FILE: “GREEK NATIONAL TEAM COACH”: Decisions, Determine, Destiny..




Hoopfellas opens up the discussion on the next Greek national team coach and combines its comments with the shortlist of the candidates with a prayer.


Yes, I too am on same side as those who were disappointed about the failure to reach an agreement between the national team and Dimitris Itoudis… The timing seemed perfect. Coach Itoudis also wanted it. And the team needed him, since everything that he would bring on the table looked like a perfect fit for a team that is trying to find their place in this critical juncture of its history. I thought we should talk a bit about an issue that has been a major concern for the basketball family with the Hellenic Basketball Federation keeping their cards closed, but still (this is obvious) waiting for something. I am opening the file “Greek national team coach” and await your thoughts…

What do we want to present…?

A team with a young average, which will have a distinct identity. A team that will be structured to support the change in direction of the production line of young players, after the American gates have opened. If the idea factory and the culture centre still has its base in Greece, our best cards are (or come from) the other side of the Atlantic. We have to implant the basic ideas of our school for team, team spirit, discipline and the cradle of thought, which still lives our country, into this new group of young athletes, and we also have to adjust our principles (with a strong feeling of liberalism, even if the former pillars of our basketball philosophy are shaken) to the new reality, the new body types and the differentiated skills in conjunction with the new trends of the sport, which now or later will knock on the door of the traditional fortress of international FIBA tournaments.

Not Antetokounmpo’s team, as we will read everywhere from people that are trying to associate themselves with Giannis for personal, as well as other, reasons. Greek basketball and its culture, as they have developed in the past 25 years, has far too deep roots to transform in one day to a team of one player, like Nowitzki’s Deutschland. Giannis’ own style says it all… An altruist, all around player who works for his teammates and team. We will be a team with Antetokounmpo as the leader, not a team that will work exclusively for him, as in this case (I am certain of that) our failure will be glorious…

The profile: Who is able…?

As you well know, I support the choice of a Greek coach, and even more the best coach for our team. I think that the head coach should be the most ideal (depending on the timing) representative of our school, this is why I supported hiring Dimitris Itoudis from the beginning (he has earned it). We have the best coaching school in Europe at the moment and we have to invest in it. On the other hand, despite our underachievements in the past years, we need to keep our minds open and evaluate each case that may cover our needs. Our national team has to change its philosophy, and move from the basketball of computer-guards and half court, to speed and strength basketball. This is what our production dictates with our source material being the life preserver in the FIBA Basketball ocean. FIBA tournaments are (still) the traditional fortress which has been less affected by globalisation that has changed the major leagues (NBA, EL). Our work should respect the culture and the … atmosphere of these games, which have their own rules. Giannis may come to Finland as the greatest Europena star, but, believe me, in these games and in FIBA Basketball he is not as influential as e.g. Bojan Bogdanovic (who is not the star that is Antetokunmpo in America). We should all work together with knowledge, attention to detail and most of all respect to the game, in order to return to the elite.

It is imperative to choose a coach that has the fundamentals to change the speed with which we act and have learned how to play. To change the context (until now it was the half court) within which we feel more comfortably and breath better. To alter the type of rhythm in which the team feels more comfortable. This transition needs work. It is a task that carries a high degree of difficulty, especially since as a school we do not produce the most basic element for this kind of basketball: Pure shooting. Considering all these, the older (very able, but…) coaches of attachment to half court stay a bit behind in the evaluation list…

Are you real, Santa Claus…?

Ok, at the time there are two things happening. The “elite” Greek coaches shortlist is not available for various reasons and ideally in this transitional period the team needs, apart from everything else, a great teacher,. Someone that would rally round the Greek players in many levels with his personality. David Blatt has it all. Plus, he has the experience in the mean streets of FIBA. The way he resurrected the Russian team (total disband, rebuilding in a proper, healthy base) is still a great feat in the great career of this coach, who he has won everything. It is clear that his American culture in regards to his philosophy, may be extremely beneficial for the new core of players (Antetokounmpo, Koufos, Dorsey, Papagiannis, Mitoglou) and the new basketball style we aim to present. With Blatt, our team will learn to run the court fast, not in a hurry, by keeping its insight and thinking in the open court. He will bring in full court defences (possibly complex defences, whereas it is certain that we will go back to zone defences, following the mandates of the principles of Greek basketball, fundamental game away from the ball in offense, as many of our players’ attributes and the multi-faceted offence of our forwards are able to be absorbed very well by the Princeton offence playbook. Blatt is a scholar and an admirer of Greek culture. He is a revolutionary, one of those people the open new ways. The job he took in Russia a few years ago has many things in common with the situation in our team. He can do great things with Antetokounmpo both in offence and defence. But most of all, he is a figure that helps the player be certain and calm, when he looks to the bench during a thunderstorm.

Blatt has a contract with Darussafaka, where there is pressure by its bosses. Great pressure (these are people who mainly see numbers and results). Turkey may be a financial destination for coaches, but the people who make the decisions at the administrative level are not true basketball connoisseurs, which became obvious by the bad ending (regardless of the results and the team’s image) of Ivkovic’s term at Anadolu. Blatt is not having the best of days lately and he is partially responsible for the lack of depth in his back court. This is an expensive solution, provided that the proper terms for collaboration are found, and the safest for this transitional period.

Dear Santa Claus, I know it’s close to March. But, I‘ve been a good kid this year…. And I didn’t ask for anything on Christmas.



The Shortlist



Dimitris Priftis

The natural continuation of things with upgrading the first assistant coach of Fotis Katsikaris to Head Coach. Prifits is a good coach, and I think highly of him, despite the fact that this year he was provided with better circumstances to create something really good at Aris Thessaloniki and, based on the quality of basketball his team has shown, he did not take advantage of them. He is a typical representative of the new wave of Greek coaching school. He knows how to build a good defensive team from scratch. He has deep knowledge of the defensive part (in my opinion one of the best around), and that’s the reason he is not afraid to experiment during a match. For the past two years, he is trying to up the pace on Aris’ offense by investing in production through defence and its immediate conversion into offence. Our national team is able to do this well and I think it will be a major part of its new philosophy, regardless of the person who would be at its head. Why hasn’t the decision of Priftis been made yet? Because he is simply considered limited in the offensive part. It will be hard for him to establish a new philosophy, he does not have the experience for that anyway. In half court (where most of the questions are) in regards to offence, it is highly doubtful that the coach will be able to help this team, with all its inherent weaknesses, to have adequate production against top class competitors. Out offensive behaviour in set situations and the building of an efficient offence is a great question for the new Greek national team.

Vangelis Angelou

I have complimented Vangelis Angelou many times in the past, although, to be honest, I was expecting him to develop more since he left Aris. He is knowledgeable enough and attention to detail is in his nature. His dream package contains many ideas around flex offence, which would secure execution from within 4.5 metres for players that really need this, especially in FIBA basketball, where the body types do not favour the choice of “changes” in individual defence as much, for the team to lock this kind of situations., but the miss matches in favour of the offence. He had ideas for set offence, although his teams are worked towards scoring in transition. His master’s degree next to Ivkovic (and his experience as a first coach) shows us a coach that is able in psychologically preparing and managing crises. The big question in this case has to do with his explosive personality and how it can function within the National team environment. I had written in the past in a post on the national team:

I think he is clever enough to control his impulsivity, which can destroy him in a situation like this. This will be the key for him to build strong relations within the team, as his explosive nature will justifiably lead the athletes to keep their distance at first.

This is very important. If coach Angelou is not able to build relations with the players (Prifitis is able to get closer to them easier for many reasons) every effort he makes to build something good in the court, will automatically be cancelled.

Panayiotis Yannakis

Panayiotis Yannakis belongs to the group of coaches that prefer set plays and the half court (Pedoulakis, Markopoulos); this is the calling card of a school that relied mainly on the great floor generals it recently produced. The truth is that in regards to its game philosophy, the new team will try to detach itself from the philosophy of the Yiannakis era. The materials are different, the skills have changed, our good attributes are… elsewhere. This is the truth. However, we are talking about the “Dragon”, a world-class personality and the symbol of this team. Yiannakis is a proven FIBA coach. He knows this type of basketball, he sees it. His biggest advantage (apart from the fact that he will secure a team spirit of going back to the basics and the pillars of defence and the intangibles of Greek basketball philosophy) is his aura in a very difficult period for our team. The “Dragon” will bring in his uniting nature and the admiration in the eyes of the players may work as a moving force for the team. Do not underestimate these attributes, which in conjunction with Yiannakis’ ability to create a family-like environment may be a healthy basis, which will be to the advantage of our new team. Can the coach present something radical? It will be very hard. He will try to raise the tempo, but we should remain sceptical about the chances of him succeeding. Do we think it’s enough to see a team that will be hungry and passionate to win? At this stage, the answer is probably no. This is not the main goal…

The ball is in the court of the people in charge. Let’s hope they make their decision with confidence and avoid the bad counsellor of time pressure. At this point…



P.S.: I’ve come to the conclusion that Phil Jackson gathers his former hippy friends and prank calls the rest of the league’s GMs; then they laugh and high-five each other till death. The last prank call has Phil asking for a first round pick for Kyle O’Quinn…

By Dimitris Katsionis

Translated by: George-Orestis Zoumpos