Credit: Reuters – Scanpix
Credit Reuters – Scanpix

Rick Pitino spoke about the preparation of the Greek National Team in view of the Pre-Olympic Qualifying tournament, emphasized the style he wants to see from the team and underlined that coaching Spanoulis in the last two weeks was all worth it, despite the fact that the veteran guard will not make the team due to a calf injury.

"I am happy to return to Greece. My agent and very good friend, Angelos Kottaridis, told me I should do this. The Greek people are counting on you. He said you're going to have one of the greatest teams in Greek history. The Bucks won't beat the Nets, you'll have Giannis and Thanassis. You'll have Dorsey, Spanoulis, Printezis, Papapetrou. Now we need Zeus to come back."

In order for Greece to stand a chance, the 68-year-old coach believes that "we have to play a style of basketball that will remind you of the Bad Boys of the Pistons. You got to be tough, physical, honarary. We don't have the stars, but we do have guys that will tear their hearts out for their country. We'll get ready and represent Greece in a good fashion."

On the National Team's style of play: "We have our backs to the wall right now. There are no solutions. Without great talent or shooters, we must be great on defense, be motivated and tough and execute to perfection. I've seen quite a few things in coaching. We can't win with two-pointers. We have to shoot three-pointers, make them the weapon of the National Team. If we miss, we can get the rebounds. Sloukas has to make 12 three-pointers. I know it's not his game, but he has to do it. He must be selfish. Dinos Mitoglou has to do it also. I don't care about the percentages, I don't care if we have good shooters. With the Greek style of play, we will lose by 20-30 points in each game. They'll know everything about us. We\'ll have to pass half-court in 4 seconds and then execute the pick and roll. We must have quick ball movement and surprise the other teams."

On Vassilis Spanoulis, who will miss the Pre-Olympic Tournament: " I love Spanoulis. He's a killer, an assassin. He gave me two great weeks, but now he has an injury. I called him up on the phone and told him it's time to end your legend with the NT. Don't tell me about your age because people like you don't get old. They just get better, like wine. You need to go out with me. I got great respect for you and I want you to be the captain. We had a great meal, where we knew that the Greek Federation wasn't going to pay. We got Angelos (Kottaridis) to pick up the check, which he always does. I said: "Angelos, give it to me, I'll give it to the Federation." He said: "You have a better chance of coaching the Lakers next month."

On China: "China presents a lot of problems. They full-court zone press the entire game and we haven't had practice against that. Calathes will help with that."

Regarding individual players and their work ethic, Pitino had nothing but praise for them. "I call Giorgos Printezis Brad Pitt. He's not blond, but he's a good-looking guy.  I grew very fond of Printezis. He is a wonderful human being, who gives you everything he can. He's a silent soldier and he'll do whatever there is to win."

On Kostas Sloukas, he noted: "He is a humble young man, doesn't want any credit. Just wants to put in the work and leave. The other day, after a grueling two-hour practice, Spanoulis and Sloukas were still in the gym, shooting. I told Sloukas I wanted to take him out to dinner, together with his girlfriend or wife. He said: "I'm getting married next Saturday". So, I told him we'd make sure we'd give off that day for practice. He said: "Absolutely not. I'm getting married at 6 o'clock, just schedule the practice earlier.""

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