Greece

Getty Images

Rick Pitino takes over Greek basketball’s Olympic quest

Leave a comment

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rick Pitino has agreed to coach the Greek national basketball team and lead the country’s effort to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Greek basketball federation said Friday that Pitino will be officially presented on Monday, when details of his agreement will be announced.

“Really honored to be coaching the Greek National team,” Pitino wrote on Twitter. “Have a lot of work and preparation ahead but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

The 67-year-old American coached Greek club Panathinaikos last season and guided the team to victory in the country’s cup competition before returning to the United States. He remains popular among Greek fans despite his outspoken criticism of smoking and rowdy behavior by spectators at games.

NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo both play for Greece and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Greeks narrowly missed out on reaching the quarterfinals at the World Cup in China in September.

Pitino spent much of his career jumping between the college ranks and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

 

Giannis, Greece beaten by U.S. at FIBA World Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece were no match for the U.S. at the FIBA World Cup.

The Americans withstood Antetokounmpo’s hot start — and 15 points and 13 rebounds overall — to prevail 69-53 in Shenzen, China, moving closer to a quarterfinal spot.

A full box score is here.

Antetokounmpo, the NBA MVP trying to lead Greece to its first Olympic men’s basketball berth since 2008, won the jump ball and scored five points in the first 43 seconds. The lead changed hands through the first few minutes before the U.S. took control en route to its fourth win in as many games.

The U.S. will earn a place in the last eight, and possibly get Olympic qualification out of the way, by beating Brazil in its last group-play game Monday. It could still advance by tiebreaker if it loses to Brazil.

France or Australia waits in the quarterfinals.

The top two teams from the Americas clinch Olympic spots. The U.S., Brazil and Argentina are the lone nations remaining vying for them, but the odd team out gets another chance to earn a spot in Tokyo at a last-chance qualifying tournament next year.

Greece must beat the Czech Republic on Monday and have the U.S. beat Brazil to have any chance to advance to the quarterfinals and keep hope alive of avoiding the last-chance Olympic qualification tournament.

Greece was the last nation to beat the U.S. at the FIBA World Cup, doing so with zero NBA players in the semifinals in 2006.

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Giannis Antetokounmpo looks to lead Greece to Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for Greece at the FIBA World Cup for a second time, but much has changed since his debut five years ago.

Antetokounmpo, then 19 and coming off his Milwaukee Bucks rookie season, was a sub in all six games at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Greece was eliminated in the round of 16 and ultimately failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

But now Antetokounmpo is the NBA MVP, looking to lead Greece back to the Olympics for the first time since 2008.

“I haven’t talked with the coach yet. I don’t know which position I will play in,” he said, according to FIBA. “But I don’t care. I just want to play. Whether I play as a guard or as a center, I don’t care. I’m a basketball player. I want to help the team in every way.”

The top two European teams at September’s World Cup in China qualify for Tokyo 2020. Others can still qualify at a last-chance tournament next year.

Greece, without Antetokounmpo, beat longtime European power Lithuania in the 2017 EuroBasket round of 16 before falling to Russia in the quarterfinals. The Greeks are now ranked eighth in the world, but sixth among European nations behind Spain, France, Serbia, Lithuania and Slovenia.

Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes, both with major college and NBA experience, have also featured on the Greek national team in recent years. Kostas Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ little brother, played for Greek junior national teams before debuting in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks in two games in March.

Greece, should it advance out of its World Cup first-round group with Brazil, New Zealand and Montenegro, would likely play the U.S. in the second round of group play, where the top two of four nations per group advance to the quarterfinals.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Robbie Hummel looks likely to play in the Olympics