Interview: Can Keyder, Begüm Ünal
Translation and editing: Begüm Ünal
Before the game against EA7 Emporio Armani Milan for Turkish Airlines Euroleague Round 11, we’ve had a great interview with Coach Dimitris Itoudis.
First of thank you for accepting our request because it is very important to us.
Thank you for coming.
You had a really great season last year and you won the Euroleague trophy against a coach whom you refer as your mentor, Mr. Obradovic. How did that victory feel?
Actually CSKA has won against Fenerbahçe, that is the main thing. I am the coach of CSKA and Zeljko is the coach of Fener. The coaches are not playing but the two clubs are playing. Coaches interfere the game for sure, they try to do their best to help the players and the team but the clubs and the players play. So the group of players of CSKA were better and we won altogether the title. Regarding Zeljko, he is my best man, he married us, he baptized my daughter, we have a great relationship and we have spent more than 13 years together. Winning a lot of titles and, losing and winning a lot of games. That’s the personal issue, but when it comes to the professional matter everybody tries to do his best, so we try to help the team. I am happy that we have won, we have played good basketball whole season and it was an exciting final.
When they asked coach Zeljko Obradovic “what is going to happen this season?” he said “one of our main problems is motivation, we have the same group of players and it will be hard to keep the same level of motivation that we had last year, because now it is the same team again and we have just lost at the final, and we have to start all over again.” CSKA has also kept the same team and how did you motivate the guys?
It is not easy. You have to keep the motivation at the highest level. But the motivation is being in CSKA, I am member of CSKA and compete in the highest level. If they are not having that kind of motivation that keeps them intense actually, and they are not worth to be in any higher team, but that’s the daily basis. I agree that is our job and we have to keep our players motivated, keep them concentrated, keep them always hungry and humble at the same time, not easy, but this our job to do it.
CSKA seem to be the most prepared team so far to the new EuroLeague. How do you manage to do this?
The new format of EuroLeague is a new championship with a lot of demands. Everybody tries to beat somebody else and this is the marathon and we have just played the first part. We have played 10 games so far and we are heading to the second part, the most important thing for all teams and for my team is to stay healthy. A lot of teams have a lot of major injuries and major players who are not playing at the moment. We have started this season without having Joel Freeland, and we have been playing significant number of games without Nando. So we have some problems to solve, that’s the most important thing for us. If my team stays healthy and if we have all the players, we can really compete at the highest level. That is what we are trying to do.
As you said you have been playing without Nando de Colo and even though there was no official statement, we were told that Teodosic is not here in Milan. Can we learn about this in more detail?
He had some injury in Lokomotiv Kuban game, so he cannot help us tomorrow. But the team has to continue. It’s not much, we are missing in 10 games they combine 40 points and 13 assists, but that’s OK (he laughs).
Aaron Jackson has been playing so well so far this season. It has been a long time that we haven’t watched him like this on the court. What would you say about this?
I don’t want to put in individual terms but Jackson is always practicing hard, he is focused, motivated and helps the team. He has always been in my starting five.
Milos has been doing amazing since Olympics. He has started this season even better than any other seasons. What do you think about his performance?
It is not important what I think. It is all about what I do. And what I do is obvious that the minutes I give him, the game how it is made for the players so that they can recognize the game and be creative. It is all about creators and we have some very good creators that other teams should care about and we are missing them both in tomorrow’s game but we try to find out other ways to compete. Milos is a very serious guy, he has great talent, he helped us to win the trophy but also was helped by some other teammates. This is a team game.
What about your game system? Most of the time you prefer to play with two guards at the same time, even three sometimes.
As I have just said, modern basketball is all about creators. I don’t care if you say guard, forward, small forward, power forward… It is all about creators and at the certain you need to have in the game the most creative ones because with this way you will create a lot of problems to the other team and you will have versatile game, versatile way to attack and you are going to create probably more scepticism to the other coach about how he will set the defence. So when you have creators, it doesn’t matter if they are 1.96, 2.05, playing at position one, two or three. Important thing is to have creators even with back to basket or to face to basket.
You are from Greece and we are from Turkey and you know the Serbian basketball.
Aah, you are Turkish?
Yes. So you come from a country where basketball is like a religion and serious. Fans are incredible, but CSKA’s fans are not…
That patient. That is probably because of the culture and the people. I have been to some soccer games and hockey games. Last year I have been to a Champions League game, I saw the fans who were naked in -20 degrees, they were dancing 90 minutes. I said let’s bring half of them in the court. You know same happens in the hockey games. I will move that to another discussion, to another point of view which is ‘how much are those fans educated?’ Because when fans are educated and know the rules, then they can follow the sport more passionate and more involved. I will take myself as an example to this issue. When I was at a hockey game, because I do not know the rules, I could not follow with the same passion and same concentration, so I don’t enjoy the same way. If I try to get to analyse the game and then I will follow with a little bit more attention and more interest. So I think it is more about being educated.
One last question, even though you travel all the time, you have a life in Moscow. How do you find it?
I think that is a question for my wife, rather than me. For me wherever I am it is all about basketball, travel, hotels, the games. But I like the city of Moscow, the structure of the city, buildings, the way they treat the city even though there is a lot of snow. Also my daughter likes Moscow. That’s our happy ending.
How is it after Bandırma?
I like Bandırma, too. It is different, it is a small city with people with big hearts, but I have a lot of friends over there, like CEO of Banvit Company Mr. Ömer Görener and General Manager Mr. Turgut Görener, the president of Banvit Basketball Club Mr. Özkan Kılıç, and Director Mr. Turgay Çataloluk, General Manager Mr. Turgay Zeytingöz. But not only the management, the ownership but also the fans there. They accept us like one of them so that is a unique thing. I still have contact with them. We talk every while.
I saw your video with street dogs…
Yeah yeah, do you remember the dogs (to his wife)?
Wife: Outside our house? Yeah I do.
Thank you so much again and good luck for tomorrow’s game.