Exclusive Interview with Dimitris Itoudis. The Head Coach of Greece and Fenerbahçe Beko Istanbul talked about the double role, the privilege to represent his country, the next EuroLeague season, Giannis Antetokounmpo and of course CSKA Moscow.
For the first time in your career, double role with two very important benches. Greece and Fenerbahçe. What prompted you to accept the double assignment?
“It’s an obligation, but at the same time I do it with pleasure. I would like to thanks CSKA and Fenerbahçe for the understanding and allow me to represent my country. This is huge, I understand as to be the new Coach of Fenerbahçe, I need to be there, but I trust my assistant coaches there, where they’re doing a great job. I want to thank the board of Fenerbahçe, Sertaç Komsuoğlu, for allowing me to represent my country.”
The preparation is now over, EuroBasket is next. Is this Greece aiming for a medal?
“It would be nice if you start the question with… What is the plan? Our first goal is to be healthy. We have never practiced all together. The second goal is to become a real team, that knows what to do on the court, a team that communicates without be vocal, with eye contact. All these facts require time and exercises but this is our goal. We’re really approaching this tournament with huge respect of the other teams and we’re go game by game.”
About Greece injuries. Can you update me about Sloukas, Papapetrou, Papagiannis and Kostas Antetokoumpo? Will they be at EuroBasket?
“We’re going day by day. We’re talking soon with doctors to receive an update. We have some good progress with Kostas Sloukas, Kostas Antetokounmpo and Georgios Papagiannis. We’re waiting to know updates from the doctors and the players.”
You had the opportunity to coach so many stars, but now there is a two-time NBA MVP like Giannis Antetokounmpo. How is coaching Giannis and what kind of person is also off the pitch?
“First of all, it’s a huge privilege for greek basketball to have such a player in our team. It’s also a privilege to have a such unique character. He really cares about the country, he wants to play and represent Greece. Giannis wants to help to win games and he always support his teammates. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a great guy that knows the valute of the family, also for life lessons. He’s a great example for greek children and not only. Nothing was given easy in his life so he had to earn a lot of things and he always do everything with hard work, dedication, commitments, fighting.. a living example.”
Two players from Greece have been at the center of numerous market rumors, as confirmed by themselves. One has finally arrived at Fenerbahçe, Nick Calathes, the other was very close but then he choosed the NBA, Tyler Dorsey. Did you talk to them, were there any talks between you and them and what kind of players are Nick and Tyler?
“Of course I talked to them… they play for my national team, is not a secret! Two great players. Nick Calathes has a great experience, EuroLeague level, also College and NBA. I had the privilege to work with Nick Calathes also when we recruited him on Panathinaikos. I’m really proud to see his progress as a player and as a man, we’re all happy at Fenerbahçe to have Nick Calathes for the upcoming 2 seasons. About Tyler Dorsey, he’s very motivated. I’m happy to have the opportunity to work with him with the national team. He’s next step is trying to be in the NBA and I’m wishing him the best of luck.”
Fenerbahçe. A new great challenge. What was the first impact with the club, the fans and the city?
“First of all, I would like to thank CSKA Moscow for 8 amazing years. I want to say thank you to Andrei Vatutin, Natasha Furaeva, Norilsk Nickel (the main sponsor), for the trust, the cooperation and I feel I grew up as a Coach and as a Man. It was a great journey. After 8 years, we sat down and with another year of contract, we discuss the possibility to make a pause in our collaboration. Then another great club like Fenerbahçe came, with Mr. Ali Koç and Mr. Sertaç Komsuoğlu, and great supporters. It’s another great challenge for me. I realize the responsibilities I have, the obligations we have towards the fans and the history of club. We’re all so motivated, full of energy to help Fenerbahçe grow.”
Do you think a EuroLeague is right without CSKA Moscow?
“No, it’s not right. CSKA Moscow has to be in the EuroLeague competition. CSKA is one of the founders of the EuroLeague. I think that everybody would realized that soon and CSKA would be back in the highest level of competition because this is where deserves to be.”
If you had to tell me a name about the new signings, which one you think will be a big surprise this season, who would you tell me?
“I can’t make any predictions, I’m not good with them. A lot of things happen in sports which we can’t control.. Let’s stay in our near future which is the practice with Greece for me and the practice with Fenerbahçe for my assistants coaches.”
Many people believe it’s one of the season with the highest quality ever in the EuroLeague. Many teams aiming to win the competition and we have new entries with great blazon and quality. Do you think so?
“Watching the rosters on the teams and how they have moved in European and American market, I believe the same. EuroLeague is the highest level in European and team basketball. It will be a very competitive season.”
How do you see Olimpia Milano and Virtus Bologna? Olimpia Milano wants to win EuroLeague, but Virtus Bologna also does not want to give up the EuroLeague achieved on the court.
“Very serious organizations both. Milano and Bologna have millions of fans behind them. Great system of play and culture, Italian fans should be proud and they’re gonna watch so many good games.”
This year a very important colleague and friend of you, Zeljko Obradovic returns to the EuroLeague. What do you think of the return of Zeljko and Partizan to the biggest European competition?
“That’s another great addition, having again both Serbian team from Belgrade in EuroLeague. It’s a great rivalry and great history behind there. These two teams attract the interests of many fans. It would be very interesting.”
You coached great point guards, such as Rodriguez, De Colo and Calathes. Do you see an important future on the bench for any of them once they stop being a player?
“I don’t know, it’s up to them. If they would like to continue be in basketball, be a coach o something else in basketball environment, it would be nice. I had the opportunity to work with many players who have this privilege, for example Vassilis Spanoulis or Damir Mulaomerović. It depends, if they want to be in, they’ll have my support and my advices and I wish the best of luck.”
So many injuries last games. Do you think it’s unlucky or maybe there are too many games?
“It’s a fact, not just luck. Players are loaded during the season, they want to help national teams and they’re having more loading. They need support, a great professional medical and conditions staff. Calendar is also very important. I was talking about that in small tournaments we had… we discuss how we can extend rosters into 14. Coach can’t decide to rest some players and have some different rosters. Me personal, I’ve worked with EVO, a company that is revolutionary in terms of predictions injury. We’re monitoring players and with the avatar we have, we can monitor every part of the body and risks area. Doctors, physiotherapist and condition coaches can advice coaches how much loading, needed or not. This program can help us to be more safe.”