Ioannis Sfairopoulos’ love for basketball has no limits. He loved playing the game, but in time, he developed a love for coaching.
And it was the latter that gave the Olympiacos coach a new lease of life in his chosen career. Basketball was always going to be part of it, but even he admitted that playing was never going to amount to anything. Coaching and making other people better was different.
“I started coaching at age 19 and stopped playing two years later,” Sfairopoulos said in his latest blog for EuroLeague.net. I overlapped as a player and coach for two years, but when I discovered how much I loved coaching, I stopped playing. First of all, I knew that I was not a great player. I was a hard worker and started to play when I was 12 years old.
“I overlapped as a player and coach for two years, but when I discovered how much I loved coaching, I stopped playing. First of all, I knew that I was not a great player. I was a hard worker and started to play when I was 12 years old.
I understood that I wasn’t good enough to play at a high level. I played seriously for a couple of years in the Greek second division, but after that, when I started to coach, I was so happy coaching kids that I realized that was what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to play anymore – and anyway, I didn’t have a great future as a player.”
The tactician led Olympiacos to the EuroLeague finals in 2015 and last season, coming up just short on both occasions to Real Madrid and Fenerbahce, respectively- but regardless of past results, Sfairopoulos is considered one of the elite coaches in the EuroLeague.
He has led Olympiacos to a perfect 4-0 mark to start this season as the Piraeus side prepare to face off against the mighty Barcelona at the Palau Blaugrana on Friday.
“This will be my 31st year coaching and I never sat out for a full season, ever,” he says. “I was always coaching a team, except for a few months before coming to Olympiacos. This is very important for me because I love basketball and being part of a team.
“Basketball people, not just coaches, don’t have weekends, Christmas, New Year’s Eve or Easter. There is no time to rest, but this is what we love. I have no complaints; I am very happy that I am here and am still willing to work very hard as if it was my first day. I am still trying to learn and get better every day. Above all, I love basketball!