After leading CSKA Moscow to a pair of thrilling victories at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Berlin and bringing the title back to the Russian capital for the first time in eight seasons, Dimitris Itoudis has been voted as the 2015-16 Euroleague Basketball Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year.
Among the most dedicated and detail-oriented coaches anywhere, Itoudis built one of the greatest offenses of the century as CSKA became the first Euroleague team in 11 years to average more than 90 points per game. Itoudis also gave CSKA the staying power it needed to survive the Final Four in dramatic fashion. After downing fellow Russian side Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 88-81 in the semifinals, CSKA survived overtime in the championship game to edge Fenerbahce Istanbul 101-96 in Berlin and take home the club’s seventh continental title.
It was the sixth time in his career that Itoudis climbed to the top of the podium and lifted the Euroleague crown, but first occasion in his role as a head coach. Itoudis was chosen as this season’s Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year by a vote among his peers in the competition. Following him in the voting were his fellow Final Four coaches, Georgios Bartzokas of Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, Zeljko Obradovic of Fenerbahce Istanbul and Velimir Perasovic of Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz, in that order. Itoudis started his coaching career at a very young age. While studying to earn a postgraduate degree in physical education from the University of Zagreb, he worked with some local clubs in the Croatian capital. Upon graduation, Itoudis returned to his native Greece where he took the reins at PAOK and Phillipos Thessaloniki, before joining Zeljko Obradovic at Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos in 1999.
Itoudis was the head coach’s right-hand man as they built a dynasty and won Euroleague titles in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2009, and 2011. In their 13 years together, Itoudis and Obradovic also won 18 domestic league and cup trophies, as well.
After a year away from coaching, Itoudis took over Banvit Bandirma and guided the club to a historic first-place finish in the Turkish League regular season. That is when CSKA called and Itoudis took the reins of the storied club seeking to end a Euroleague championship drought. And he delivered. Itoudis left his mark already in his first season there, not only by winning his first 15 Euroleague games as a head coach, but with his team playing attractive, offensive-minded basketball. Itoudis had CSKA dominating as it reached the 2015 Euroleague Final Four with an impressive 25-3 record.
However he would need another season before taking the team all the way. In his second season in Moscow, CSKA’s offense was a work of art. The team not only led the competition in most offensive categories, but finished among the top four Euroleague teams all-time in points scored, assists, three-point accuracy, three-point shots made and performance index rating. CSKA registered only one defeat on the way to winning its regular season group and then clinched first place in one of the toughest Top 16 groups ever with a 10-4 record.
In the playoffs, CSKA used its home-court advantage to sweep Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade and reach the Final Four tied for a competition-best 23-5 record. On the floor at Mercedes-Benz Arena in the German capital, Itoudis and his team took the final two steps toward glory. After leading the semifinal clash against Lokomotiv from start to finish, CSKA had a memorable offensive display in the first half of the championship game and led Fenerbahce 50-30 at halftime. Fenerbahce rallied and even took the lead, but CSKA captain Victor Khryapa made a put-back that sent the game into overtime, where CSKA prevailed. The Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy, voted each season by the head coaches of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, pays tribute to the coaching legend who won the first three continental titles from 1958 to 1960 with ASK Riga. Gomelskiy, the father of basketball in the Soviet Union and Russia, also led CSKA to the continental crown in 1971 for his fourth and final title. He passed away in 2005 at age 77. Since then, the award has been handed out to the best head coach of each Euroleague season, as voted by his peers.
Pini Gershon of Maccabi Tel Aviv was the inaugural winner in 2005. Ettore Messina of CSKA Moscow won in 2006 and 2008, while Zeljko Obradovic of Panathinaikos Athens also won twice, in 2007 and 2011. Dusko Vujosevic won with Partizan in 2009; the 2010 winner was Xavi Pascual of Regal FC Barcelona; Dusan Ivkovic and Georgios Bartzokas, both of Olympiacos Piraeus, won in 2012 and 2013, respectively; David Blatt of Maccabi was the 2014 award winner; and Pablo Laso of Real Madrid was last year’s winner.