Although it’s still too early in the season, both coaches have already seen their clubs’ fans have mixed emotions towards them, depending on Olympiacos’ and Panathinaikos’ results in their weekly Euroleague games.
The “Reds” and the “Greens” are considered two of the league’s giants and their target is to qualify to the Final Four and claim the title.
With three and six Euroleague titles, respectively, there is a high level of pressure for both teams to win all titles every year.
If they fail to do so, the season will undoubtedly be unsuccessful. However, most fans and followers are very impatient and expect from their squad to play at very high standards in every game.
As this can’t happen, though, it’s inevitable they will suffer a number of defeats during the season.
To make matters worse, they think the head coach is the only one to blame when the side loses a series of games and usually demand for another coach to be appointed immediately.
Olympiacos coach, Giannis Sfairopoulos, and Panathinaikos one, Xavi Pascual, are two examples that can perfectly describe the aforementioned situation.
The decisions made by the Greek coach during the off-season, regarding the roster’s changes, have been strongly criticised by the fans, who are expecting from the newcomers to perform much better offensively.
As Olympiacos have one of the league’s best defensive lines, it is believed that only if coach Sfairopoulos changes his offensive tactics, then the team will have the opportunity to qualify to the Final-Four and fight for the title.
During the summer, the club signed players that can make the team’s playing style less predictable as well as be productive either from beyond the arc or inside the paint.
However, all of them (Brian Roberts, Hollis Thompson, Jamel McLean, Janis Strelnieks, Kim Tillie, Giorgos Bogris) need time to adapt to the tactics and the high expectations, so it’s normal they will have many ups and downs, especially in the beginning of the season.
Moreover, with captain Vassilis Spanoulis and Tillie out of action, due to injuries, it’s very difficult for coach Sfairopoulos to unfold his plan, given that some players are not medically cleared to play.
The “Reds” remained undefeated in the first four games of the season (4-0), however their back-to-back losses to Barcelona and rivals Panathinaikos disappointed the fans, who believed it was time for Sfairopoulos to leave the team.
One week later, though, things were completely different. More specifically, the consecutive victories over Fenerbahce and Crvena Zvezda, respectively, helped the club climb to the top of the standings (6-2), while most players stepped up and enhanced their performance.
Concurrently, the Greek coach received a standing ovation, with the fans chanting his name and showing their support to the players and staff.
But, the aforementioned example shows the lack of patience and “basketball knowledge” Olympiacos fans have and it’s certain this situation will happen again, given the team’s difficult schedule in the following months (the Greeks beat Armani Milano in Italy on Thursday night for their seventh win in nine games, 85-86).
What everybody should take into account, though, is that Olympiacos are one of the favourites to go all the way to the end, thanks to their roster’s depth and talent.
That said, they are expected to be at their very best in the second part of the season (from late February onwards), when everything will be on the line.
Until then, there will certainly be many ups and downs, so the fans need to be patient, support coach Sfairopoulos and his players and not demand changes after an unfortunate result.
The situation is similar for Panathinaikos, too. The six-time Euroleague champions want to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2012, however they know their mission will not be an easy one.
Having made many changes to their roster, the “Greens” need to rely on the experienced players to make the difference in the first part of the season.
As most of the newcomers (Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Zack Auguste, Marcus Denmon, in particular) have no Euroleague experience (apart from Matt Lojeski and Lukas Lekavicius), the biggest challenge for Xavi Pascual is to help them play better game after game and retain their performance at high levels.
But, this hasn’t taken place so far and the “Greens” have been weak, especially on the road, with many players playing mediocre on both ends of the floor and the side suffering a series of defeats.
Consequently, Pascual (who is a successful and well organised coach) was critisised by Panathinaikos fans, who thought he wasn’t the one that could lead the squad back to the top of Europe.
However, their three-game winning streak has turned things around, as coach Pascual saw his players escape from Piece and Friendship Stadium and Sinan Erdem Dome, respectively, with crucial victories, while they also decimated Khimki at home, improving their record as well (5-3).
Now, with two straight matches at home against Real Madrid and Unicaja Malaga, respectively, they have the chance to climb higher in the standings, yet there is no doubt they will be defeated again, as the side is still not ready and need to change many things, both defensively and offensively.
But, coach Pascual is one of the best Euroleague coaches and knows exactly what he has to do to help his players be at their very best.
So, the fans should be patient and give the Catalan coach plenty of time to unfold his plan. Otherwise, there will again be disappointment and demands for a replacement after a series of unfortunate results.
Overall, and given how competitive the Euroleague is, coach Sfairopoulos and Pascual are the best options for both Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.
However, their performance should be evaluated when the season is over to determine whether their presence was successful or not.
Otherwise, they will go from hero to zero and vice versa every week, depending on their respective teams’ results, which simply doesn’t make sense and only makes both clubs’ mission to win the title more difficult.