Georgios Bartzokas:
Our goal is to fully realize our potential

Despite having a successful 2014/2015 season, management of Lokomotiv-Kuban decided to shake things up this year. They’ve added a couple of players and brought in head coach Georgios Bartzokas, who won the Euroleague with Olympiakos.

In an interview with VTB-league.com Loko’s new head coach spoke about adjusting to Krasnodar, how he will utilize team’s rookies, how the team’s style of play will change and also showed his admiration for Kuban fans.

This is your first head coaching job outside of Greece. Have you had any troubles adjusting during your tenure with Lokomotiv-Kuban?
I don’t think that question really applies to any head man in an organization that plays on this level. What is there to adjust to? Having to work with quality players that are willing to be coached? Having access to the top-notch facilities? Of course, I expect there to be difficulties, but they are all related to basketball, which is part of my job here. One thing I will have to get used to is having so many flights, even when you travel within Russia, most of the flights connect through Moscow, this is something we have to wary of, but these are normal circumstances, not something you have the adaptation problems with.

The Railroad Squad became one of the more memorable teams last season, despite not having a dominant center like Kyrylo Fesenko. Will the style of play change?
Sergei Bazarevich managed to build a team that was able to run last season, but we weren’t a good team in the half-court, which is an area we’d like to improve at. Fesenko is just the right player for that.

Krasnodar has been active in the offseason, having signed a number of quality veterans. What are the team’s goals this coming season?
Our main goal is to play up to our potential. We built a good team and if every player plays his part we should have a long and fruitful season. I don’t like to discuss the long term goals, I would rather worry about the next game and the next opponent, prepare for them the best way possible. Perhaps you’ve heard that answer before, but this is the approach that I truly believe in.

CSKA is the team to beat in the VTB United League. You have done it with Olympiakos in 2013. What is the key to beating the Red and Blue? What are some of their weaknesses?
CSKA is a club rich in history and tradition, they command respect from anyone who faces them, but like every other team they have their strengths and their weaknesses. You must be on your best game to compete against them, so that I guess is the secret.

Newcomers of Loko Chris Singleton and Victor Claver play a similar style of an athletic forward/center. What will their roles be this season?
Victor and Chris joined the team not long ago, but since the first days of practice they showed nice work ethic and understanding of what we’re trying to do. Today’s basketball is a fast-paced, dynamic game and they fit that style of play perfectly. We as the coaching staff will continue to determine and develop their roles in the coming preseason games and in practice.

Every team nowadays has a three-point specialist; can that role be filled by Ryan Brockhoff? Do you as a team plan to shoot a lot of 3’s?
Ryan is a great basketball player, not just a shooter. He is an extension of a head coach on the floor and is good at predicting the flow of the game and making the right decisions. He had games for us where he played 15 minutes and didn’t score once. He manages to make his input on the game with his defense, rebounding and communication. I wouldn’t want my team to be one-dimensional and rely on one single strength on offense, we need to become strong in various aspects of the game to take advantage of our opponent’s weaknesses.

Who do you rely on from the youth squad?
We promoted two players from the youth team – Igor Kanygin and Nikita Zverev, both very talented kids with good ability. They will start practicing with the first team and have to prove themselves there, we’ll monitor them closely to see where they can fit in.

In one of his interviews Malcolm Delaney said he doesn’t want to leave Europe because of the way he is being paid here. Could that statement be considered a lack of motivation to improve?
When a player doesn’t want to improve he doesn’t work at his craft in practice or is breaking the team’s rules and policies, and I assure you that this does not apply to any player on our team. What motivates one player or another is a topic of a different discussion.

Your organization is considered one of the best in putting together a show for the fans. Do you think what happens off the court during games has an effect on how еру team is performing?
I made my decision to come to Russia after speaking with Andrey Vedischev, who showed that he knows what conditions it takes for a team to be successful. He wants the best for his club and is very demanding. We agreed on many things, I’ve done my research about the club and I decided to come work here. I have heard nothing but nice things about the city of Krasnodar and the people here, so I look forward to feeling what it’s like to play in front of the fans in Basket Hall, one of the loudest arenas in all of the League. Fans here come to team’s open practices, they love and understand the game. It’s a great feeling to be in an environment like this and it’s a great honor for any coach.