Flevarakis Ready For Sweden Challenge

04.05.2005

By Jeff Taylor, PA International

The new man at the helm of Sweden's national basketball team, Kostas Flevarakis, is not a miracle worker.

"I don't give big promises or big words," Flevarakis said to PA International.

That is what is needed for Sweden to join the elite of European basketball, though - a miracle.

"I will try to help as much as I can," he said. "I know Sweden isn't one of the big names, but you always give your best, and I promise to give my best."

My goal is to build something for the future
Kostas Flevarakis

Flevarakis nearly achieved what some hoops enthusiasts would consider a miracle this season with Akropol, taking a team in just its second campaign since winning promotion to the top flight all the way to the semi-finals of the Swedish play-offs.

The appointment of Flevaraki as Jan Enjebo's replacement will raise eyebrows.

He once coached at the highest level in the club game in Greece, at PAOK Thessaloniki where he went from being a junior player in the eighties to taking the reins of the senior team at the start of the 1998-99 campaign.

During his time in charge there, Flevarakis, who turns 36 on May 24, led PAOK to a Greek Cup triumph and also to within touching distance of the league title.

Having left Greece for the colder climes of Sweden, Flevarakis succeeded with Akropol and was the number one choice to replace Enjebo, who left by mutual consent in March.

Sweden played at Eurobasket 2003, but that was because they hosted the event.

Flevarakis inherits a team that did not win a game in last year's Eurobasket 2005 qualifying round, when they played Croatia and Russia twice in home and away games.

Despite the four defeats, they can still qualify for the European Championships in Serbia & Montenegro if they win a mini-qualifying tournament.

They must first finish top of a group which includes Hungary and Portugal, and then win another mini-tournament against the two other group winners.

Flevarakis will have promising Swedish basketball players at his disposal like reserve point guard Olivier Ilunga at Benetton Treviso and sweet-shooting Christian Maraker at the University of Pacific.

But the Scandinavian country will find it tough.

A more realistic aim is to avoid being relegated into the B Division.

Flevarakis' focus is not on results.

"My goal is to build something for the future."

"I'll work hard for the federation. I hope that in the next two years, Swedish basketball will have improved.

"I know it's not like Greece or Italy, it's not easy. It needs a lot of work, a plan.

"But there is more interest here than I thought before I came here."

One of his hopes is that the game can become more professional.

"There are a lot of things that need to come together," Flevarakis said.

"The national team can play its role but the clubs, too, need to be in the European Cups. No one will expect big success at the start but you take some small steps.

"Slowly the wins will come and the fans will get more interested. The players will get better by playing against other European players."

When Flevarakis was in charge at PAOK, he coached against the best in the Euroleague.

"The players will want to show they can play against the better teams and will get better," he said.

In Sweden, players often must have other jobs to supplement their income. The professional aspect will be tough to achieve without increased sponsorship, but Flevarakis says it needs to happen.

"I know a lot of players who are talented, but they have to do other jobs," he said.

"I grew up in an environment (at PAOK) where it was 100% professional. They only played basketball.

"The player needs to work more hours on the basketball court. Having only talent is not enough."


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