By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
With CSKA Moscow being the first team to qualify for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four, coach Dimitris Itoudis was asked in the press conference about his decision to suspend Mike James who was ultimately released to sign with the Brooklyn Nets.
Without naming him, the Greek coach once more implied that there was no other option for him: “On such a day I wouldn’t like to criticize some people, but I will tell you this. In everybody’s job, if you don’t feel that you belong, then you try to find a way to go out. Ιf you feel that you belong, you will give your best self, regardless of what’s your position… But if you feel that you don’t belong there, then you don’t try to find a way. In a team which is a body of 15-16 people with different ideas, you have to bring them under the same umbrella. You know, traditions are not winning. We have a great tradition, but the culture is winning, the everyday effort is winning, being composed is winning, being well prepared is winning, and definitely last but not least in such an organization as a head coach I can’t do discounts on ethics. Otherwise, you are going to lose the team. And we are not losing the team. They gave their answer over here. You can see that. And I am proud of what I am seeing every day in practice, on trips, on meetings. Every decision is a hard decision. I am always in favor of the team effort and for those who feel that they belong. We feel that we belong and we like what we do”.
It has to be noted that Itoudis’ contract with CSKA Moscow expires this summer, while Mike James after the end of the 2020-21 season will still have a valid contract with CSKA Moscow until the summer of 2023, as the two sides have agreed upon his temporary release that permitted him to join the Nets.
The answer of Itoudis comes on the heels of the publishing by Italian newspaper “Gazzeta Delo Sport” of the email written back in 2019 by coach Ettore Messina, in which it was announced to James that his contract with Milan was going to be bought out.
The text was the following: “As a form of respect, I want to inform you about my decision personally. By my choice, you will have no space in our team next season. As I told you in our telephone conversations when I took control of the team in June, I have the utmost respect for your talent but I am worried by the long list of behaviors and violations of the team rules you’ve had in the past season. I asked you explicitly if you felt you can ensure that you will follow the disciplinary standards inside and out of the court from here forward: I’ve never had a complete verbal commitment about it. The fact that no one in the team, at any level, has ever talked to you or have ever fined you for your behavior is conpletely irrelevant for me. The only thing that matters is that these behaviors will never be tolerated under my guide, from here forward, from every person belonging to the team. After our telephone conversations I talked to members of Panathinaikos, the Phoenix Suns and even with your youth coaches. Those conversations have reinforced my convictions: I believe that, despite your incredible talent, in a controlled environment there is a high risk that you may violate the rules and become a problem for the team, more than a resource. I am not willing to accept the risk that those behaviors can happen during the season. If they happen, I would have to take extreme measures too late. And it would be unfair towards the team, the owners and the fans of the Olympia Milan”.