A new basketball sunrise shines for Petteri Koponen

2022-12-04T13:19:44+00:00 2022-12-04T13:23:22+00:00.

Cesare Milanti

04/Dec/22 13:19


The Finnish shooting guard ended his career at EuroBasket 2022 and now he’s leaning towards a coaching adventure in the EuroLeague ANGT

By Cesare Milanti/ info@eurohoops.net

Spain and Finland are going after each other for almost a quarter. Lassi Tuovi got a pretty comfortable 7 points lead, and it’s about to enter the last minute of the first period on a positive note.

As the clock is winding down, Lauri Markkanen goes ISO mode but loses control of the ball, which ends in Elias Valtonen’s hands. He sees Kantonen left in the high corner. And eventually, the extra pass is made toward Petteri Koponen.

Just like good old times, he stepped up from long range. Three points, the first and last of only in his last appearance with Finland. A long and decorated career is over, and now it’s about time to sum it up.

“It was a great journey. I was lucky enough to play at the highest level in Europe for many years with great teammates and coaches. I’m pretty proud of what I achieved. It was just nice to play basketball, it always was my dream. It succeeded, and I’m really happy and proud about it”, Petteri Koponen told Eurohoops.

The Finnish shooting guard has worn some of the most wanted European jerseys, playing for high-level clubs such as Virtus Bologna (2008-12), Khimki (2012-16), Barcelona (2016-18), and Bayern Monaco (2018-21), among others.

But as already anticipated, his last game before saying goodbye for one last time to the game of basketball was with his national team, in a quarter-finals clash against soon-to-be EuroBasket 2022 champs Spain.

He couldn’t have anything but satisfying words to describe the best EuroBasket result achieved by The Wolf Pack since 1967. “Personally, EuroBasket 2022 was a great way to finish my career with the national team. It was always very important for me during those years: every time I had the chance to play for our country I was always available. It’s been an amazing journey. We came from Division B all the way many times to EuroBasket. Now we’ve got the ticket for next year’s World Cup and it was an amazing summer”, he said.

We’re lucky enough to have seen him on the court one last time with that jersey because he wasn’t completely sure about participating at EuroBasket 2022. Thankfully, Lassi Tuovi convinced him.

“Before the summer, I was thinking either to play or not, because with all my problems and hips… Then, when I talked with Lassi, he really pushed me to come one more time, and I’m very happy I made my decision, being able to finish that way. We had a great run with the national team”, he added.

After being up 52-43 at the end of the second quarter, though, the regret of not being able to go even further in the competition stays in the air. “Of course, the Top 8 is a great result, but at the same time when we played against Spain we had an amazing first half, and after the game, we were thinking “We had a chance”. In the end, Spain won the gold, so maybe it just wasn’t our time yet. Younger guys are coming. Overall I think it was a great summer for Finland”, the Finnish legend said.

With the final buzzer and the applause by the audience of the Mercedes-Benz Arena saying goodbye to both Finland and Petteri Koponen, who retired alongside Shawn Huff, the shooting guard’s career came to an end.

Still, he hasn’t suffered from being distant from basketball yet. Almost. “So far, it’s been okay. I thought it would be harder, but I have two sons who are 7 and 4 years old, so they keep me pretty busy every day. I started coaching in high school a little bit and I always have some small things to do”, he commented on his early post-career life.

Among those “small things”, Petteri Koponen found time to visit some old friends as well, in an iconic basketball arena. “It was just great to go back to Bologna after all those years. They’ve got one of the best fans and it was nice they still remember me. I’m just very happy to see that Virtus is finally playing in the EuroLeague at the level they deserve”, he said about the black-and-white team, which gave him the first opportunity to show his talent around.

There must be a reason why it’s called “Basket City”. “Bologna is a great basketball city, the fans really appreciate the sport and they follow the team very closely, both in bad and good situations. It was nice to be there and feel the atmosphere. When I saw the PalaDozza, maybe that has been the only time after my retirement in which I felt like “Man, it would be still nice to play”. At the same time, I know I can’t do it anymore, so it’s time to move on and get ready for the next part of my life”, he added.

As announced by the EuroLeague, the 34-year-old will begin a new chapter of his basketball life, despite not being on the court anymore.

He will be the head coach of the ANGT U18 Next Generation Select Team, replacing Vassilis Spanoulis in that role. And if Kill Bill is now sitting on Peristeri’s bench, Koponen doesn’t know if he belongs to the coaching world yet.

“I don’t think that far yet. I think coaching is something that interests me, but at the same time, I don’t want to go too much ahead in the future, trying to enjoy a little bit this time with family and kids, doing some other stuff that I couldn’t do before. I think coaching is definitely something that I will consider in the future”, he said, leaving the door open.

Surely, being able to start an eventual coaching career on such a big stage sounds like a great beginning. “This ANGT is a great opportunity. It was a great honor for me to receive that EuroLeague and Adidas call where they told me about the opportunity to be the coach after a legend like Spanoulis. I think it’s gonna be a great experience. It’s a great opportunity to also see where the best young players are going right now. Maybe I can also help someway Finnish basketball, young players here to know where are the top prospects and what they need to do to get to that level. I’m pretty excited about that”, he commented on being a protagonist in one of the most anticipated tournaments for future talents.

From that last three-pointer which wrote the end to his playing career to a new sunrise as head coach, trying to help upcoming guys take a spot in what has been his world for almost 20 years.

The Wolf Pack embraced his last moments, but Petteri Koponen will keep on howling.