Joe Arlauckas talks basketball and life with CSKA's boss
The Crossover opens its season with Dimitris Itoudis
The fascinating journey of CSKA Moscow head coach Dimitris Itoudis from a farming family in central Greece through war-torn Yugoslavia to the heights of the coaching profession is the subject of the first podcast of the season on The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas.
Itoudis made a pivotal decision at age 17 to leave his hometown of Trikala to study physical education in Zagreb, Croatia because he wanted to learn within Europe's most successful basketball coaching culture at the time.
22:05 "University is great, don't get me wrong, but the university of life is even better," he tells Joe Arlauckas. "The university of life for me was this group of five people I had then. We were talking literally 24 hours a day on how we're going to pivot, how we're going to position our elbow, how we're going to teach the kid the release, the reception, the dribbles. All this stuff, it was my university."
Itoudis, who amassed 100 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague as fast as any coach this century, has captured two continental titles as head coach of CSKA to go with the five others he won earlier as an assistant at Panathinaikos Athens under Zeljko Obradovic.
Now in his eighth EuroLeague season, Itoudis has sat on CSKA's bench longer than any coach this century, but he knows that his years as an assistant coach were just as big a part of his career.
46:24: "In European basketball, assistant coaches are very important," Itoudis says. "This is group work. Yes, the head coach is leading. Yes, the head coach is taking some crucial decisions. Yes, the head coach is in the spotlight. But he has some guys behind the scenes who are working, and this synergy is very important."
Itoudis has never missed a Final Four with CSKA, but his first experience at the season's deciding event ended with a semifinal defeat to Olympiacos Piraeus that recalled traumatic losses of the past for the club and its fans. It fell to the team's new coach to put everything in perspective.
1:10:15 "You have to be the one telling them that there are no ghosts," Itoudis says. "And thankfully, we convinced everybody that there are no ghosts and we won the title with many of the same players the next year."
Recently turned 50 years old, Itoudis is now recognized as one of the world's most accomplished younger coaches. His mastery of basketball is evident in the way his teams focus, as he does, from tipoff to final buzzer.
1:20:55. "When I get into the gym, believe me or not, I'm focused on 10 players, the ball, and sometimes I see the referees," Itoudis says. "I don't see people. I don't see anybody. All of a sudden, this arena – 10,000 or 15,000 spectators, whatever – it shrinks to 10 men and a ball."
Itoudis relishes every step that brought him where he is today, just as he believes that every stumble can become an opportunity.
1:39:10 "Experience, you can't go out and buy it, and you can't ask for it," he says. "You have to experience it. You have to face it. You have to take the punches."
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 Marius Grigonis, Shane Larkin and Kyle Hines, coaching greats such as Andrea Trinchieri, Pablo Laso and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Theo Papaloukas, Nikola Vujcic and Mike Batiste, among others.