"I was with some friends at a restaurant of Constantinoupolis. We knew that Zalgiris Kaunas' away victory over Baskonia Gasteiz would send us to face Panathinaikos BC, it was always a possibility but not the most possible scenario. We knew that we could finish at 5th position of the group and that we would have to face the Greens. The truth is that it is one of the things in life that you expect to happen, sooner or later. Since the time I joined Fenerbahce SK, it was obvious that this day will finally come. I have visited the Olympic Stadium of Athens four times and now it's the time to face them at the Play Offs. In the future, this will happen at a Final-Four, maybe a Euroleague final as well. It is never pleasant playing against Panathinaikos, but that's life, that's basketball. I think that everybody knows well my feelings about Panathinaikos and this is something that it will never change. You can not forget so many moments, drop 13 whole years of your life. It will be special series, with the home advantage for Panathinaikos BC and they really deserve it.
The journalists and fans believe that Fenerbahce SK were among the Euroleague favorites. We live the team day by day, from the inside, play at this competition and know how difficult that is. We had all our players healthy in only seven games. At the other 23, we had one to three important absences. We are a team without the luxury of absences, because our rotation is small, everybody knows that. However, we have to leave it behind and give our best for the victory in every close. We reached the Play Offs once again and this is the only important isue.
I am not interested in people's opinion about the budget of my teams, this is an old story that they are keep telling and telling me for many years but it is not really important to me. The public opinion has the right to judge me and to think anything they want about me, I have other standards that are more important for me. Such as, the opinion of my club's administration, the supporters and the athletes. I want them to feel and recognize that we are fighting for the best result. The opinion of the others about my budget, this is something that I never think of. I want to explain that to you with an example. On Friday, we were losing at halftime against Gaziantepspor with 24 points at the halftime. We came out the locker rooms and the fans were cheering the players and me. You know what that means? That they are trusting us and know that we are giving our best for the team. In order to judge someone, you have to examine his story from the beginning till the end. Fenerbahce had 2.500 spectators at their Euroleague games and currently more than 11.000. They had never reached the Final-Four and we did it twice, while we will also fight four our third consecutive presence there. Generally, I believe that the club has improved its level and is considered to be among the best in Europe nowadays.
I believe that my team is in good shape, all the players are healthy even if some of them missed some games or trainings. I believe that we are ready to present a solid match plan and fight for the qualification. Still, the statistics are not important at all, they are for the journalists only, not for me.
Maybe I have lost seven games against Panathinaikos in Athens, but what can we do? Not play at the Olympic Stadium, stay at Constantinoupolis? I believe that everybody know how difficult it is to leave the Olympic Stadium of Athens victorious. My current record with Fenerbahce is 0-4 and we never thought that it will be an easy game. Now, it is even more difficult. I believe that nobody in our team thinks that it is something easy to be done, and I have no doubt that the people of Pathinaikos BC think the same way. It is simply basketball, both teams will play for the victory and the best one will win. Nothing else, nothing more.
You know which are the facts, but I am not thinking about avoiding any team in Euroleague. You have to be ready to face any situation and when you do not have the luxury to select, you should not even be thinking of it. The only think you can do, is be well-prepared for the games. The team which will manage to score more points at three matches, will win! How this will be done, it is actually a very long story.
I think that it is funny, really funny to speak about the possibility of changing my relationship with Panathinaikos and their fans because of these games. This will never happen, never ever, the meaning of Panathinaikos in my heart and soul will never change. My relationship and feelings for this club will remain the same, no matter what. Still, I am a professional and I will do my best in order for my current team to win and qualify, the same as I was doing for 13 seasons in Greece. If someone wants to change his feelings because of these matches, he has the right to do it. I know well what a piece of my heart Panathinaikos BC is and I also know well what is happening with the supporters of the team every time I visit Greece.
I was at Panathinaikos for 13 years, with some incredible memories from that time, and I am currently four seasons with Fenerbahce. I know that this kind of matches are full of feelings, I have lived it before. I know well the background, but the return of Panathinaikos to the Final-Four for the first time since my era (2011-12) is not related to me any more. I gave everything I had to the club at these 13 unforgettable years and there is nothing else I can do. They belong to the History and they will stay there.
About the regular season, our performance at the Olympic Stadium of Athens was not good and the some thing happened with Panathinaikos BC at Constantinoupolis. It is great that both teams will not have any absences, this is what the fans really want: to watch their beloved players and solid basketball games. The teams can oly perform in their best only when the coaches have all their players available and it is very pleasant for basketball, the fans and the competition that both teams are not facing any injury problems", said the 57-year-old former head coach of the Greens (2003-2012) at his exclusive interview to SDNA and journalist Sotiris Vetakis.