After leading a storied club back to the Final Four for the first time in five years, Georgios Bartzokas of Olympiacos Piraeus has been voted the Aleksander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year by his peers on the benches of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
Coach of the Year: Georgios Bartzokas, Olympiacos Piraeus
In his second stint with Olympiacos, Bartzokas steered the Reds to a second-place finish in the regular season with a 19-9 record. He then led Olympiacos back to its first Final Four since 2017 with a thrilling 3-2 victory in its playoff series against AS Monaco, which made him the first coach in EuroLeague history to win three Game 5s.
Coach Bartzokas becomes the fourth person to win the Coach of the Year honor at least twice. He had previously been voted for the award in 2012-13, in his first season on the Olympiacos bench, when he helped the Reds defend their EuroLeague title with a resounding pair of victories at the Final Four in London.
“It’s really an emotional moment for me also because it’s a big honor. There are great coaches in the EuroLeague. The best coaches are here. It’s a big honor." Bartzokas said, upon receiving the award. "I would like to thank the Olympiacos organization, my coaching staff. All my players who helped me to win this award. I feel really honored. Thank you very much.
“This is special. It’s one more credit for me. I would like to thank [my fellow coaches]. It’s an honor for me.”
After finishing 12th last season, Olympiacos used a run of six home wins early in this one to anchor itself near the top of the standings. Its dominance at Peace and Friendship Stadium in Piraeus continued for nine consecutive victories there, lasting through the 2021 portion of the season. The Reds, who would finish the season with a league-best 13-1 mark at home, fell out of the top four places in the standings only following a rough patch of four consecutive defeats ending on February 2. Four victories in a row followed – including a classic overtime thriller against their Final Four semifinals opponent, Anadolu Efes Istanbul – and soon they clinched home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Their best-of-five playoff against Monaco was one to remember, as neither team could win two games in a row. After dropping Game 2 at home, the Reds immediately regained home-court advantage with a Game 3 win in Monaco. It all came down to a Game 5 thriller in which they came from behind in the fourth quarter to win 94-88 and make their long-awaited Final Four return.
It is no exaggeration to say that Bartzokas steered his team's success with a steady hand and a clear establishment of roles on his roster. Five of his players – Sasha Vezenkov, Tyler Dorsey, Moustapha Fall, Kostas Papanikolaou and Thomas Walkup – started every single game they played this season, which was every single game except one each for three of them. The Reds ranked second in the EuroLeague in performance index rating (93.2) per game while holding opponents to the fourth-lowest such average (80.3). They were also the most accurate team shooting two-pointers, at 58.1%, and fifth in scoring with 80.4 points per game.
Due to knee injuries, Bartzokas retire from playing at age 27 and began coaching smaller clubs Pefki, Eraklio, Vrilissia and Kifissia before assisting Greek legend Panagiotis Giannakis and coaching Vassilis Spanoulis at Maroussi. Larissa made him a first-time head coach in the Greek League for three seasons before he returned to head Maroussi's bench, making his EuroLeague debut in 2009-10 by taking the team from a qualification round to the Top 16. After a stop at Panionios BC, Olympiacos tapped him to replace the late Dusan Ivkovic in the summer after the team won the 2012 EuroLeague title. Bartzokas and the Reds defended the trophy at the 2013 Final Four in London, making Olympiacos the only back-to-back champion of the last 16 years.
From Olympiacos, Bartzokas went to Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and turned the team into a surprise 2016 Final Four participant. He coached the team they beat in the playoffs, FC Barcelona, the following year before taking Khimki Moscow Region to its first and only playoff appearance in 2017-18. He returned to Olympiacos mid-way through the 2019-20 season and has steadily built the Reds back into the contender they are today, making their first playoff appearance in four seasons and first Final Four in five this spring.