There is one thing that Panathinaikos’ president Pavlos Yannakopoulos will never accept: failure.
The previous season, his troupes had dominated the regular season with incredible ease only to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. In order to forget this bitter ending,
Panathinaikos put together an impressive squad. Dejan Bodiroga remained with the team, joined by countryman Zeljko Rebraca, Israel’s superstar Oded Katash and the ever-reliable Johnny Rogers.
As expected, this team cruised through the regular season and headed to the Final
Four in Thessaloniki expecting to take home its second EuroLeague trophy in 4
The Final Four was indeed a popular success. The reason ? Each of the four teams that qualified had a very special story to tell. Aside from Panathinaikos, it was Barcelona’s seventh Final Four !
But the Spaniards still had no title to show for it. For Efes Pilsen, the trip to Greece was particularly sweet as the club became the first Turkish team to reach that stage of the competition. But no team created more enthusiasm from its fans than Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Since 1991, this historic club had not reached theFinal Four. The great results of Maccabi in the EuroLeague were celebrated throughout the country and when the men in yellow won their quarter final series against Paf Bologna, more than 50.000 people celebrated the victory in Iztaac Rabin square in Tel-Aviv.
But Panathinaikos made sure that no celebration would take place in Israel after the final game.
Despite a fantastic performance by Maccabi’s center Nate Huffman (50 points and 15 rebounds in two games), the team from Athens put the final touch on its great season thanks to MVP Zeljko Rebraca.
The other key man in the victory was coach Zelimir Obradovic. On that occasion, Obradovic won his fourth Final Four. In fact, in nine years on the bench, this wizard of coaching had always taken his teams to the Final Four when they were playing in Europe’s most prestigious club competition (six times), but also added two EuroCup wins, a silver medal with Yugoslavia in the 1996 Olympic Games, a bronze medal in EuroBasket 99, an European championship
win in 97 and a World championship triumph in 98.
A fantastic achievement!