By John Askounis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
In HEBA’s press conference ahead of the Semifinals of the Greek Basket League Playoffs, Rick Pitino didn’t hold back when discussing the rivalry between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos. The Greens advanced through the Quarterfinals after the Reds forfeited the best-of-three series and the 66-year-old head coach mentioned such decisions only damage Greek basketball.
“The Greek Freak has done so much for Greek basketball and for the popularity of Greece. They love him all over USA. They say it’s because of his Greek background. He’s so working, so humbling. He’s done so much, but then there’s the flipside like teams not showing up and teams forfeiting that kills Greek basketball and everything it stands for” he initially pointed out.
The Greek basketball mess has certainly affected the fans and Pitino himself. Further talking about the two Greek powerhouses and their heated relationship, he said: “People say that one of the greatest rivalries is between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, but I don’t believe that. I don’t think it’s a great rivalry at all.”
“Great rivalries are built on respect. Great rivalries are when the other team beats you” he explained and added: “When we show up we want to kill Olympiacos and they want to kill us. At the end of the game I have the upmost respect for all of Olympiacos’ players and their coaches. That’s what a rivalry is about. When they don’t respect each other, you have no rivalry, you have anarchy. What happened this year was anarchy.”
Olympiacos walked out of the Greek Cup Semifinal versus Panathinaikos and a series of events including the Greens forfeiting the Basket League Regular Season Round 26 contest versus Kymi took Greek basketball on a painful ride these past months. “I don’t blame anybody. I have great respect for Olympiacos and coach Blatt, but you can’t have great basketball with what went on this year. Excuses are a sign of weakness. You need a lot of rules to have great basketball” Pitino mentioned.
The Greens’ boss went on explaining: “You can’t show up in a EuroLeague game with 20.000 people behind Panathinaikos and 12.000 people behind Olympiacos smoking. Not only are we choking to death. I can’t speak for three days. Rules don’t allow you to smoke inside an arena and have my star player choke during the game.”
Summing up his tenure in Greece, the experienced coach noted: “I’m bothered by a lot of things, but 90% of my six-month experience has been over-the-top awesome. The other 10% I’m embarrassed about as a coach. I hope it changes. My wish for Greece is all of this nonsense to stop.”