Dimitris Itoudis didn't clearly answer if FIBA should call off in-season national team windows but raised questions that explain the absurdity of the current European basketball format.

Credit: Reuters - Scanpix
Credit Reuters - Scanpix

Dimitris Itoudis was pleased to hear the numbers that once again proved how basketball is loved in his native country.

Over 60% of Greeks were watching the national team games in EuroBasket 2022. That's close to 6 million people.

Following the Greek national team's journey, the number of kids entering basketball academies increased by more than 20%.

But since the EuroBasket was over, Dimitris Itoudis had to deal with less fascinating things.

"Those are good numbers. It's an indication for people that work out there that fans are waiting to see the best players perform," Itoudis said in an interview with BasketNews. "They want equal, fair competition, which is not given through these windows, unfortunately."

"We need to agree on this. Whether you like it or not, I don't know to whom we refer, but EuroLeague is by far the best competition after the NBA. And it's proven. And it's good. And it's healthy for basketball," Itoudis stated. "Why they don't have this kind of communication? That's on them to answer."

Itoudis is one of the four EuroLeague coaches who also run national teams. So, he understands the current ridiculous European basketball state very well.

On November 20th, the Greek specialist had the EuroLeague game in Istanbul. The following day, he took a private flight to join the Greek national team in a crucial World Cup qualifiers game in Crete.

Many EuroLeague players and coaches had to make sacrifices to help their teams to fight for a spot in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

Itoudis' contract with Fenerbahce prohibits him from joining the national team during the season. But Fener let him and a few other team members, including Nick Calathes (Greece), Marko Guduric (Serbia), and Melih Mahmutoglu (Turkey), be present in FIBA windows.

"Fener had a goodwill and open mind, and that's huge. But why do we and clubs have to be in those situations? That's not stability. That's not what fans are looking for. We're just masking the problem," Itoudis said.

"Okay, we're playing in the full gym in Crete, people are motivated to watch the national team. But which national team do they watch?" he asked.

"As Papanikolaou and Larentzakis said, they feel like in ping pong. They have to decide this and that. Go here and there. In four days, they had to change four planes. They meet players that they don't know. And if they're not coming, they're traitors to the national team.

But if they go, they'll probably get accused by the club. Why do players have to be in this situation? What's the reason? To expose the players? To expose what?" Itoudis didn't hide his disappointment.

"So they want to watch the best. But they put EuroLeague players and coaches in trouble. Let's not forget that this year we have four active coaches who work in national teams. They say the problem is only with the EuroLeague players, but with the NBA, it's okay. Why it's okay? I don't understand. Why it's okay?" Itoudis didn't hear the answer yet.

Even if all EuroLeague players were allowed to participate in windows, the NBA players would still be unable to join their teams during the club season.

That would make the gap even bigger for teams like Slovenia, orchestrated by one of the best European players coming out in this century, Luka Doncic. He wouldn't be able to join Slovenia for most of the qualifiers.

"That's another unequal competition, unfortunately," Itoudis commented.

"Another question. EuroLeague players are allowed to play in FIBA competitions. But why referees aren't allowed?" he continued.

Itoudis asked whether BasketNews ever addressed this question to FIBA. We shared their official response, which stated that EuroLeague referees couldn't meet FIBA criteria without officiating in FIBA windows, which means they couldn't be assigned to national team competitions.

The clear loopholes of such an approach were revealed in the BasketNews article.

"If we want to mask the problem, we can use whatever we want. But let's be honest. People want honesty," Itoudis responded to an official FIBA explanation.

"Let's admit there's a problem out there. Let's admit there is disagreement. I'm not saying who is right or wrong. I want basketball to be right. I want fans to have the best competition out there. I want more fans to love the sport. More people to get involved in sport," Itoudis recalled. "With this 60% in Greece or probably 60% in Spain, we'll have future generations that will know the basics of basketball. They will be healthy fans because they'll know the basics and rules."

Asked if canceling FIBA windows or postponing all the national team competitions to summertime would be a solution, Itoudis didn't give a direct answer.

"Allow me to express my opinion if I'm called or asked by people that are very serious, lead and love this sport. Over here, I'm just giving you the facts, which are frustrating. For many people that I talk with. That's outrageous. That's not normal," Itoudis blasted.

"In 2022, any national team coach can't choose the best available players together with their coaching staff based on their performance, health, or workload. We have so many obstacles. And this is because... Why? What's the reason? What's the reason for having these obstacles? What do we want to accomplish with that?" Itoudis couldn't understand.

"I have so many ideas that I will share if I'm asked. This is more of a closed-door situation. But I can't close it anymore in a space where I'm not heard. Because this needs to be heard. Somebody has to take some measures. I'm not accusing. But that's just facts.

How will a coach or player perform under the best circumstances when he has one practice and sees the other guy for the first time? How? How you can accomplish this in team sports where chemistry is necessary to perform the best. How? How's that possible?"

"I hope we'll sit at the same table," Itoudis concluded.

Video interview with Dimitris Itoudis:

The entire conversation with Dimitris Itoudis in audio:

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