Influences are everything for elite head coaches. They grew up as basketball fans and students of the game. With or without playing backgrounds, all Turkish Airlines EuroLeague head coaches had mentors or were influenced by certain people to get where they are today, running teams in what is perhaps the richest competition in the world in terms of tactics. And many of them have left marks on their assistant coaches or former players who have gone on to pick up a whistle and a coaching board.

For Olympiacos Piraeus’s Georgios Bartzokas, this season will be his 10th as a head coach in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. All told, Bartzokas has spent nearly two decades in the coaching profession in his native Greece, Russia and Spain and in that time has learned from countless tacticians and spawned many more.

The influences on a head coach can and should be many Bartzokas said, though he declined to choose any one of the coaches he has spent time with as a mentor: “You can learn from the best coaches in the NBA or EuroLeague, but also from a coach in the Greek third division,” Bartzokas said.

“You can learn from the best coaches in the NBA or EuroLeague, but also from a coach in the Greek third division.”

Nevertheless, there are some moments and lessons that stick out more than others. For Bartzokas, one of those chiefly memorable moments came when he started working under Greek legend Panagiotis Giannakis as an assistant coach at Maroussi Athens. It was Bartzokas’s first season as an assistant in the top level.

Bartzokas recalled that at the team’s first practice, Giannakis told the players they were going to win the Greek championship. Bartzokas was stunned, since then – like today – Panathinaikos Athens and Olympiacos were the undisputed kings of Greek basketball. But in the end, Maroussi, led by a young Vassilis Spanoulis, reached the finals before losing to Panathinaikos.

“I learned a lot from his confidence,” Bartzokas explained. “The belief he had in the team transferred to the players and we had a tremendous season.”

Ever since, Bartzokas has tried to instill his troops with that type of confidence and it has paid off nicely. In his first season with Olympiacos, the Reds reeled off many memorable comebacks, including down 15 early in Game 5 of the playoffs against Anadolu Efes Istanbul and down 17 after 10 minutes of the championship game against Real Madrid. Olympiacos won both games by double figures to defend the EuroLeague crown.

An underdog Bartzokas team shocked the EuroLeague again in 2015-16 when unheralded Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar – playing just its second season in elite European competition – reached the Final Four.

With the bundles of success Bartzokas has had, it is only natural that some of his assistant coaches and players would seek to follow in his footsteps as head coaches. Since serving as Bartzokas’s assistant at FC Barcelona, Josep Maria Berrocal has been a head coach for other clubs in Spain as well as in Turkey and Bahrain. Milan Tomic was a lead member of Bartzokas’s staff at Olympiacos and later was the head coach of Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the EuroLeague.

Among his many former players are several who are now climbing the coaching ranks. The point guards from the first team Bartzokas coached in the EuroLeague, Marios Batis and Billy Keys, at Maroussi in 2009-10, are both assistant coaches. Batis retired last year and started coaching as an assistant with Ionikos Nikaias in Greece. Keys is an assistant coach in college in the United States. Another player from the team, center Stephen Arigbabu, has spent most of the past decade as an assistant coach in Germany.

“The coaching profession is not an easy one and the desire to coach must come from within.”

Bartzokas will see another of his former players wearing a suit and tie in the EuroLeague this season. Doron Perkins, who was on Bartzokas’s EuroLeague-winning Olympiacos team in 2013, is a freshly-minted assistant coach with Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv.

The coaching profession is not an easy one and the desire to coach must come from within. Therefore, Bartzokas said he has never tried to convince any of his former players to seek careers as coaches, even though he is always open to discussion about the topic.

Naturally, Bartzokas has gut feelings about which of his former charges might be best suited for coaching. One such name he mentioned was the recently-retired Kostas Kaimakoglou, who played for him at Maroussi.

“He was like a point guard at forward,” Bartzokas said of Kaimakoglou. “Like the coach of the team on the floor. I don’t know if he wants to do it, but I think he would be a good coach.”

Considering the length and the quality of his coaching career, the list of coaches to come from the Bartzokas coaching tree is certain to be long. Perhaps Kaimakoglou will be one of the names that shine brightest on that list.

Seen at: Euroleague.net