Pitino takes over Greek NT, counts on Giannis for potential Olympic berth

2019-11-11T12:26:42+00:00 2019-11-11T20:17:37+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

11/Nov/19 12:26


The new head coach of the Greek national team is ready to climb another mountain.

By John Askounis/ info@eurohoops.net

The Greek Basketball Federation formally introduced Rick Pitino on Monday as the new head coach of the Greek national team. He will guide Greece in next summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament aiming for a spot in the Olympic Games tournament. During the press conference, the 67-year-old head coach explained how he would approach Giannis Antetokounmpo, admitting that the Greek Freak will potentially miss the qualifying tournament.

The Giannis plan

The Milwaukee Bucks making the long run in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, will likely prevent their leader from competing for his national team in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Pitino was aware of the scheduling issues but has proceeded towards securing the Greek Freak’s services in the Olympic Games, if he previously leads Greece to Tokyo.

“I’ve been in contact with all the players that make the nucleus of this team.” he said and repeated, “I plan on meeting Giannis and Thanasis in March when they play the Miami Heat.”

“Giannis’ total focus right now is the Milwaukee Bucks trying to win a championship. It is a possibility he will not be playing with us in the qualifying round if he goes far. I understood that coming into this situation,” he added on the reigning NBA MVP, “I still want to meet him, to tell him my plans for him. I believe he will play in the Olympics, should we qualify.”

“It’s very easy to utilize Giannis.”

Greece is coming off 11th place in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The reigning NBA MVP was in China but struggled against opponents that continuously blocked his way to the bucket. Pitino stressed that head coach Thanasis Skourtopoulos was on point with Giannis on the court and explained how Giannis makes any coach’s job simple.

“It’s very easy to utilize Giannis,” he underlined, “The difference between NBA and FIBA is the rule that you could stay in the lane. But it doesn’t matter. The way to use Giannis is very similar to what the Milwaukee Bucks to, let him be creative, let him do his thing.”

“Giannis is a bridge we have to cross later,” mentioned Pitino before moving forward on other potential national team squad members the likes of Kostas Sloukas and Tyler Dorsey, “I’m planning to come back in early January to go to Olympiacos. They are going to play against Fenerbahce and Dorsey’s team Maccabi, to get in touch with those players as well.”

“For the next eight months, I am Greek.”

“This is one of the greatest honors I have had as a coach. It’s a mountain that if we reach the top, it would be special. In the next five months, I will do everything possible to put together the best possible team,” said the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, “For the next eight months, I am not American, not Italian, I am Greek.”

“This is distinction I will not take lightly,” he said, underlining that he does not view his appointment as his next basketball job but an honor, “Once the brackets are announced, I will study all the teams we will face.”

Climbing his personal mountains

“I have been mountain-climbing all my life, forty-plus years,” noted Pitino looking back on his lengthy coaching career from Boston University, Providence, New York Knicks, Kentucky, Boston Celtics, and Louisville to Panathinaikos OPAP, “I arrived at another mountain to climb. And this one is the most enjoyable.”

“The Greek basketball players stood out from all the mountains I climbed, not only those from Panathinaikos,” Pitino pointed out as well, “They all have this special quality I have not seen in my forty-plus years. They all have incredible pride in their country. Making it to Japan with these players in their prime would be the crown jewel for me as a coach.”