heinnews’ David Hein made a stop at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament and he met up with Kostas Missas, the head coach of Greece’s U20 men’s team and the head coach of the Greek women’s national team head coach. They discussed the AST; Greek club Athinaikos winning the FIBA EuroCup Women title; Katie Douglas getting a Greek passport; the Greek U20 team’s development this season; the state of the women’s Greek team; the difference between coaching men and women; his duties with the Greek basketball federation; Zisis Sarikopoulos; and Linos Chrysikopoulos.
heinnews: Is this the first time you have been to the Albert Schweitzer Tournament?
Missas: Watching. But I played in this tournament in 1971. I was 17 or 18 years old the first time.
heinnews: What do you think of this tournament then?
Missas: I think it’s a great tournament. It’s probably one of the best for this age group. It’s a very good chance to be very competitive with other teams and see what’s going on. We care very much so at the Greek federation about this tournament because we come here each time. So it’s very important for us to see what other teams are doing. I think that the level is very high here. Australia, USA are great teams. But also Germany’s teams are very good this year. And I think the German federation has been doing a great job the past few years. I know how hard they are working, going into the primary schools and educational programs. They have young coaches and are working very hard. This is a very important thing. Because I believe that if you have a program you will get results. You just have to have patience.
heinnews: What team has impressed you here?
Missas: The Australian team is impressive. It’s not only that they have good players. But they play like a team. What I like is that they really execute on offense. And I like it a lot.
heinnews: Your plans for this summer are U20 European Championship Men and then Women World Championship?
Missas: We start on June 7 with the preparations for the U20 men’s team for the European Championship. We finish that hopefully with a medal again this year. And then on August 18 we start preparations with the women’s team for the World Championship.
heinnews: Being the women’s national team head coach, talk about Athinaikos’s winning the FIBA EuroCup Women title.
Missas: It was the first time in history we won the title. So, it was a great success for women’s basketball in Greece, especially after the women’s national team success. And five of the players on that club team play for the Greek national team so they get some great experience.
heinnews: Any other big news about the Greek women’s team?
Missas: Well, I expect to get the (Greek) passport for Katie Douglas. If we get her to play for Greece we will be much, much better this year.
heinnews: So, that is in the works right now, Katie’s passport?
Missas: Yeah, we are very, very close to getting her a passport. She has been married with a Greek guy for five years and been in Greece. So we may have some big support there. And Katie’s a great one. She’s a great player.
heinnews: Let’s talk about the U20 men’s team. What do you think about the progress this season of those players?
Missas: The problem for most of those guys is that they are playing in A1 teams and we haven’t had the chance to get together and work. Of the main group of seven guys from last year’s team, four of them are averaging about 15 minutes. That’s a good number of minutes at the A1 division. The other three guys are not playing as much as I would like them to play – something like five minutes. Especially (Kostas) Papanikolau and (Kostas) Sloukas play at Olympiacos and are not playing very much. And that is not good for those guys. Still, even though Olympiacos are playing for the Greek title and Euroleague title, every time those guys play, they prove that they can play. But a team like this it’s not easy for them.
heinnews: But I’m sure you would rather see them playing somewhere else and playing more minutes, no?
Missas: We believe that those two guys in two or three years can be playing in the men’s senior team. If Olympiacos do not have room for them next year, I think they will probably try to give them to another team and let them play.
heinnews: And the women’s team?
Missas: Four or five players got some great experience with Athinaikos in Europe. But the problem still exists that we still don’t have big, big, big players. That’s the problem of Greek women’s basketball. We will see what we will do this year. That’s our big problem and we will try to solve it with pressure defense, traps, this and that. We’ll use some tricks this year too.
heinnews: Looking back at last summer when you did both the U20 men and women’s team, how do you think you handled that?
Missas: When you work with U20 men, you have to support them psychologically a lot because they are young kids. They have dreams to play for big teams and get money. So we really have to work on our minds a lot.
But women are different. If you know one thing in women’s basketball you don’t have any problems. If you want women to play basketball, they must feel well to play basketball. Because men play basketball to feel well. (laughs).  But it’s important to know that. If you want to press women, you gotta press until you see that you can press. U20 men you can keep pressing and pressing. But everyone knows that women are very smart and very intelligent, so you go until only one point because you know that they understand what you are trying to do.
heinnews: That is an important message for all men in dealing with their wives.
Missas: The last four years of working with the women’s national team I have said one thing, those four years I thought I knew things about women. But I knew nothing. That’s a big experience for me – in life but also in basketball.
heinnews: Where do you see the difference?
Missas: Well, if you ask about basketball, there is no difference. The only thing is that the men play above the rim and the women play below the rim. But everything is the same. You can see great basketball also with women.
heinnews: What is the status of your contract with the Greek federation?
Missas: It goes until 2012.
heinnews: So, that would be possibly for the 2012 Olympics with the women. But what about the men’s side?
Missas: I am the U20 head coach but starting this year the federation gave me the right to coordinate all youth men’s the national teams. And with coordinate I mean we have a program, I take the program and talk to the head coaches of U15, U16, U18 and U19. So we have a program and I have control of it. And we are trying to see what the best we can do for the future. I think it’s a very, very interesting job. But you have to travel a lot for the job. We have four (regional) groups with a lot of talented players and different coaches. So, I go and talk to them and see what the kids are doing and what they need to do to improve. Things like this.
heinnews: It appears that Zisis Sarikopoulos will be coming back to Europe this season. What are your thoughts on that – and his situation?
Missas: I think now he has come back to a club team and play. I think it’s time. Zisis is very, very important. I have been talking to him and see him. He said he has been working with his leg after he had some injuries in the past. And it’s too bad for him.
heinnews: Is he healthy now?
Missas: Yeah, now it’s okay. I hope he can keep working on his legs. We told him he has to really work on that part of his body to be quicker. But the most important thing is for him to be healthy and have stronger legs. After that, we can fix everything.
heinnews: From the U20 team, do you players making it to the Greek senior national team soon – obviously last summer Papanikolau was among the final cuts at the training camp.
Missas: I think Papanikolau may be invited among the 18 players for the preparations for the Worlds. But I think Papanikolau, Sloukas, (Nikos) Pappas are a group of players in two, three years who will be in the Greek national team. But they have to work on their game.
heinnews: And what about the Greek team here at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament? Obviously the biggest name is Linos Chrysikopoulos.
Missas: I think Linos is the best talent that we have at this age group. But 1992 and 1993 we don’t have a lot of big quality like 1990. But 1994 and 1995 we have some good talents. But 1992 and 1993 are not too good of years. It’s like wines. Some times there are better groups.

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