Rick Pitino
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

The Greek All-Star Game held in Thessaloniki was a good opportunity for some of the players and coaches of the league to have a break from their daily routine and enjoy themselves.

Rick Pitino sat on the bench of the Greek All-Stars, who eventually prevailed over their non-Greek counterparts by 149-146. The 66-year-old coach has been guiding Panathinaikos OPAP for the last one and a half month, trying to gradually pass on his philosophy to the team. The Greens are getting ready to welcome Olympiacos at OAKA next Wednesday (13/2) for a spot in the Greek Cup final, scheduled for Sunday, February 17. According to the latest annoucement, the sold-out looks imminent, as only 400 tickets are available.

Irrespective of the outcome, for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer, the Greek experience is something that he will cherish for many years, as he told TalkBasket.net who met him after the exhibition game in the “Nick Galis Hall”. Pitino also shared his views on PAO’s present and future, while repeating that the team is in need of players capable of hitting threes.

Q: Which are your impressions from the Greek All-Star Game?

A: It’s like most All-Star Games. It’s fun for the fans and the players, but it’s obviously no serious basketball. By that, I mean there’s no defense at all. As I got to know the other Greek players from other teams, the one thing that sticks out is what great guys they are. They are fun to be around, they love the game of basketball and I can go home this summer saying I had the distinct honour to be around them.

Q: How was your whole experience in Thessaloniki?

A: It’s short. I wish I could come back here and spend a little more time. I probably won’t, but I wish I could.

Q: In terms of what the future may hold for you in Greece, what do you think?

A: Well, I will be here until probably June – I hope at least. Then, I’ll look back and say that seven months in my life were really special. I appreciate it greatly.

Q: Can Panathinaikos OPAP do better in the Euroleague?

A: We’ve had a lot of injuries: we had Langford out, now we have Pappas out and Matt Lojeski too. We’ve got a lot of tough problems, but surely we haven’t played well
on the road. You usually judge a team and how good they are by how they play on the road. We haven’t done that and if you look at it statistically, there’s a big disparity between home and away games.

Q: Is it a matter of ability or character?

A: I think we got great character but I do think that there are glaring weaknesses with our basketball team. One glaring weakness is in the shooting department. That’s the one thing I’m going to tell the owner: “You have to get three or four shooters added to the team”. The good thing is that the Greek players have a lot of upside to them. They are going to get a lot better.

Q: Did you watch any good shooters in the three-point contest that you’d like to add to your team?

A: I think you got to go and get some other foreign players, bring them in and strenghten your squad. Then, I think that Panathinaikos will be back in the hunt in the Euroleague.

Q: Is it because the Greeks aren’t good shooters?

A: No, the Greeks are really good shooters. It’s just that the ones we have aren’t. However, they are very good basketball players. So, you got to mix some good shooters with good basketball players and you’ll get a good team.

Q: There’s a big game against Olympiacos for the Greek Cup coming up. How are you going to prepare for it?

A: Again, we are going to have to really mix it up because we don’t have a back-up in the two-guard spot. So, we are going to probably play Papapetrou at the two-guard a little bit.

Q: As far as the Euroleague goes, does Panathinaikos stand any realistic chances of making the play-offs?

A: Well, we have to to win almost every game. It’s possible but not probable. We are going to play really hard. The one thing I want to leave is a good foundation for the next year for whoever coach is. We have some very good young Greek players. Just need to get about three or four shooters and then I think they’ll be back where they need to be.

Q: Have you had any talks with Dimitris Giannakopoulos concerning the way that the team should be built next year?

A: I’m going to give him all my knowlegde. I really like Dimitris. I think he’s very passionate for the game. I commend all the owners in the Euroleague because it’s different than the NBA. They don’t make any money. So, if you said to all the NBA owners: “You can own the team but you’re not going to make money, you just have to spend”, there wouldn’t be many American owners.