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Executive of the Year award: Panayotis and George Angelopoulos, Olympiacos Piraeus
June 29, 2012
As the driving forces behind a project that resulted in a long-awaited Turkish Airlines Euroleague title for Olympiacos Piraeus, co-owners Panayotis and George Angelopoulos will share Euroleague Basketball’s 2011-12 Executive of the Year award. The Angelopoulos brothers struck gold this season by changing the direction of the team in several bold strokes. Although the Reds had made two Final Four appearances in the previous three seasons and played in the 2010 Euroleague title game, Olympiacos opted to start anew last summer. The co-owners authorized the signing of nine players who were not on the Olympiacos roster the year before, and went on to add two more new faces by mid-season. After having the confidence to risk rebuilding their entire roster, Panayotis and George Angelopoulos then showed the patience needed to let the newcomers and the holdovers make it work. Eventually, the moves they authorized proved not only correct, but far-sighted, when the Reds danced into the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Istanbul and upset two heavily favored opponents to capture their first Euroleague title in 15 years.
Panayotis and George Angelopoulos first became involved with Olympiacos B.C. in 2004, took over its management by 2006 and by 2009 obtained a controlling stake. Their tenure set the club on a path of renewal, with the Reds holding the longest streak of Euroleague playoff appearances, seven between 2006 and 2012. Twice before last year, the Reds broke through to the Final Four. In 2009 in Berlin, the club's first Final Four in a decade, Olympiacos lost a two-point semifinal to archrival Panathinaikos, and in 2010 in Paris, the Reds reached the final but fell to Regal F.C. Barcelona.
Olympiacos faced a crossroads in the summer of 2011. Although the team won the 2011 Greek Cup, it was also upset in the Euroleague playoffs despite holding home-court advantage after a record-breaking win in the series opener. After that sudden disappointment, the Angelopoulos brothers decided that it was time to rebuild. Eight prime players were let go, including two former Euroleague MVPs and an additional two who had been All-Euroleague players. They left head coach Dusan Ivkovic in place and worked with him to restock the Reds’ roster with promising young talents and equally hungry veterans. They made sure to keep guard Vassilis Spanoulis to lead the way on the floor. With many new faces, including several young rookies, Olympiacos labored early in the season, but rebounded to win five of six games to finish its regular season group in second place.
Sensing an opportunity to do something special sooner rather than later, the Angelopoulos brothers then added two key pieces to the lineup, guard Acie Law and big man Joey Dorsey, on the eve of the Top 16. In the end, they were rewarded richly by all those they trusted. Ivkovic became the oldest coach to lead a team to a continental crown, Spanoulis was named Final Four MVP, forwards Georgios Printezis and Kyle Hines became heroes, and all those young guns – like Kostas Sloukas, Kostas Papanikolaou, Evangelos Mantzaris and Marko Keselj – not only won the Turkish Airlines Euroleague title at precocious ages, but pointed the way towards more big things to come in the club's future.
By keeping the faith in their club, its basketball professionals and their fans, Panayotis and George Angelopoulos showed this season how dedication, loyalty and devotion from the top can lead to great things, as it did for Olympiacos Piraeus.
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