barca were disappointments and Valencia and Malaga were the pleasant surprises. Lasso, make us a favour AND QUIT.
    Btw, I just love Diot (and I would love to see him comprising with Calathes the backcourt couple of PAO).

    ps.Hayward is a must for Celtics, Griffin so and so but people, we also need to get a guard. IT by no means can be member of a team that can and will win a championship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pierre Marie Corbacho June 18, 2017 / 10:50 pm

      Indeed what a year. Real and Barca took major steps back, which IMO is good for the ACB. The league has grown a little stagnant until this year due to the Barca-Real Madrid stranglehold. While I appreciate top clubs, and think the more talent clubs get the better it is for European ball in general, I think it’s good for clubs to get attention outside of the Real-Barca circle because those clubs are so well-known for Football. I am a bigger fan of clubs who put more focus on basketball or do not have soccer clubs like Valencia, Unicaja and Baskonia.

      So far, it sounds like RM is sticking with Laso, but what a disaster to finish the year. The club just spiraled out of control after their semifinal game against Fener, though I felt that they were showing signs of weakness in the QF against Dacka, which was a closer series than I thought. If Laso didn’t have a Euroleague title, he would have been gone already.

      I like Diot as well, and a lot of players on the Valencia roster in general. They all are incredibly disciplined players and don’t make mistakes. Diot may not have the athleticism of some signings that PAO has made in the past, but that kind of discipline and toughness would bring a lot to PAO, especially for Pascual, who thrives with such players.

      It looks like the Celtics are thinking they may not have a shot at Hayward (or even George), as evidenced by them trading the 1 spot. Personally, I would have rather seen them draft Fultz, and then try to see if you could shop IT. As great as IT was this year, his season was most likely as good as it ever is going to get. He’s 29 years old, and coming off a season where he played crazy minutes and suffered a lot of injuries, especially toward the end. He’s been pretty consistent in his career sans this year if you look at advanced numbers. Because of his size, age, and defensive ability, I don’t think the Celtics will ever win the Eastern Conference if he’s the “star” player (and I don’t even think that they will make the ECF if the roster stays pat…the Wizards are a bench player or two away from taking their spot).

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  4. Πάτε καλά; June 18, 2017 / 7:18 pm

    Pierre Marie, any suggestions for PAO? We are looking for a point guard who is
    a)pass-first player and
    b)he is a good 3 point shooter and
    c)is not prone to mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pierre Marie Corbacho June 18, 2017 / 10:41 pm

      Do you guys need a PG? It sounds like they are on the verge of re-signing James, and Calathes looked better in year 2 at PAO, and he seems set on at least 1 more year.

      If you are looking PG though, one player that will probably find a bigger club this off-season is Aaron Craft from Trento. Not a great shooter unfortunately, but he is a pass first player, and he’s extremely physical on defense. I think he would offer a dimension to this PAO that would help them compete, especially against clubs like Fener and Oly who play tough, physical ball. It’ll be interesting to see where Craft will sign this summer, but I would like to think PAO may sign him to shore them up on the perimeter, as well as add some defensive versatility in rotation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Πάτε καλά; June 18, 2017 / 10:56 pm

        Most certainly we do. James is not a pass first guard and we are looking for a pass-first combo guard just to have a 3rd option behind James and Calathes, who would also act as a point guard when needed. Additionally, since he will be a combo guard, he could play together with both Mike James and Nick. The latter demands to be a sharpshooter from the perimeter (Nick is already awful on that front).Craft looks like a good proposal, thanks we had not noticed the said guy.

        We are searching for 3 players:
        -a combo guard with the above characteristics
        -a small forward who can post his opponents and can play at power forward position when playing big (practically a cornerman) AND
        -an extra big man who can really play well the pick and roll.

        ps. Rumour has it that Dinos Mitoglou and Tylor Dorsey are under PAO’s radar.

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      • Pierre Marie Corbacho June 18, 2017 / 11:23 pm

        Mitoglou and Dorsey are interesting ideas because of their connections to the Greek National team system. My only reservations about them is that the adjustment from college to top level European competition is a big one, and I don’t think it’s in either of their best interests to be end of the bench players so early in their career. I think they are probably on PAO’s radar, but maybe in a year or two, after they either play in the D-League or get more run on a smaller European club.

        A guard I like (if healthy) could also be Ryan Boatright from Cedevita. Dynamic scorer, but could be a defensive liability (short) and he is a bit too similar to James (don’t know if he and James could be on same court). Nate Wolters from CZ could also be a fit. Didn’t impress in his first year at CZ, but I think he could be better after adjusting to Europe, and in a better scenario with better offensive talent around him (not really the case with CZ).

        For the second player, what about Tyler Honeycutt? Sounds like Efes is going to part ways, and he satisfies those characteristics you mentioned perfectly. I could see a Singleton-Honeycutt-Gist trio being really tough and athletic for clubs. I thought Honeycutt was one of Efes’ better players and probably should’ve played more crunch time minutes than Derrick Brown by end of season. An even more out of the box idea? Thanasis, Giannis’ younger brother, who’s currently playing for Andorra. Crazy athletic, good defensively, not a great shooter though, which could be problematic since that was an issue at times last year (you’re right on with Nick about that; how he played in the NBA as long as he did befuddles me; he was a Rondo-esque level bad FT shooter last year).

        As for a pnr big guy, that’s going to be tough since those guys are so high and demand, and Singleton, Gist and Bourousis will top the depth chart. However, one D-League name who could come to Europe is Eric Moreland. Good prospect, but just never really found a fit on a NBA team, and he’s about to turn 26, which probably means his NBA prospects are dim at this point. He’s a double-double guy, good rim runner, can also block shots. A bit of a risk since he’ll be coming to Europe for the first time, but a good polished player who could do well for PAO in the right circumstances. Here’s some highlights of him

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Πάτε καλά; June 19, 2017 / 7:54 am

    Good day Pierre Marie.
    Thanks for the suggestions.
    I)Mitoglou and Dorsey are also interesting as a concept. PAO has a tradition of integrating Greek-American players or American players coming from college. Bramos, Nick and Pat Calathes, Kostas Maglos etc, they all have been success stories. In addition, if Dorsey wants to go back to NBA, Xavi is a good option as a coach: he has sent Hezonja, Satoransky, Abrines, Rubio to NBA.

    II)Boatright is too short, you are right. Nate Wolters could be an option, too. I liked a lot your suggestion: Aaron Craft . As a 3rd option point guard, he could be a very interesting choice. Btw, Diot is not anymore an option (my personal favourite): Valencia said that their budget will rise up to 20 000 000 (amazingly high)

    III)Honeycutt is indeed an option as Thanasis. The latter has the issue that he does not really want to return to Greece for one of the two big teams (for a litany of reasons). I also was thinking of Brokhoff, who played for Loko for the last two seasons. Otherwise, I was thinking Thanasis not just for a 3 but also as a big-man. He definitely has the body to play heavily as PF or Center; in the very end, if Kyle Hines can do it, Thatetonkoumpo can do it, too.

    IV)Big men are easy, at least this is what I believe. A lot of less talented small forwards from NBA can be transformed into mobile 5’s for Euroleague, such as Singleton. Tyus is a long-standing favourite of the fans, Theiss is another one. I believe this will be the easiest piece to find.

    The most difficult piece is the combo pass-first guard with good playmaking skills and able to adapt to the “no mistakes” basketball of Xavi. I have the impression that Quino Colom is under scrutiny from PAO but I would like to see something more..delicate. We shall see.

    ps.If Chris Paull chooses Houston over San Antonio, I will be dissapointed by him. He has the choice to move to a winning club, with a tough coach to build a team that can beat up Warriors and he chooses money and show time over titles? Pfff.

    ps2. Will Bogda go to Sacramento? What do your sources say on this subject?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pierre Marie Corbacho June 19, 2017 / 4:08 pm

    No prob and good day to you too. I do like the concept as well with Mitoglu and Dorsey. My issue is that I could see the go to the D-League first, especially as the D-League will expand once again. The pay is not great, but it is the most direct and easiest route to the NBA. However, if a year or two passes, they should have an idea that the NBA is or isn’t a possibility, and thus should make the transition to Europe. However, IMO they are too borderline NBA to make their way to Europe just yet (or I’m sure that’s what their agents are telling them, especially Dorsey, who may be drafted).

    What would be some of the reasons for Thanasis not wanting to play for 1 of the big 2? I can imagine some, but I just wanted to know for sure from someone who knows the situation better than I do. I thought Thanasis fit in really well in Andorra last season, and though the ACB is better, Andorra is a smaller club that had to fight just to make an 8 seed. I would like to see Thanasis with a better club where his impact would be better appreciated and have more impact on the European scale (i.e. Euroleague).

    Boatright is dynamic, but you could see in the championship series (before he got hurt), Red Star could push him around. It would be difficult to see him make the transition to the Euroleague without some help. Maybe in a Fener situation like Dixon, but I don’t think even Boatright has the strength that Dixon has. Craft to me should be priority No. 1 for a Euroleague club after he signs. He’s exactly what a lot of EL clubs need: winner, tough, fundamentally sound, team player. He’s a prime example of why European clubs should look for the D-League for talent. His talents were underappreciated in the D-League, but he’s not really a fit either for the modern NBA (can’t shoot 3’s). Euro clubs should look to sign guys like Craft rather than guys like Russ Smith, who can only score and that’s it.

    That is a good point about European big men. Tyus and Hines were under-sized for the NBA, but have had great European careers. Singleton is another good example. At this point, I think after Summer League, an idea of possible big men could be available. Though it’s late, I think that’s a great time to see what guys could make the leap to Europe who are probably tired of making D-League wages.

    I would be surprised if Paul leaves the Clippers. The new CBA was meant for him to stay, as he will make more money with the Clippers than anywhere else. But, I also imagine if Griffin leaves, his chances of winning will have plummeted tremendously. I think Jerry West being signed helps, but if they lose Griffin, I guess Paul might follow, knowing that he won’t win with just him and DeAndre Jordan (though, if he could recruit LeBron, who is thinking of moving to LA after next year, maybe it’ll be worth staying with Clippers?). Rockets to me make no sense either. Harden is the primary ball handler on that team, and I don’t see how Harden (who already struggles sharing the spotlight as we saw with him and Howard) and Paul coexist. They need to upgrade at the wing (Ryan Anderson sucks plain and simple), not at the point, as Harden really is a defacto PG in D’Antoni’s system. I would love to see Paul on the Spurs, just to see the Pop-Paul dynamic. Pop demands a lot, and Paul isn’t exactly the most “gracious” personality. But, Pop knows how to win and Paul has never done that in his career seriously. But, as you said, it may not be enough money for him, which is sad because I’m sure he’s doing fine at this moment.

    Still a bit in the air with Bogdan. The rumor is that he’s coming to the NBA, but nothing confirmed yet from any team sources. A lot of whether or not he comes depends on the draft, not to mention free agency. If McLemore is gone, then I would say Bogdanovic will be in Sacramento. If the clubs keeps him, then well…that may be a little tougher. A lot of the Milos to Sac talk has died (especially since it seems certain that sac will draft Fox from Kentucky), which I thought would give Bogdan more incentive to come. But who knows. I think it’s 80-20 that he’s coming to the NBA and thus Sacramento, but I think we’ll have a better idea come July when formal free agency finally hits.

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    • Πάτε καλά; June 22, 2017 / 8:20 am

      Thatetonkoumpo does want to play for one of the two big teams in Greece to avoid connecting his family name with the rivalry.

      Liked by 1 person

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