By Nikos Varlas/ email@example.com
Olympiacos Piraeus coach Giorgos Bartzokas described domestic league games as a “nightmare” for coaches of EuroLeague teams, mainly due to the fact that it’s extremely hard for him and his peers to motivate their players to give their best in them.
“I want to tell you that local leagues are now a nightmare for Euroleague coaches,” Bartzokas told Eurohoops. “I don’t say that as only my own opinion, I have discussed it with everyone. This stress of playing a match with a ‘small’ team that prepares all week and has a big motivation to play against you while your players don’t have the slightest motivation and they get in and just walk. The worst matches for all Euroleague coaches are the ones that are taken for granted to be easy in their local league. These games are a nightmare. You’d want the two hours to pass and win the match by one point to get up and leave. Because you know how difficult it is to prompt your players when they play 80 matches. These are matches that, if you lose, can be decisive for the championship as well. It is difficult to drive them to think that a game in September or October is so important for the future of the team. “So these games are very difficult.”
Bartzokas previously talked about how different his work has become given that he has to plan more practices for his players since Olympiacos is participating only in EuroLeague for a second straight year.
“I want to be honest. I like it more,” Bartzokas said. “Obviously, I became a coach for the practices and not the games. Where the coach intervenes directly on how he will make a team play well. This includes practices as the first and foremost important thing. Games are the expression of what you have worked. When you don’t have time for practices, to prepare a team, the game is just a soul-crushing procedure of stress that is of course nice for the fans and the players. But the coach, as a colleague of mine, has said – doesn’t enjoy the defeat but it’s the relief of a non-defeat.”
Olympiacos will be basically competing for only one title in the 2020-2021 season: The EuroLeague championship, a race that the Reds are entering as one of the underdogs.
How difficult is it for a coach like Bartzokas to make all the necessary preparations for the upcoming season and coach his players knowing that actually winning the EuroLeague title is possibly beyond even exceeding themselves?
“Good question. The truth is that when you as a visible target to finish the season with a winning game, I mean a title-giving game, it’s always a big motivation,” Bartzokas said. “However, for better or for worse, this is the situation and we’ll see in the next years how it won’t only be Olympiacos‘ situation but a situation for the other EuroLeague teams. I believe that the whole thing moves towards there: A closed league where the competition level will be enormous and obviously one out of the 18 teams that play will finish the season well. Either way, EuroLeague has always been like that. It’s not exactly as in the NBA where many teams have the procedure to “build” for many years. We see now the Milwaukee Bucks that is a procedure of 5-6 years, of which the peak may happen in 7-8 years.”
“In Europe and EuroLeague, the situation is ‘one and done’. If you don’t do well in one year, everyone has a problem with their job, players, coaches, general managers. These are the facts, that Olympiacos doesn’t have domestic competition, the team plays only on the European level. It’s a very tough league, as my fellow coaches have said, in the sense that if you aren’t first, you are nothing in Europe. I remind you that even the most successful teams go to the Final Four and at the end of it three of them are failures and only the one that won is not [a failure], they often return to their countries in crisis because they didn’t manage to win. But these are the facts, we have been learned and that’s why we have been toughened as well, to play with these given things in competition. Nothing counts but the victory, this is how European basketball is. It’s more intense in the Mediterranean and even more intense on Olympiacos. So these are the facts and we have to work with them.”