Q&A w/Olympiacos Assistant Coach Manos Manouselis

Q&A w/Olympiacos Assistant Coach Manos Manouselis
Jul 28, 2008, 11:46 pm
A representative of Olympiacos reached out to DraftExpress recently in attempt to clear the air and explain the exact events which lead to the signing of Josh Childress, in addition to providing information on the future plans of Olympiacos, the situation of basketball in Greece, the Euroleague, etc. A transcript of our dialogue with Assistant Coach Manos Manouselis is attached as follow.

DraftExpress: What is the sales pitch that you give American free agents like Josh Childress when you are courting them? Why should they pick you over staying in the NBA?

Manos Manouselis: With all due respect to the NBA, I believe Olympiacos offers a very comparable environment to a NBA team both in regard to our arena, practice facilities, coaching, and overall competition. Olympiacos also offers all the positives that coincide with living in a major metropolitan city such as Athens. Most people in Athens speak English, and the Mediterranean climate is loved by everyone. There are also some big differences in regard to the overall game atmosphere. Europe in general has more of a college atmosphere. Players absolutely love the passion of European fans. I also believe European basketball is more of a team game in comparison to the NBA. Finally, we are blessed to have owners who are committed to the long term success of Olympiacos basketball.

DraftExpress: There have been so many names thrown out both publicly and privately about people you guys have supposedly offered. I heard about offers to guys like James Posey, Ricky Davis, Ryan Gomes, Maceo Baston, Anthony Parker and others that have already been mentioned. Are there any truth to any of those names?

Manos Manouselis: Let me first point out that it is a much more difficult task for a team like ours to even identify who may be a realistic target in free agency as opposed to a team in the NBA. We must first identify who MAY consider playing in Europe, and then we have to constantly reassess those possibilities as the market changes due to NBA signings, etc. A NBA team may have an A,B and C plan in free agency but really our plan must be more of an A-Z.....depending on how the market moves we must react.

While trying to identify a realistic option, money and terms are typically discussed during the initial conversation with a player's agent. We understand these discussions must take place for a player to consider playing overseas. This does not necessarily constitute an offer but rather due diligence conducted by both parties.

I will tell you that offers were extended to both James Posey and Ricky Davis. We were able to personally meet with Ricky and his wife in Las Vegas during the time of the Summer League, and we were immensely impressed with him as a person in addition to his fantastic basketball skill level. While going back and forth negotiating with Ricky, we were surprisingly offered the services of Josh Childress, and so we as an organization collectively decided to wait for a meeting with him in order to assess the possibility of extending an offer to Josh, since we felt he may fit our needs at the 3/2 position a little better than Ricky. We met with Josh in Las Vegas, and then he decided to come to Athens for the purpose of his own due diligence, and here we are today.

DraftExpress: Are the figures that are being thrown around for the contract that Josh Childress signed (3 years, 21 million dollars net) accurate?

Manos Manouselis: 3 years 20 million is accurate.

DraftExpress: How do you feel about agents using your team's name as a tool to drive up prices in the NBA market?

Manos Manouselis: I think that the only thing we could do is target the players we covet in what is a global free market and deal with each situation accordingly. Our goal is not to be a factor in driving up prices in the NBA market, but rather to target players who we believe will help us win the Greek Cup, Euroleague and Greek League. The signing of Josh was unique in the sense that we recognized that Josh's value in the NBA was at the mid-level exemption or slightly above and we knew we must submit a competitive offer based on his NBA market value. We are blessed with fantastic team ownership that allowed us to do this, but not at the expense of being fiscally irresponsible. The market dictated Josh's value, not Olympiacos.

We had many NBA officials that were more than generous with their time talking to us at the Summer League, and we would be more than willing to reciprocate with them in regard to any potentially false rumors associated with our club. We would like to maintain an excellent relationship with the entire NBA, because in the end we are all looking to promote the game of basketball.

DraftExpress: Who are some of the names mentioned in the media here that you actually did not reach out to with offers?

Manos Manouselis: I have heard so many names that it is difficult to remember what actually was put in print....I will tell you we never made offers to Nachbar, Delfino, Luol Deng or Ben Gordon. As I explained before, our list of potential targets changed daily as the Summer League progressed. I will say that the minute Josh Childress was offered to us he immediately became our #1 target because he fit our needs at the 3/2 position perfectly.

DraftExpress: Will you guys be looking at the NBA free agent list every summer now as a place to land some significant players?

Manos Manouselis: When our club has a void, we will explore all options to improve our club. I would like to add that the roster for Olympiacos presently is closed for this season.

DraftExpress: Do you expect Panathinaikos to try and counter your signing with an even bigger name?

Manos Manouselis: It is difficult for me to speculate on this. I guess we shall see.

DraftExpress: Are there any concerns about one day running out of money and not being able to fulfill the contracts you are signing players to?

Manos Manouselis: Absolutely not a concern. The owners of Olympiacos, Panagiotis and George Angelopoulos, are one of the most financially strong ownership groups in all of sports.

DraftExpress: And what false things are people writing?

Manos Manouselis: I have read a comment from Kelenna Azuibuike’s agent, Michael Higgins, saying that Kelenna was our first option before signing Josh Childress. This once again is somewhat of a miscommunication between the agent and ourselves. We liked Azuibuike and had talked vague parameters of a deal in order to try to assess if he would in fact be willing to make a move overseas, but it never got much past that. We had a very brief meeting with Mr. Higgins in Las Vegas BEFORE we were even offered Josh Childress. I then read that he said we would have paid 10 million a year for Azubuike because we wanted him so badly ...respectfully I will say that is very poor speculation on his part. Once Josh was offered to us, and sorry for being so redundant, he was our unquestionable #1 target and our offer was indicative of what the market was at that time.

DraftExpress: Let’s talk about the depth of your team. Do you think the depth of Olympiacos might be considered by some to be a bit excessive? It seems like the team has 3 very good players by European standards at every position almost.

Manos Manouselis: I think that our roster is balanced in the sense that we have a nice mix of experienced players who can immediately help us, and younger guys who will have a bigger role on the floor in the future. Every player understands his role on our team from the time they sign a contract.

DraftExpress: Are there any concerns about maybe spending too much money at some point?

Manos Manouselis: There is a misconception we are throwing around money haphazardly, and that is untrue. We approached each signing with the goal of fitting a specific need, with the greater goal of winning championships. Coach Giannakis and the rest of the organization is aiming to build Olympiacos as a consistent championship contender in both the Euroleague and Greek League.

We understand that the business model for basketball in Europe is different from the NBA, but there are many things our owners, Panagiotis and George Angelopoulos, are trying to do to improve our model. We have a new arena that we are planning for the 2011 season that will significantly improve revenue, as well as many other ideas to improve revenue streams.

People forget that the NBA was not very profitable before the David Stern era and look at them now...and actually basketball is the 3rd sport in the USA after football and baseball. I have family in the States so I have personally seen this evolution since the early 80's. Is European basketball presently now what the NBA was in the early 80's? Maybe. If that is true there should be tremendous business upside.

Actually, since the Josh Childress signing team sponsorship request are at an all time high, even though that was not our intent. I would never bet against our owners when it comes to getting a monetary return on their investment. They have a long term plan that everyone will have to wait to see unfold, and that plan does not just include Olympiacos, but rather European basketball as a whole.

DraftExpress: Is it healthy to be overhauling almost the entire roster from top to bottom with the amount of changes that were made?

Manos Manouselis: Out of the 12 core players, we have brought in six new guys so I do not see this as a complete overhaul. We prefer to have continuity on our roster, but Coach Giannakis and the rest of the staff took over with almost 3/4 of the season done last year, so change was inevitable.

DraftExpress: About the signing policy. The team seems to have signed many offensive oriented players, while Giannakis seems like a rather defensive oriented coach. Does Giannakis take very active part in the signing process? Who is the real designer of the roster?

Manos Manouselis: Coach Giannakis is absolutely the architect of this roster. I disagree with the notion that our summer signings are offensive minded. I think everyone signed is a team player who will excel on both ends of the floor, especially with Coach Giannakis at the helm.

DraftExpress: There is some talk here in the States that one of the strategies used by Olympiacos to lure potential recruits is to offer a higher agent fee than is typically given (10%) on European contracts. How much of a role do you see this playing in luring NBA players to Europe in the future through their American representation?

Manos Manouselis: This is the first time I have heard this and it is so untrue that it is laughable...terribly untrue.

Response from Kelenna Azuibuike’s agent, Michael Higgins:
“It's always easy to reflect afterwards and say that Josh Childress was their #1 choice, BUT the simple fact is that they had been calling about Kelenna for weeks before Vegas Summer League in an effort to sign Kelenna. The team made various verbal proposals about money, and I finally agreed to meet with them in Vegas. If i said during my meeting with the team that Kelenna was ready to sign with Olympiakos and we needed to work out the final details of the money being proposed, than we would have finalized a deal that day!

(Therefore, regardless of whether Josh Childress was their #1 choice, Kelenna Azubuike would have been the player they signed!) The truth was that Kelenna did not want to go to Europe no matter what was proposed. He felt like he had worked too hard to get himself back to the NBA, and was on the verge of signing a deal that would give him security and allow him to remain in the NBA. Once the meeting ended and I explained such to the team, I'm sure they went in another direction and met with many agents and discussed many players over the next few days.

It's really not a big deal to me. I am happy for Kelenna and he was happy with his decision to remain in the NBA. I'm glad Josh Childress feels good about his decision to leave the Hawks for the Greek league! Best of Luck!”


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