Press conferences in the sports business have always provided some sort of an anticlimax, specifically for big events. Today’s Final Four opening press conference, attended by one coach and one player from each team and a handful of Euroleague legends (Papaloukas, Vujcic, Kutluay, Arlauckas being the first ones that come to my mind) was no different. I have no doubt in my mind that all of the media members, players, coaches and the Euroleague related people came to the conference with a high level of enthusiasm, but in the end, questions that were asked were predictable and the answers that were given were rather political than insightful.
This makes the press conference pointless to analyze and abstract some deeper meaning from. No one speaks their true mind, especially the coaches, with the opponent coaches in the room and hundreds of media members in attendance. They just try to look cool, pull off some witty lines in between and reassure the media and the fans that everything is under control.
But not everything is under control all the time, not in an event like this where pressure is at the highest. So ELA has got you covered. I will try to over-analyze the event about which I just wrote “pointless to analyze” 10 seconds ago. Let’s start with the first match-up.
Itoudis and Sfairopoulos may have not liked it, but the focus of the media for this match-up was on the previous match-ups. Narravites are just going to keep being narratives until it’s proven otherwise. They were asked time and time again what they think about the fact that these teams played against each other and both coaches downplayed the effect of the previous games between two teams in the Final Four in the past couple of years, which were all won by Olympiacos, as everyone in the room was probably aware of.
Itoudis tried to leave an impression that this is a new game and he didn’t care about the past results, saying “2015 is 2015, this is 2017”. Sfairopoulos, on the other hand, probably liked how the narrative just refused to die at this point. He also said something similar to Itoudis, because that’s what all the coaches do, but everyone knows by now that Olympiacos is the last team that CSKA wants to match-up in a single game elimination format. Maybe this will change tomorrow, maybe not. We will see.
Something that also seemed to bother Itoudis was a question about the last year’s final, emphasizing how he beat his teacher Obradovic and now the number one bounty in the continent, with CSKA being the team and Itoudis being the coach everyone wants to beat this time. Itoudis took the high road here and gave a political but also an insightful answer. He said the coaches are there to help the players to become the best versions of themselves, manage the roster and the injuries and in the end, if they win, he’s going to be happy about it, nothing more. He made everyone sure that it’s about the team, not himself. Maybe the Euroleague is known to be a competition where the coaches are the stars, given the strong presences of legends like Obradovic, Messina or Ivkovic, however Itoudis didn’t agree with this view and downplayed the role of a coach, which was probably right thing to do.
On the Olympiacos side of things, Spanoulis was again asked about how he is a monster when it matters. Funny thing is, De Colo was also asked about this and how he is planning to stop this monster. I think the last thing you should be doing at a Final Four press conference is asking a player, and not just any player, last year’s MVP, how he is planning to stop another guy. Spanoulis looked humble about it, smirking a bit and knowing inside fully that he is actually a monster. He said that it’s the team that matters. What else was he actually going to say anyway?
Journalists being journalists, Obradovic, Bogdanovic, Laso and Llull were also asked about their past matchups. Laso was asked if it’s a problem for him that Fener won 5 of the past 6 matchups between two teams. Laso corrected the question saying “Actually they won 6 of 7 if you count the preseason game we played last summer”, giving people in the room a laugh. He also said what was the right thing to say: “Even if we lose 20 games against one team, we will prepare for the next game to win it.” I don’t think anyone prepares for a game to lose unless they are trusting the process.
Obradovic was his “no fucks given” self in this press conference, like the two previous Final Four press conferences. When he was asked about among the players whom he didn’t coach, who does he regret not coaching, he turned to Bogdanovic who was right next to him, patted him on the back and didn’t even need to have any words coming out of his mouth.
Euroleague commissioner Jordi Bertomeu, Turkish Basketball Federation president Hedo Turkoglu and someone from the name sponsor Turkish Airlines, who spoke for way too long to cause everyone in the room almost fall asleep, also gave speeches before the coaches and the players took the stage. Laughs were had, stories were told, political answers were given to keep the real strategies a secret before the tip-offs tomorrow. One thing they changed this year for the press conference was that the MVP award wasn’t handed out today, unlike last year in Berlin, where De Colo was honored on Thursday. It probably made the event matter less, with the award ceremony being scheduled for Saturday night. Now is the time for the actual thing, where coaches coach and players play, as those things are what they do best and are paid for. Probably not the press conferences, but that is just me talking.