Zeljko Obradovic had mixed feelings after Panathinaikos’ great victory and qualification to the Istanbul Final Four, since he was on one hand happy for the success, but on the other hand he did not hide his frustration about some of the fans’ behavior.
Speaking in the press conference, the Serbian coach initially underlined: “Congratulations to my team and my players for qualifying to the Final 4. It was a very difficult qualification and if I remember correctly it was the first time that we had to play five games to get to the Final 4. There was stress and pressure but today we had the fans by our side. Tonight it was something special. From the first second I walked in the arena I felt that these people would be our strength. For this, they deserve to be congratulated and I want to thank them. Unfortunately, at the end we had to fight to win, whereas we could have finished the game sooner. I am truly sorry that we had to get down to this to win. I believe that as far as tactics goes we dominated, but in the end it was the details that decided the game. We must also congratulate Maccabi Electra for the way they played in all five games.”
He then took a flashback of this season’s course and stressed: “This summer was rather difficult for us. It is well known what happened. We reacted, got to this point despite all the problems we had to deal with along the way, and despite not knowing what is in store for us next season. The way that my players fight is what really makes me proud. The players do everything and they are very important. They know the situation that we are in, but if we want to achieve something good in the Final 4, the level that we are right now is not enough. We need more players to help. Tonight they all played and all helped. We have a month ahead of us and plenty of time to prepare”, he underlined.
When asked about the difference between this year’s Panathinaikos compared to last season he said that “there are other players with different individual abilities”, whereas before leaving the press conference room he added one more thing, referring to the fans: “I congratulated our fans, but I do not understand why some of them do not react against someone who uses the laser. I do not understand why they must get on the court. All these years they have not allowed us to enjoy it. Not even once! And after tonight I am very seriously thinking about staying with the club; because of them. They got on the court and some of them approached me and I was asking them what they are doing on the court. I am pissed off. I cannot take this anymore, having to jump up and down for someone to stop using the laser, having them get on the court… Maybe this will help me decide whether I leave this team or not. I do not want this kind of fans. What do they want? To make us be like things are in football? And it is not a matter of more policing. It is a matter of stupidity.”
In his turn, David Blatt noted: “First and foremost, congratulations to coach Obradovic and Dimitris Itoudis for the great job they did in the entire series between us and the best of luck to them in the Final 4. The fans got to see one of the best series of games in the history of European basketball. The game was decided in the details, as well as by an excellent player, from whom I cannot seem to be able to get away from: Diamantidis. I like him very much as a person, but I never want to see him again. He is an exceptional player, he was the best player in Europe last season, and will probably be the best this season too; and he played one of his biggest games tonight. It is difficult for one to know that after tonight’s game they do not go on, because together with Panathinaikos we are one of the best teams in Europe. Obviously, they were a little better than us. I really appreciated Panathinaikos’ fans: they created an amazing atmosphere. I respect them very much and they deserve all the credit for supporting their team in such a passionate way without creating any ugliness whatsoever. It was an honor for me to compete in this arena in front of these fans. They too helped on their turn in these games, which I repeat were some of the best in the history of European basketball. I would have liked to lock Dimitris Diamantidis in his hotel room. Really, this is what I would have liked to do. I only wish we were a little bit more successful in our shooting, especially in the fourth game. Beyond that, I can only be proud of my players. I respect them for their effort to win this great team.”