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Executives of the Year: Pavlos and Thanassis Giannakopoulos, Panathinaikos
July 1, 2011
A quarter of a century spent building their club into the most successful in modern European basketball has resulted in Pavlos and Thanassis Giannakopoulos of Panathinaikos Athens being voted Executives of the Year for the 2010-11 Turkish Airlines Euroleague season. Panathinaikos lifted high its newest continental trophy following victory at the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Barcelona last month. In so doing, the club moved into a tie for second place on the the list of Europe's most successful teams all-time with six Euroleague titles. Panathinaikos is already the most successful team of the entire Final Four era, which started in 1988, one year after the Giannakopoulos brothers took control of the club. The remarkable consistency that has marked the path of Panathinaikos since then is a tribute to the manner in which the brothers have directed their club from the top. The 2010-11 season ended with yet more proof that over the last generation, when it comes to winning, nobody does it better than Panathinaikos under Pavlos and Thanassis Giannakopoulos.
The 2010-11 Turkish Airlines Euroleague season was another testament to a Panathinaikos management style that has set the standard for constructing winners. The Giannakopoulos brothers have made loyalty part of their success story, starting with the longest-serving head coach at the Euroleague level, Zeljko Obradovic, who has now been on the Panathinaikos bench for 12 consecutive seasons, along with his head assistant coach, Dimitris Itoudis. The same philosophy of continuity applies behind the scenes, to the rest of the staff, not to mention to the roster. Four of the six players who started the most games for the Greens in 2010-11 – Antonis Fotsis, Kostas Tsartsaris, Mike Batiste and Dimitris Diamantidis – were on the team in 2004 or earlier. At the same time, the Giannakopoulos brothers have not been shy about making big roster changes, as they did in the summer of 2010 by letting go two former Final Four MVPs and a third All-Euroleague player, replacing them with young big men and solid role players. Even though the most heralded of those new players was injured for most of the season, the team again proved able to quickly integrate the newcomers. That is because the coaches and players with long-time experience at Panathinaikos – no doubt inspired by the loyalty shown to them – take it upon themselves to teach the club's winning ways to those newcomers.
Consistency also marked the path of Panathinaikos on the court from the start of he season. While other teams that have been major powers in the last decade struggled to survive the growing parity in the competition, the Greens fought to win their regular season group with a 7-3 record. In the Top 16's penultimate game, the Greens tripped to a last-second loss that meant a second-place finish and a five-game challenge against defending champion Regal F.C. Barcelona in the playoffs. After losing the first of those games away, however, Panathinaikos slowly took control of the series to seize a place in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four. Once upon the stage they have dominated more than any other club in Europe, the Greens knew exactly what to do. Possession by possession, they wore down Montepaschi Siena in the semifinals and then stayed a step ahead of Maccabi Electra in the final on the way to another title. Panathinaikos ended the season with a 17-6 record, not so remarkable in itself, until you realize that four of those losses came by a single point and all six of them by a total of 15. Since November, in fact, the Greens lost only one game by more than a point. The experience of having the same coach and key players for so long – the result of the loyal management philosophy of the Giannakopoulos brothers – had everything to do with the club's newest success.
By reaching the top of European basketball again this spring, Panathinaikos became the second-fastest team to six trophies, getting them all in the last 16 seasons, when many believe that European basketball has been at its most competitive ever. The only club still ahead of Panathinaikos on the 53-year list of continental champions, Real Madrid, has not taken another title since the Greens won their first in 1996. If it maintains its recent pace of trophy-lifting, Panathinaikos could become the most-crowned Euroleague club in short time. If so, much of the credit for making Panathinaikos a family of winners goes to this season’s Executives of the Year, Pavlos and Thanassis Giannakopoulos.
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