Pitino: “I absolutely loved coaching these guys”

The head coach of Panathinaikos OPAP, Rick Pitino, stated after the game against KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz: "First and foremost, last year was so different from this year. You all know what I think of Nick [Calathes], you all know what I think of Pap [Ioannis Papapetrou], you all know what I think of DeShaun [Thomas] and last year, when I took them out of the game, I always felt that we dropped off. Now, I take Nick out of the game and I got a three-time MVP in EuroCup and EuroLeague, I take Pap out of the game and I got Wesley Johnson, who I think he is terrific. I take DeShaun out of the game and Dinos [Mitoglou] is playing great defense, giving me a lot, our power forward position is really big, and Jimmer Fredette is terrific, so the thing I am most proud about tonight is what I have emphasized in the last 48 hours: if you just rely on offense, you will be a mediocre team. If your defense is as good as your offense, you will be an outstanding team. All the way until the last possession tonight, they played their asses off on defense. The other thing I want to talk about is, if you remember, I was so repetitive last year with deflections, trying to get 35; I think we got it one time. Tonight, we got 34. We knew Baskonia was one of the best fastbreak teams and tonight, we wanted to get back and stop their break. We were 9-of-15 and they were 3-of-4. Field goal defense, 37% overall, so we played like we were one fist covering for each other. They made a couple of threes with no time on the clock, but we have a lot of potential. We are going to get a lot better. On a personal level, I absolutely loved coaching these guys last year and once again, they are quality people, quality players and I am just so excited to be back as the head coach."