Credit: Olympiacos BC
Credit Olympiacos BC

Only four days before Olympiacos Piraeus travel to Belgrade to join their 11th EuroLeague Final Four, coach Giorgos Bartzokas attended the customary Media Day.

2-pointers this season

58%
19,5
Points made: 19,5
Accuracy: 58,1%
Place in standings: 10
Record max: 26
Record min: 11
Most made 2FGs: Moustapha Fall

The Greek coach was pleasantly surprised to see more media reps compared to any other pre-game occasion at the Peace and Friendship Stadium. Speaking about the Reds' participation in European basketball's premier event, the Greek tactician admitted that making the Final Four had been one of his main goals when he took over the team for the second time. 

Bartzokas also stressed that Olympiacos don't regard themselves at the favorites against Anadolu Efes Istanbul in next Wednesday's semi-final and pointed out that the Greek club's model of management "has greatly influenced European basketball."

"For a Greek team, returning to a Euroleague Final 4 is important," Bartzokas said initially.

"We are very happy to be participating after a tough season. We have to enjoy our presence there, that has to be our mentality. Every year the competition grows and it is important that we are present."

The 56-year-old play-caller referred to experience, which is something that Olympiacos' players are lacking. 

"Our team is not the most experienced one, as only three players have played in a Final 4 before. Sloukas, Papanikolaou and Printezis wil try to help the others in how to approach such an important event. It's not just the 40 minutes of a game. In a Final Four, you're in the spotlight for the whole weekend."

Asked whether he expected that Olympiacos could make a Final Four only two years after he returned to the team, Bartzokas said "one never thinks this way."

"I had in mind that Olympiacos should be after big goals. Everyone around the team demanded that. I know how difficult it is, because basketball is not played by 3-4 countries in Europe anymore. I thought that it would be an ideal scenario for us to reach a Final 4. It was one of my main goals and I am happy that we achieved it," he continued.

Since the Reds won their last EuroLeague in 2013, a lot of things have transpired. Bartzokas was then in his second EuroLeague season, after leading Maroussi to the Top 16 in 2010. He won the title in London in 2013 and then made the Final Four again with Lokomotiv Kuban in 2016. 

He still can tell the difference between his younger self and the present. 

"I am more mature and wiser now, so that I can distinguish what's important. Back then, I only had one EuroLeague experience - with Maroussi - and now I'm a different person. But basketball is a team sport and if we have to talk about our team, Olympiacos have been to several Final Fours over the last decade and I see it as a continuation."

The experienced coach and the club were together almost from the day that the front office decided to decrease the budget and essentially build a squad around its leader, Vassilis Spanoulis. That policy paid off big-time, especially in the years until 2017. Olympiacos made four Final Fours in six years, mostly having single-digit million budgets (players' salaries). Bartzokas thinks it's something that other teams have tried to emulate.

"The club has adopted a more restrained financial policy and a specific model of management, which greatly influenced European basketball. Other teams think that since Olympiacos succeed, they should take a look at how we do it.

One cannot give $20 million every year in a sport that usually doesn't make money. Everything we have achieved stems from our extremely successful administrative model," he said.

Olympiacos play Kolossos Rhodes on Saturday. It will be their last game before the Final Four. However, nothing important is at stake since the Reds have already secured first place in the Greek League regular season and the guests have clinched the third spot.

Bartzokas thinks that his team's most difficult game in the season "was Game 5 against Monaco, in terms of pressure."

"We all felt stressed, myself included. Not only because Monaco is a very good team and brought us to our limits, but also because there was a lot of anticipation among fans and we perceived that," he explained.

"Now, all the pressure is gone and we're going (to Belgrade) to have fun. We are not the favorites against the EuroLeague champions, but people are waiting for us to fight on the court for the best possible outcome," he concluded.

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Olympiacos Piraeus
Anadolu Efes Istanbul
48%
2 Position
Field goals
48%
4 Position
33,08
9 Position
Rebounds
32,47
11 Position
17,31
5 Position
Assists
16,97
7 Position
6,28
11 Position
Steals
6,39
9 Position

Teams leaders

Aleksandr  Vezenkov
13,7 PTS
67% 2P%
38% 3P%
Vasilije  Micic
18,2 PTS
59% 2P%
33% 3P%
Aleksandr  Vezenkov
5,8 REB
4,3 DREB
1,5 OREB
Adrien  Moerman
5,3 REB
4,1 DREB
1,2 OREB
Konstantinos  Sloukas
4,9 As
2,3 TO
25 MIN
Shane  Larkin
5,3 As
2,4 TO
32 MIN