Panathinaikos legend, CSKA assistant coach chats with Joe Arlauckas
The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas breaks new ground in its third episode of the season by interviewing an assistant coach. In this case, Darryl Middleton of CSKA Moscow is also one of the most remarkable champions in EuroLeague history, a man whose playing career lasted more than a quarter of a century and included many memorable battles against Arlauckas himself.
From his beginnings in New York City to playing professionally until age 47 and winning two EuroLeague titles since then as an assistant coach at CSKA Moscow, Middleton reminisced about his career highlights, which saw him play professionally for teams in Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece and Russia, win the EuroLeague as a player, take multiple Spanish League MVP awards and lift six domestic crowns combined in Spain and Greece.
When looking back at the 1995 Spanish League finals, Middleton reminded Arlauckas that he still owes him dinner from a bet after Middleton's FC Barcelona defeated Arlauckas's Real Madrid! Middleton's sustained success in Spain led to an offer to play for one of the sport's greatest head coaches, Zeljko Obradovic, at Panathinaikos Athens, where he finally captured the EuroLeague title.
[19:15] "I worked very hard in summer time and all that just paid off, man, by going and getting that title. I was so happy because all the time, that's what I wanted. I wanted it so bad," Middleton said. "This is something different. This is like, you know, a European title. This is great. I needed, I wanted to win this."
Long before Middleton got into coaching, he was already serving as a mentor to some of the game's great young stars.
[14:15] "You can ask Marc Gasol how much I beat him up every day. It was brutal. It was brutal, but I loved it," Middleton recalled of their time together in Girona. "He kicked the ball many times out in practice, got mad, walked away, you say it. But we were friends. He respected what I was doing afterward when he went to the NBA. He understood that's what it took to be tough. You have to play tough."
As his playing career was winding down, Middleton opened a restaurant in Alicante. He retained the same work ethic he was known for as a player, often getting to the restaurant at 7 a.m. to start working, while still heading to practices and games. A phone call from Dimitris Itoudis, his former assistant coach at Panathinaikos Athens, changed everything and Middleton joined him on the CSKA staff in the summer of 2014.
Having already won a EuroLeague as a player – alongside Itoudis as an assistant coach – Middleton knew the sweet taste of glory. However, when they took the crown together with CSKA in 2016, the feeling was different.
[38:59] "I was happy, but I was like, I felt so happy for Dimitris," he explained. "Because it was his first time winning it as a coach, as the head coach. And I know how much he, all the sweat he did. That was a tough year for us and it was tough and we did it and it was good. I was happy. But I like I said, I was so happy for him, seeing him there with his family, with the president of the team. It was different as a player."
All of Middleton's success from basketball came with a price. He was not able to be the typical husband or father and there is no way to recapture that lost time, he lamented.
[45:40] "There's some good things about basketball, some bad things as well. There're some things that you can never get back. The time that you miss with your family, you know. I mean, I missed everything. I mean the graduations, school, holidays," Middleton said. "I wanted to be the best player I possibly could be... I had to kind of like put them to the side for that."
With a one-hour format of exclusive one-on-one interviews, The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas goes well beyond the playing court with each podcast to delve into the life experiences that have made his guests protagonists and legends of the EuroLeague. The Crossover debuted in 2018 and has featured such current stars as Toko Shengelia, Shane Larkin and Kyle Hines, coaching greats such as Ettore Messina, Pablo Laso and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Theo Papaloukas, Nikola Vujcic and Mike Batiste, among others. The first guests in Season 3 were FC Bayern Munich Coach Andrea Trinchieri and Zalgiris Kaunas star Marius Grigonis.
The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas is available on Youtube, iTunes, Audioboom, Spotify, Deezer, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, CastBox, iVoox and other platforms.