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George Dikeoulakos: “Men play basketball to be happy, women need to be happy to play basketball”

TalkBasket.net talked to George Dikeoulakos, head coach of a Greek women’s club Athinaikos. The coach talks about his team, differences between men’s and women’s basketball and European basketball in general.

You are the head coach of a women basketball team now. What are the main differences between women and men basketball for a coach?

– I don’t believe that women’s basketball is much different than men’s basketball. Maybe the main differences has to do with their psychology. The first thing that I learned is that men are playing basketball to be happy, but women need to be happy to play basketball!

Please tell us about your team and its aims for this season.

– Athinaikos is a team which work more professional than many A1 men’s team in Greece. We are trying to build a new team which at the next years will dominate in Greece and in Euroleague. We count this year as a year of team building, philosophy building and gaining experience. But the fact that we haven’t lost any game yet at the Greek championship, and we are among 16 teams of Eurocup and will challenge for top 8, maybe will lead us to change our goals cause we have very good chances to become champions in Greece.

Let’s talk about men’s basketball. The main headlines last summer were NBA players coming to Europe with Josh Childress being the biggest name. What is your opinion about such moves?

– Well, I am not so sure. I don’t watch basketball as a fun but as a coach. And coaches for sure know that in basketball doesn’t play only the best player (NBA players), but the most useful player. There are so many big players in the NBA but that doesn’t mean that everybody can fit to the European style. At the other hand, there are so many good players in Europe who cannot find a place in the NBA. It has nothing to do with the big names but with the needs of the team for the style of the championship.

Do you think we will see more stars heading to Europe next summer? What impact it would have on European basketball?

– No, I don’t think that we’ll have many situations like this. Don’t forget that many years ago big stars, or better saying super stars like Dominique Wilkins and Byron Scott and so many others came in Greece to play, but NBA imediatelly found a smart way to stop this. Something like this will happen again. On the other hand, economy in Europe will lead the sponsors and the teams to be more careful and contained with their budgets. To tell you the true I would be more pleased if I could see some big European players who play in the NBA, coming back in Europe.

Greece is represented by Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and Panionios in this year’s Euroleague. How would you rate their chances this season?

– Everybody know that Panathinaikos is every year between the best teams and one of the candidates for being a champion. Olympiakos is still trying to find a place for the final 4. Panionios has potential but no expierence at all, so I believe that they will be satisfied if they’ll make some wins and found themselves at the top 16.

Olympiacos and Panathinaikos are filled with stars but some of them are not finding their place on the court. Do you see the problems in offense that these teams face?

– Everybody have problems right now. It’s too early for these teams to play good basketball. Their only interest is to take some good results, and after January to play good basketball. Don’t forget that teams like Olympiakos and Panatinaikos, is more smart to be at the pick of their perfomance on March. I think that most of these teams, except some teams with the same roster at the last years, are still trying to establish some automatizations on their play, and some players to find their role on the court.

Which clash between the coaches is the most interesting in Euroleague’s first stage?

– Many of them. Reneses vs Giannakis, Pianigiani vs Obradovic, battles between Messina, Plaza and Vujosevic. All of them are great coaches with good strategy and I am really curious to see what else they will think to stop their opponents.

The budgets of the top teams in Europe are growing very fast. Smaller teams are left behind and can’t fight in the transfer market equally. Is it a good trend?

– No, of course it’s not. I am not so familiar with the sharing of profits from Euroleague, but I think that some teams must earn more money from television and their marketing and try to invest more money into good players. Big differences between teams will lead to a championship without any interest at all at the regular season and people will start show some interest only at the games of top 8 and later on. I don’t think that we are too far away from that day.

Should there be a salary cap in Europe?

– I don’t have any good answer in that question. Even people who are more specialized in organization or economy than me, cannot take the risk for something like that cause except NBA we haven’t seen it somewhere else. My opinion is that the problem is not teams that give good money, but teams who doesn’t have enough money to be enough competitive.

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