After more than a decade away, one of Greece's oldest sporting clubs, Panionios On Telecoms, returns to European basketball's top competition for the 2008-09 season. Panionios made a spectacular effort to become the third Euroleague team in Athens, too. It rallied from a 0-2 hole to beat Maroussi 3-2 for third place in the Greek League, securing a ticket to the Euroleague for the first time since the 1996-97 season. Panionios was founded the century before last, in 1890, but started its basketball activities long after that. It wasn't until 1982 when the team reached the Greek League for good, but Panionios had already tasted success when it reached the Greek Cup final of 1977. Panionios took well to first-division competition, finishing among Greece's best four teams for eight consecutive seasons from 1984 through 1991, even though mighty Aris Thessaloniki stood in its way to glory on many occasions. Panionios placed second overall and reached the Greek Finals in 1987 and finished third in 1986, 1988 and 1990. Its efforts finally paid off in 1991 when Panionios won its first and only title to date, the Greek Cup. By then Panionios was already a regular participant in European competitions, with its first dabble coming as early as 1975 in the Korac Cup qualifying rounds. Modest success started to show in the 1990s as the club reached the Korac Cup quarterfinals three times and advanced as far as the semifinals in 1994, when Fanis Christodoulou, Henry Turner and Panagiotis Giannakis lost to eventual champion PAOK Thessaloniki. By 1996, Panionios was in the Euroleague and registering surprise wins over Final-Four bound CSKA Moscow and Limoges, which had reached the previous season's Final Four, but the club failed to advance past the group stage. Panionios reached yet another European semifinal in the 1999 Korac Cup, but this time Barcelona stood in the way.
The team bounced back from a couple of underachieving seasons in 2004-05 by finishing fourth in the Greek League regular season and reaching the playoff semifinals, forcing a final Game 5 against perennial champs Panathinaikos and sealing its ticket to the ULEB Cup. Panionios reached the ULEB Cup elimination rounds in 2005-06, losing against Aris in the eighthfinals only after forcing double overtime in the dramatic second leg against Aris in Thessaloniki, a game that became an instant classic. After a season out of the ULEB Cup, last year Panionios again advanced into the elimination rounds before falling to Pamesa in the Last 32. By returning to the Greek League semifinals last season, Panionios got a rare opportunity to rejoin Europe's top competition, and took it in dramatic fashion. The likes of Ivan Zoroski and Ioannis Kalampokis rescued the team from the jaws of defeat and guided Panionios to third place and a return to the Euroleague, where it has high hopes this season.