Could Panagiotis Giannakis’ spell with China be done already?
A traditionally dominant team in the Asian Championships, with 15 gold medals in 19 tournaments, it was expected that China would breeze their way to the final and meet Iran.
Chinese Taipei however failed to read the script.
China’s much smaller neighbour knocked them out of the FIBA Asia Championships yesterday at the quarter-final stages in Manila, Philippines, as Giannakis’ men squandered a 17-point lead in the second quarter and let the Chinese Taipei side blitz them comfortably in the third as the team ranked number 42 in the world, 31 places below China scored the first ten points to knot the game at 50-50, then without holding anything back, continued their onslaught to begin the final period up 71-62.
The rest was history.
Giannakis was stunned. The players were stunned. It was almost like you had to rub your eyes or pinch yourself so that you were not imaging it. Chinese Taipei, a country of 20 million people had defeated the Asian powerhouse China, with a population of around 1.2 billion.
In a country where the Chinese are regularly attempting to lure Taiwanese personalities for larger pay packets, highlighted by Chinese Taipei’s Wimbledon doubles champion Hsieh Su-wei hinting of possibly taking Chinese citizenship in exchange for a larger payday through sponsorship deals and endorsements, this was a moment for the “smaller countries”, who have in the past suffered near 40-point defeats consistently.
For Giannakis, he has found out that coaching China is much different to coaching anywhere in Europe where the two continents play very different styles of basketball and especially China.
A veteran of European basketball, and the man who coached Serbia & Montenegro to Eurobasket gold as well as Greece, who he also won a silver medal with at the 2006 world championships in Japan, watching him on the sidelines in the Philippines wasn’t just different, but Giannakis’ influence and knowledge was not, or did not look to be clicking with the side.
A surprise loss in China’s first game against Korea followed by a defeat to Iran did not sit well with the players. No one wants to lose, but from a team that is used to winning, it was obvious that something wasn’t right.
A torrid campaign was finally ended by the Taiwanese and now China battle for fifth place in the Asia Championships, today they defeated Jordan 79-76 and will play for fifth spot tomorrow but it might not be enough to keep Giannakis in the fold if they are invited to the World Cup next year.
Former China coach Bob Donewald had Ming and Yi Jianlian available and got positive results out of those two players. China are extremely reliant on Yi these days, as proven at last year’s Olympics and in this tournament. It’s no surprise that Giannakis’ style is to involve the team and get them all on the same wavelength. It’s what has made him so successful in Europe at both club and international level, but with other players on the Chinese roster looking out of their comfort zone, maybe the Asian giants might look elsewhere after this tournament concludes tomorrow?
China’s first loss on day 1 against Korea.
China’s quarter-final exit to Chinese Taipei.