Joe Arlauckas hosts the Olympiacos Piraeus head coach on the latest Crossover episode
Hear from Coach Bartzokas on The Crossover
It is always especially interesting when the coaches of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague sit down to chat with Joe Arlauckas, so when Georgios Bartzokas of Olympiacos Piraeus joined The Crossover, a lively discussion was guaranteed. The topics addressed included Bartzokas’s playing career, his different stops as a head coach, his coaching philosophy, his love for Olympiacos and much more.
Bartzokas spent more than a decade as a power forward for Maroussi Athens and when injuries ended Bartzokas’s playing career prematurely, he knew the best way to stay in the sport he loved was coaching. In fact, Bartzokas had already been coaching children while still active as a player. His introduction to high-level coaching came as Panagiotis Giannakis’s assistant at Maroussi. Following successful stints as head coach with Larissa, Maroussi and Panionios, he was hired by the reigning EuroLeague champion in 2012, the club he had supported since he was a boy.
“I cannot hide it. I am an Olympiacos fan since I was a kid,” Bartzokas confirmed. “In Greece, everybody knows that. I grew up in football or basketball with Olympiacos, being a fan of the club. When I had this opportunity for this job, I couldn’t deny it. One of the happiest days of my life was when I signed with Olympiacos.”
He stepped into the shoes of Dusan Ivkovic and led the Reds to a successful title defense at the Final Four in London. Since then, Bartzokas has been a man in demand among the top clubs on the continent. He left Olympiacos early in the 2014-15 season and after a year off, coached abroad for the first time and led Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar to its first Final Four. Then came a season with FC Barcelona and a season and a half with Khimki Moscow Region.
Throughout his stops, players have appreciated Bartzokas’s basketball philosophy, and the coach has become a master at getting the most out of his players. Arlauckas and Bartzokas delved into exactly how the coach approaches the game.
“I don’t want to overcoach, this is my philosophy. I really love to see the players inside the court express their talent,” Bartzokas explained. “Of course, [you have] to have specific principles, rules, but I love to let them express their talent. I am not a coach who in every offense decides who is going to make the decision, who is going to score, who is going to take the shot. I don’t want to be like that. I really believe that by developing this during the season, you can get big results.”
In January 2020, Olympiacos was struggling and in danger of missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Ownership turned to Bartzokas and asked him to come home and rebuild the team. The challenge at hand was much different than his first time with the club; unlike earlier when he had a championship-caliber roster, this time the Reds had an aging core. After some deliberations, Bartzokas accepted the challenge.
“You need to work for today, for the next practice, for the next game. You need to enjoy what you are doing. Also, you need to be always motivated to be better at your job, to make your team better,” he said. “I think that both things are very interesting. To take a championship team and win again or to rebuild a team with the reputation Olympiacos has in European basketball. it is not easy. It is not only my responsibility. It is always a team effort. I have the support of the owners, of the front office. The organization at Olympiacos is really great. And positive players, which is very important. Always you need that.”
The rebuild has been quite successful considering that Olympiacos is third in the standings and has not only already locked up a playoff berth, but the home-court advantage in the quarterfinals, which carries a lot of weight considering the Reds are 12-1 this season at Peace and Friendship Stadium. Can Bartzokas lead Olympiacos to another historic feat? Time will tell.
With a one-hour format of exclusive one-on-one interviews, The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas goes well beyond the playing court with each podcast to delve into the life experiences that have made his guests protagonists and legends of the EuroLeague. The Crossover debuted in 2018 and has featured such current stars as Guerschon Yabusele, Nicolo Melli and Vasilije Micic, coaching greats such as Andrea Trinchieri, Pablo Laso and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Theo Papaloukas, Nikola Vujcic and Mike Batiste, among others.