Read below Aito Garcia, one of the most celebrated coaching icons, who shares his thoughts with Future Stars ahead of the Euroleague Final Four.
FS: What are your predictions for Final Four?
AG: In the Final Four the predictions are very difficult and almost irrelevant. The differences between the teams are naturally very small and are further reduced by the system of the competition. You just play one game and the margin of error is very small and always surprises can happen. If you press me to indicate my favourites of the semi-finalists I would say that I fancy CSKA and Barcelona. Then in the final I see CSKA winning the title. I say that because I was so impressed by them in the regular season, but how I said, that all can change in one single game.
FS: Do you see any surprising teams in the Final Four? Perhaps Olympiacos which had a tremendous series against Montepaschi?
AG: Yes, it was a surprise that Olympiacos beat Siena. However they beat them very deservedly. Olympiacos made a much better impression through the entire series, They seemed to be in much better shape. I was impressed with their defensive tenacity.
FS: CSKA looks so impressive in both Euroleague and domestic competitions but their series against Gescrap showed that it is possible to seriously challenge them. No one has more experience than Panathinaikos and coach Obradovic to perform on that stage, so don’t you think that they have a great chance to prevent CSKA from progressing to the final?
AG: I think that Panathinaikos goes to Istanbul without the additional pressure of being favourite. A lot of people, myself included don’t see them winning the tournament. But that is a good position to attack from. Obradovic and his players are very experienced and ambitious and I’m sure they will come up with a plan how to beat CSKA. Defending the Euroleague crown is the only missing piece in their treasure hunt. If they repeat titles they book their place in history, that means a lot to them.
FS: Why is it so notoriously difficult to defend the Euroleague crown? Panathinaikos has got a chance of doing so but it hasn’t been done for such a long time.
AG: Euroleague is a very, very competitive league. A lot of teams play with much bigger intensity against the reigning champion. Dethroning the champion brings extra kudos and recognition. Also perhaps some teams have a problem with maintaining their consistency and competitive drive after winning the trophy. No matter how much you are going to deny it there is a natural tendency to slightly relax after reaching the peak in your profession. You may think that being a champion gives some God given right to win games. You couldn’t be further from the truth and that is how you become an ex-champion. This is why Obradovic wants to defend his trophy, to show that they have the consistency of Champions!