But it is not all about participating but also going all the way and winning the Euroleague title. And here come the two coaches that will take part in yet another Final Four. Zeljko Obradovic is the winningest coach of the Final Four history having grabbed six Euroleague titles with four different clubs, three of them with his current club, Panathinaikos Athens. On the other hand Ettore Messina of CSKA Moscow is the only coach that has conquered Europe multiple times with two different teams, twice with Virtus Bologna in 1998 and 2001 and twice with CSKA Moscow in 2006 and 2008. In fact Messina will be participating in the 8th Final Four in his career and did you know that he has managed to reach the Final in all his seven previous appearances? Definitely a unique achievement.
Panathinaikos has the highest percentage of success in Final Four Finals, winning the four out of the five Finals they have taken part in, the only loss being to Maccabi Tel Aviv back in 2001. But not all Final Four stories have a happy ending, for example Barcelona will play in their 10th Final Four, tying Maccabi’s record for the most Final Four appearances, yet they have lost eight out of their nine previous appearances bringing the title home just in 2003 with Euroleague legends Dejan Bodiroga and Sarunas Jasikevicius being the two super-stars in an already rich roster.
Talking of Sarunas Jasikevicius it is worth to mention that in case that Panathinaikos lifts the trophy the Lithuanian star will become the first player, who will have managed to win the trophy with three different teams, after winning it with Barcelona in 2003 as mentioned before and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the next two seasons, 2004 and 2005 alongside David Andersen of Barcelona who has won the title with Virtus Bologna in 2001 and twice with CSKA Moscow in 2006 and 2008. Only one of them will have the chance to finish this untypical fight victorious. And while Jasikevicius has a 100% percentage in winning Final Fours in which he took part winning the title in all his three appearances the same doesn’t apply for Panathinaikos’ captain Fragiskos Alvertis. And how could it be any different when this will be his 9th overall Final Four, with his 1st appearance being back in 1994, a whole fifteen years back! He has however won more titles than his teammate Saras winning a total of four titles, so far, being the winningest player attending the 2009 Final Four in Berlin. Another interesting fact is that Alvertis will finish his Final Four career like he started it, facing arch rivals Olympiacos like back in 1994.
Olympiacos will be back in a Final Four after a decade of oblivion, thanks to experience gathered by newly added players Teo Papaloukas, Nikola Vujcic and Yotam Halperin who have a combined fourteen appearances in Final Fours, in fact they are the only Olympiacos’ squad members who have been to a Final Four. Olympiacos is being led by their legendary coach Panayiotis Yannakis who will have managed something really unique if Olympiacos goes all the way to win the title. Not only will he win the Euroleague title both as a coach and as a player, he will have done so winning the title with the two Greek arch-rivals, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos. Not to mention that he has won the Eurobasket both as a player and as a coach. A true symbol of Greek basketball. Both Olympiacos and Yannakis have won the Final Four just once in five appearances, amazingly both against Barcelona in two consecutive years, Yannakis in 1996 (with Panathinaikos as a player) and Olympiacos in 1997.
Barcelona have written their own history in the Euroleague Final Four books throughout the years and will be back to a Final Four for the first time since 2006. Interestingly enough they play in a Final Four every three years during the current decade. 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009 that is. This year they are back due to some great additions like David Andersen and the return of their natural captain, La Bomba Navarro who is the only player in their roster at the moment who has won the Euroleague title with Barcelona’s colours. And yet for the third consecutive time they will face CSKA Moscow in their Final Four semi final appearance. Another great Barcelona guard, Gianluca Basile will this time face former teammates Matjaz Smodis and Erazem Lorbek of CSKA Moscow after losing the 2004 title game with Fortitudo Bologna against Maccabi Tel Aviv. At least this time some of them will go home happy.
Stay tuned for Part II as we will present more fascinating Final Four facts soon!