By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgios Bartzokas returned to Olympiacos in January 2020 and, two and a half years later, despite parting ways with a legendary player such as Vassilis Spanoulis, the Reds have reached the Euroleague Final Four.
“The same enthusiasm and the same well-being as before. Of course, the older you get, the more you are aware. I thought I would have less stress having the experience of other playoffs and Final Fours, but unfortunately, as we get older, it does not decrease, but increases. You have a greater sense of responsibility,” Bartzokas told Evangelos Ioannou in his pre-Final Four Eurohoops interview.
That responsibility also increases due to the big emotional atmosphere from the stands and the atmosphere that surround the club in general. Bartzokas, or rather a friend of his that is in football, compared it to the Argentine club Boca Juniors.
“Olympiacos is something else. A friend of mine who is from Olympiacos, told me because he is also a footballer, that this can only happen with Boca Juniors. These extreme emotions, that this group offers, makes it unique. For someone to cry when they lose the match or swears at you, or you can’t go out because of threats to you or how it feels to win. These strong feelings, I respect all the teams, but it is a very special situation here,” the coach explained.
That said, Bartzokas found himself rather calm in the Euroleague playoff series against AS Monaco. He actually finds it harder from the coach’s point of view to lead the games in the domestic championship.
“I was calmer in this series. I am irritated in the matches of the Greek championship, which are the most difficult for the coaches of Euroleague teams. Children are not motivated, they see it as a necessary process, but also a chore. The same thing was happening in Spain and Russia. The other team is playing with motivation, it has been prepared all week and you have done half a workout. The players on the other hand are “bored” and I do not say this to underestimate the opponents, but that is the situation. Of course, the championship helped us a lot.”
Although he was calm in the Monaco series, he also acknowledges that it was a very hard battle and that both teams came out better because of it.
“It was a very difficult series. I think it made us better as a team and I think we also made Monaco better. This series will help us develop our team basketball and our mentality. The others wanted to avoid Monaco. We decided not to choose anything and to go and win and play with Monaco and it turned out well for us. My co-workers asked me if I would have preferred Sloukas‘s shot in Game 4 or to play and live in this atmosphere and I said I would have preferred 3-1. Although we celebrated together with the fans of the team and it was very important.”
Going forward, Olympiacos will face Anadolu Efes in the Final Four semifinal and coach Ergin Ataman was very confident, as usual, in his statements regarding the matchup. Bartzokas understands Ataman’s demeanor but he chooses a different approach.
“It is OK. Coach Ataman has a way of managing his team, its psychology, the team environment, and the opponents. I totally respect the work he has done. He is the European champion, he has been at the top for four years. They are a team with a path, keeping the same players. It became much more expensive after what he won and they win more than double what they won in the beginning, with the same team. This has its pros and cons. I choose to be more modest, based on my own philosophy. I think we are not the favorite. Efes is. But favorites do not always win, especially in the Final Four. They have confidence, it remains to be seen how we will appear “.