Thank you, Pini!


Thank you, Pini!
(photo: sportni.bg)
22-09-2008 07:33 | Валентин Ангелов

As soon as they learned they had qualified for EuroBasket 2009, the entire Bulgarian national team gathered in the center of the court and brought up a banner, saying "Thank you, Pini". And that was a message to the Israeli coach not only by all the players, but also by the entire basketball community, or even - by the whole of Bulgaria. Gershon showed everyone in Europe that he has reached a level as a basketball specialist that is quite high for everyone else. He was head and shoulders above. He showed real class not only as a coach, but as a person as well.
 
He took it upon himself to do something very few people would have done. And he did it immaculately for two and a half months. From the very moment he arrived until to the night of September the 20-th, when we learned our team was through to EuroBasket 2009. He used his vast basketball knowledge to lead the players to the next level up. He was able to inspire confidence in them, to make them believe they can play this game on equal terms with some of the best national teams in Europe. Despite the injuries to some key players, despite the simple lack of good performers at two of the most important positions in basketball, despite the threats of boycotts by some clubs before the start of preparation, despite the onslaught by a certain newspaper after the team's very first loss (in a friendly game!). Yes, the team had some up-and-down performaces in those friendlies and the main reason for that was the high turnover count. But, yes, there was someone there to identify the problem, to analyse it and to work on it... and suddenly Bulgaria becomes the team with the lowest average of turnovers per game amongst all the teams in EuroBasket qualifying - just 9.2! No prizes for guessing who is that "someone", who can do that. Pini showed some class that is only characteristic of the greatest of them. And, if everyone benefits from his stay in Bulgaria, the ones who do so the most are his assistants in the national team. In those two and a half months they have surely learned more about the game than during the rest of their coaching careers so far.
 
And when, after the game with Serbia last Saturday, he was asked about his personal duel with the legendary coach of the opposition team, Pini said: "You can only have a duel, if you have equal teams." And that is quite true. The situation, if the two of them swapped places, wouldn't have felt nice for the great Serb. Whether he would have been able to endure everything in Bulgaria and stick with the job, like Pini did - that is something we are not even discussing here.
 
Some "experts" were quick to voice their opinion and called him a "shiny balloon", which they said punctured and burst after just one friendly game. Yes, the balloon is too shiny, but to their chagrin, it hasn't really burst. The reason is it's made of a different material that cannot be penetrated by Bulgarian hypocrisy and jealousy.
 
Other people placed big money bets against the national team and/or sincerely hoped for it to flop. True, that team hasn't quite yet given us 100% confidence to bet on it. But in this case all Bulgraians that spend money at bookmakers, have a simple choice - either to bet on the Bulgarian team or else not bet at all. Do you think there were Serbs that had bet on Bulgaria, when their team won by just 10 points (inside the handicap, so a bet on Bulgraia would have brought a profit) in the game in Belgrade? I don't think so...
 
Pini is undoubtedly the best coach that has ever worked in Bulgaria, even with no pay. This is un undisputed fact and the longer he stays, the sooner we will get closer to the European standards. Haveng qualified for the major event is a great success, but we are not ready for great achievements quite yet. The most important thing is we are going into the right direction and the recent decisions of BFB regarding youth basketball sound promising. The policy of the new president of the Federation Mihail Mihov, since he was elected to that position in the spring of this year, is right on target - aiming to change the way the sport works with the kids. But we have to be very patient, as well as very diligent, if we want to make progress and get ourselves permanently somewhere among the better basketball nations in Europe. That is undoubtedly dependent on our progress as a state, whish is unfortunately very slow.
 
We can't have the Serbs making fun of us, even being a bit haughty as they are, saying that we don't have even one decent basketball arena, and at the same time our country has been a EU member for 2 years now and we claim to be a true European nation. Well then, it's high time we spent some money and build that new large arena, which has been promised, so our basketball players are able to play their home games in better conditions. And if the kids have better facilities too, more of them will take up the game and stick with it. It's just one thing that alone can turn the progress of our game in the right direction.
 
Look - the man from Israel created a true miracle, which might be something ordinary for him, but for us it means a lot. For the players, the staff, the fans, for everyone - all of Bulgarian basketball. It's not only about the fact that we qualified for EuroBasket - even if we hadn't achieved it, we should still have said a big "Thank you" to that man. The miracle is all that he does on the court and outside it, not the achievement of qualifying itself.
 
And for a person of his stature to have tears in his eyes after the end of the last two games, when he knew he had lead the team to EuroBasket 2009 - it is like something out of a fairy-tale, isn't it?
 
Even when all of us had deemed that qualifying campaign "Mission Impossible", it was Gershon who proved us wrong. If the filmmakers are still looking for the star of the third sequel, then Pini Gershon will surely fit into the role as successfully as Tom Cruise, let's say...
 
Sometimes people hit the jackpot in the lottery, but it doesn't happen too often. Bulgaria and Bulgarian basketball have hit something better than a jackpot. This man is much, much better than it. This kind of a jackpot is not only great, but even much harder to hit.
 
And because of all that - Thank you, Pini, for this unforgettable summer! And, please, make next autumn even more unforgettable for us. No one, but you, can do it...

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