By Nikos Varlas
Pini Gershon is an emblematic figure of European basketball! And like every one with many achievements in their resume, he has many friends, but also enough enemies. The sure thing about him is that he can’t go unnoticed. Eurohoops.net had the pleasure to talk to him between the parenting of his five daughters and the menu has everything,
If a genie came to his sleep and gave him the chance to coach one team from the Euroleague play offs, his wish will be simple: “I want CSKA, my friend! I believe that they have the talent and the quality to work well under my system! They are good in set game, they are incredible on the open court, they have many big bodies and experience. They are the favorites this year and coach Kazlauskas has created a nice team. Yes, they can run my system”!
And which will be his answer to those that they will accuse him of choosing the best team: “As I explained I believe that this roster fits better to my philosophy, I can play with them the kind of game that I want. If you wish, I can also choose Barcelona”.
But the series that is getting the spotlight in Israel is Panathinaikos – Maccabi Tel Aviv… What is the opinion of Pini about the match up: “I have seen recently Panathinaikos in person and on TV. I will tell you that. Who was the player who changed everything in the game against Olympiacos in Piraeus, when PAO was trailing behind? Saras! He still know how to run the pick and roll! He is a great influence in the game of Panathinaikos. Jasikevicius is the key for the Greens and Sofo is the same for Maccabi. They is a difference in the playing style of Maccabi when Sofo is the court and a different style when Hendrix is playing. Panathinaikos still rely on the pick-and-roll. Hendrix is a better defender than Schortsanitis, but the Greek is in very good condition lately”.
Gershon analyze it a little more: “The key will be how Panathinaikos will defend Maccabi in the post. If they decide to trap and play with helps on Sofo, or Hendrix. For me it’s a bad idea to send a second post player on the help, because Maccabi has some great shooters. But Panathinaikos has the advantage on the guards match ups with Diamantidis, Calathes and Saras against Ohajon and Papaloukas. It will be very important who will be the player of Calathes in defense. Ohajon can make some shots and Desmond Mallet even more”.
But with those players on the court, even with Langford, Obradovic will have a field day of miss matches and Panathinaikos guards will go to the post. Pini’s answer is this: “In that case Tsartsaris and Kaimakoglou must shoot well. When you post your guards, you must have a good shooter in position “4”. Kaimakoglou seems to be more steady, but in those games we will see who is really steady and efficient. This will be the secret for Panathinaikos, when Maccabi plays small ball. The Greens will try to find some good shots from outside”.
Can Maccabi use the pick-and-roll against Panathinaikos: “The best offensive tandem for Maccabi is Hendrix with Papaloukas. I believe that Papaloukas will play a lot in this series. They know the game of each other very well and they work well together on the court. Blu is also important. He has prove that he can make big shots in important games with a pop out and if you make shots like that, the defense has a really hard job to do”.
So, who is the favorite: “Maybe Maccabi is the underdog, but I believe that they have more talent than Panathinaikos who plays really good as a unit and has Obradovic on the bench! I know Zeliko well my friend and I am sure that he will prepare some surprises, he always do in those games! The only thing that I don’t know is when he will show his surprise, in the first game or maybe later. Momentum plays a big part in those games. Maccabi can steal a game in Athens, because Panathinaikos had many bad games in OAKA this year. The second game will be the best chance for Maccabi, because in the first one they will have to adapt in the gym and the fans”.
What Pini has to say about his former team Olympiacos against Siena: “I will be happy if Olympiacos qualifies! But I think that Siena is the favorite. You know why? You have to win away in Italy! Seeing the two rosters, the most experienced team will have the best chances to win away and this team is Siena. Olympiacos has a lot of energy, a lot of motives, young players. But in Euroleague play offs everybody has energy and motives! Who will stop McCalebb? Spanoulis? It will be more logical to save his strength for the offense. That means that one of the… kids must have that role. Will he make it? Olympiacos will fight, but Siena has the upper hand”.
When Gerson will be back on the bench of a European team: “I will not, my friend! I am happy with what I do now in my life, I feel full and there must be a great offer, something that it will be a challenge for me to change my plans. I had offers, but I didn’t have the motives that I needed to get back in this process. The most probable scenario for me is to never again coach a team”!
After all Pini has already five daughters, two babies of 2,5 and 3,5 years of age and he is also getting ready to be a grandfather: “You know that I have five daughters and two of them are still babies! The other two of them are already married! And I have news for you, I am waiting my first grandchild! I am very happy! Fortunately, I had a lot of practice, I am in this job a long time”!
The father, soon to be grandfather and a three times Euroleague winner as the coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv, Pini Gershon wanted to send through Eurohoops a message of love to the Greek people: “You don’t know how bad I feel about the situation in Greece. It’s probably the most beautiful country in the world! You can have great vacations there, you can eat great, you can have fun, you can dance, you can meet wonderful people. I want to tell you that every battle can be won, if you put a fight. You must try to create something for yourselves and the people around you, you can make new jobs and new business. I want to make a wish to Greeks. I hope that very soon all your people, your friends and relatives that may have gone away as immigrants, trying to find work in other countries, will return, so you can all be again together and happy”!