It comes as no surprise that one of the most successful coaches in the world, Pini Gershon, generated plenty Fan Mail from all sorts of countries, nor that the Olympiacos boss was more than happy to answer them with the candid spontanaeity for which he is known. Even less of a surprise were the many Reds fans asking Pini to repeat the same success he had over the years with Maccabi for his new teams as soon as possible. One fan asked how Gershon would feel if he were to play against Maccabi in the Final Four. "Right now, if I go there, I can promise that I would be happy to carry you on my back and maybe all the fans of Maccabi also," Gershon said. "I feel that it's not going to be easy to get there, however I will say this: one game can change the whole season. It can happen to Maccabi, it can happen to us. Any team that reaches the final eight can do this in one game."
Mr. Gershon. Do you think that Olympiacos hasn't reached it's peak yet and is about to play much better, or have we seen this team's full potential? As a fan of Olympiacos, I hope that you will stay with the team for many years,
John Katsivalis - Greece
"Not even close to the full potential. I believe we can play much better. We've had a lot of injuries this season, which have influenced us. Those injuries did not end with Macijauskas. There were a lot more. We fought all the way despite the injuries. We couldn't make full practices or use all the players much at all. So, I believe that when we have the full roster, and can practice together a good number of practices, we will be better."
Mr. Gershon. You had said that Olympiacos would be very offensive this year. For two months the team scored over 85 points in every game. The last two months, we see low scores. Is this happening because you have asked players to play control basketball or is something else happening? Thank you,
Chris Georgiou - Greece
"I changed some from my normal philosophy and slowed us down, first of all, because I had to use fewer players. To play fewer players means you have to play less up-tempo. Second, the system didn't fit all of the players and we were turning the ball over too many times. So I decided to change some to fit the players' potential and not to fit them to my system. I thought we would succeed more with this decision. It's something that during the season you have to face and that may be why we scored more at the beginning and less later. That, plus the injuries and turnovers, forced us to play in another way."
Hey Pini, Do you ever think of the possibility of playing against your former team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, at the Final Four? Can you tell us what your feelings would be if things happened this way, especially with thousands of yellow fans in the audience?
Arnaud, 23, France
"Right now, if I go there, I can promise that I would be happy to carry you on my back and maybe all the fans of Maccabi also. I feel that it's not going to be easy to get there, however I will say this: one game can change the whole season. It can happen to Maccabi, it can happen to us. Any team that reaches the final eight can do this in one game."
When do you intend to use Arvydas Macijauskas? Do you believe that his presence will help Olympiacos or might disrupt the team's playing systems? Thank you,
Leonidas Moutsokos - Greece
"I believe he will be available very soon. Yesterday was his first time playing more than a little bit. He's not in shape to play regularly yet and certainly not full-time, but we will see in the next couple of days if he can get close to 80 or 90 percent and if we will be able to use him for some minutes. He will travel with us to Vitoria."
Hi, Mr. Gershon. First, congratulations for not only dominating European basketball the last decade, but also showing everyone that championships can be possible with a totally new style. Until you reached Maccabi destination, your career had ups and downs. What was the turning point? What made you a consistent winner?
Savas Kaynak - Ankara, Turkey
"I believe that in 1992-93, when I won the Israeli Championship with Galil Elyon, was the turning-point season for me. Then, I went to Jerusalem and took the national cup with them against Maccabi. A few years after that I started with Maccabi, but it was with Galil in 1992 that I knew I could coach to win on a consistent basis."
Hello Pini. I am big fan of yours. Is the pressure in Greece as high as at Maccabi or are the fans and the media are more understanding of the situation (new team, Macijauskas injured, etc.)? Good luck against Tau,
Yoel - Los Angeles, USA
"Both things are right. First, there is pressure. Let's say that Olympiacos seems to me to have more fans than Maccabi. If Maccabi has 200,000, Olympiacos has 5 million. Everywhere you go in the streets, they talk to you, ask you, want you to say something. And all of them want to reach the target. They understand the situation also, but they don't care about it. They know that Macijauskas was hurt, that others were injured, but they don't care. The just want us to get to the target. Even though it's the first season, with new players, a new coach and everything, they know one thing - that they want us to win."
My question is very simple: How long are you planning to stay with Olympiacos? I sincerely hope that you renew your contract with my favorite team,
Michalis Michaloliakos - Piraeus, Greece
"As long as they want me."
What are the keys to the Tau vs. Olympiacos quarterfinal?
Gorka Oña - Vitoria, Spain
"This is a series between two teams that met at the beginning of the whole season. We beat them by 17, they beat us by quite a lot. Both know each other. They got the home advantage. I believe there is a lot of pressure on their side, especially in the first game. And I believe - and I know, because I had some seasons with the home advantage - that the first game is a lot of pressure. Everybody is afraid and thinks about every shot, every possession, not to miss, not to turn the ball over, not to lose the game. I think the teams are quite even teams, but the home advantage is the home advantage. And in a span of 72 hours, everything can be solved. It's not easy to play Tuesday and Thursday. It's almost back-to-back games with the flight in the middle and everything. I made it before and I'd be happy if I make it again."
Hi, sir. I cannot understand why Sofoklis Schortsianitis is not playing the pick-and-roll more after he and Papaloukas helped give a lesson to the USA at the World Championships in Japan. Can you say why? Thank you
Christos - Kypros, Greece
"First of all, there's a big difference between the World Championships and Europe. With Sofoklis, many of the screens he sets, the defensive player cannot go over the screen, so he flops and the refs give Sofoklis a lot of offensive fouls. This puts him in foul trouble in many games. He's the only player on our team who can post up and give us an advantage. He's the one player other teams cannot stop there, but again they flop and I don't know why the referees call it. This season, Sofoklis has had a lot of injuries, ups and downs. For this reason, we haven't been able to use him as much as we want."
Mr. Gershon, Olympiacos is widely known for its countless, loyal fans. The team has been inconsistent for about six years and the fans are really hungry for success. You are known for pulling off great results in the critical moments of a season. Can you make a promise to these fans and take the responsibility for it?
Anthony Kousoulis, Athens
"We are here to bring success with us. However, it's not a computer that we put in good players and good coaches and they win. Maccabi played together a few years. CSKA, the same way, was together a few years, PAO a few years, Tau a few years. To make a successful team, you have to bring good players who can play together as a team and win as a team. To do this takes a coupe of years. It's not something you can build in a day or weeks: sometimes in months, but many months. It's not easy. Personally, when I came here, part of the team was made already. I am not saying that because of time, we didn't make some mistakes. But if I stay here next year, we will be a good team for some years to come."