2009-10 Eurocup Coach of the Year: Ilias Zouros, Panellinios BC

Apr 08, 2010 by Eurocupbasketball.com Print
2009-10 Eurocup Coach of the Year: Ilias Zouros, Panellinios BC
Ilias Zouros - Panellinios BCEuroleague Basketball is pleased to announce that Ilias Zouros of Panellinios BC, who took his team from the Qualifying Round to the Eurocup Finals, has been chosen as the 2009-10 Eurocup Coach of the Year. In his third season on the Panellinios bench, Zouros has led the club to new heights as it aims for a first continental crown at the Eurocup Finals in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain on April 17 and 18. Panellinios played a spirited season to become the only team without homecourt advantage to win its Quarterfinals series and reach the Finals. Zouros’s task was made difficult by injuries that cost the team two players in the midst of the Last 16. In fact, not one Panellinios player started every Eurocup game this season and only five of them played in all 14 games leading up to the Finals. However, Zouros got the most of every person on his roster, from Eurocup rookies to a former Euroleague champion, leading the team to a perfect home record despite not having a single player ranked among the top 10 in any major statistical category. Zouros is the second winner of the annual award, which was introduced last season. The previous recipient was Oktay Mahmuti, then the coach of Benetton Basket.

The Eurocup Coach of the Year is part of an expanded awards structure meant to enhance the recognition of the finest Eurocup players and coaches for their efforts throughout the season. Earlier this week, Victor Claver of Power Electronics Valencia was selected as the 2009-10 Eurocup Rising Star Trophy winner. Euroleague Basketball and its in-house experts will also select players for the All-Eurocup first and second teams and the Eurocup MVP. The Eurocup Finals MVP award will go the best player at that event as voted by accredited journalists in attendance during the title game.

Zouros had Panellinios playing inspired basketball from the start this season. First, his team took care of business with a convincing road win at VEF Riga in the opening leg of the Eurocup Qualifying Round. Panellinios opened the Regular Season by routing another eventual quarterfinalist, Gran Canaria 2014, on the way to a 3-0 start. After averaging an 18.7-point margin of victory in those games, Panellinios slipped and dropped two games on the road before bouncing back in the Regular Season finale to knock out SLUC Nancy and become the Group G winner. Panellinios continued to protect its homecourt throughout the season. After a 3-1 start to the Last 16, Panellinios sealed its place in the next round with a week to go. A Last 16, Week 6 win over another semifinalist, Bizkaia Bilbao Basket, was not by a large enough margin to reach first place, but that would not matter as an 11-point win over Gran Canaria in the first leg of the Quarterfinals paved the way to Vitoria-Gasteiz for Zouros and his team.

Zouros, 44, started his coaching career at age 20 in the Panionios youth system, where he won several Greek League cadet and juniors titles. His next step was to join Peristeri's coaching staff in 1993. He got his big break at Olympiacos in 2000 and guided the team to the Greek League finals and Euroleague quarterfinals in 2001. Zouros then spent the first of several seasons away from his homeland, leading Sagesse Beirut to the Lebanese Cup and Asian Championship titles in 2004. Stints at Peristeri, Aris and Racing Paris followed before Zouros came to Panellinios in late 2007. The rest has looked like a match made in heaven as he helped turn Panellinios into a rising powerhouse in Greece. Now after earning Eurocup Coach of the Year honors, Zouros will look to cement a magnificent season with two more wins and a piece of club history in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

"It is a very big honor for me and I'm very happy." Zouros said in Athens. "I want to thank particularly my collaborators and my players. This is a collective success because we all put work into it. The most important however is to be healthy and to work hard because only with work you reach your targets. I wish we do well in the Eurocup Finals and we return to Athens happy."