Coach Chris Chougaz
A Panther who's not interested in the Greek derby. And how a globetrotter came in Brno!
Updated: Feb 11, 2019
Interview for iDNES . CZ
By: Jiří Punčochář
Basketball Champion Chris Chugaz says,
"I can not work without dreams."
Some of which the Greek basketball coach has in Brno seem logical with regards
to where he now works and lives. He wants to go hockey, which he has never seen with his own eyes.
Other dreams can surprise the native Greek.
"I would like to find mountains in the Czech Republic where I would try to ski. In the snow, it will probably be different than waterskiing at the sea, " he suspects.
Mostly, however, a man who enjoys watching the basketball matches of US universities, Euroleague or Champions League dreams a good quality basketball team in Brno.
"That's my big dream. It's a good city and deserves a good team, "
A piece of work to carry out this daring vision has been made by Chougaz, fifty.
The Brno team in the highest competition rose from the bottom of the ranking to the elite group A1 among the eight best.
This means that Brno after eight years at the end of the season looks into the play off.
That was not even certain, until Chougaz's team on Wednesday beat the strong opponent Pardubice 81:80 at home.
It has been the biggest victory of the team since mid-November, when the Greek, born in Alexandria Egypt, took over the team at the penultimate place of the league.
It is important to work with heart
For Czech fans Chougaz's name is not unknown. Last season he worked with the young team of USK Praha and managed a balanced number of wins and losses.
"I want to play with great energy, fast. The second thing is defense. The third key is psychology. Motivation, self-confidence, faith in the team. I need to pass these on to my players"
the charismatic Greek said.
He makes clear the he is trying to motivate his players as much as possible.
"I'm talking a lot to them. I never plan on what to say, I do not have previously prepared speeches. It is important to speak from the heart, " he explains.
He takes examples from Greek history. He talks about the fighting with the Persians, the famous battles.
In our history, there is always somewhere you can dig to use as an example. For four thousand years we were warriors, we were in war almost always, "he exaggerates.
"Sometimes I tell players about the battle, known from the movie 300: The Battle of Thermopyl. This is a good comparison. We are a small team, maybe we have the smallest budget in the league. And yet we can feel unbeatable, "Chougaz let himself be carried away.
Sport? Passion, love, madness
Three months ago he arrived in Brno smoothly shaved; for the winter, his vision was framed by a black beard.
In training, he follows the game without grimaces, analyzing the work of his team with a pedagogical interest.
In matches he turns into a fanatic.
Widely outstretched hands and gestures at the referees he can look just as convincingly as you can imagine for a man from southern Europe .
"I've kept the best of the Greek qualities," he smiles. "Sometimes they say to me in Greece that I'm cold. I like organization in my life, I like the program. It just needs the right madness, passion, love. Sport needs to be enjoyed, "he says.
He also likes to enjoy his cup of coffee after morning training or enjoying a meal in one of the Greek restaurants in town.
"I found them in Prague and I found them in Brno too. They are good. Do not think, Greek cuisine is just gyros, "he recalls.
The only thing missing from the food in Brno is seafood. On recommendation where to buy, Chougaz responds with a mixture of amusement and inertia.
"We in Greece enjoy the seafood straight from the sea water to the plate, it is not possible here," he said.
Once a Panther, forever a Panther
2019, it will be 32 years since one morning in Greece, Greeks woke up with a basket ball next to their bed.
The gold at the 1987 European Championship taught the Greeks to love the game under the basket and players like Panagiotis Giannakis, Nikos Galis or Panagiotis Fasoulas
became national heroes.
Chougaz, who at that time was playing for Panionios followed the fanatical quest for a European title on television. He would have to meet regularly as an opponent in the highest Greek competition with Galis and all the other players.
Even though he did play out of Athens and later even moved to Marathon, because of the annoying buzz of a big city, in Panionios he remained loyal.
He looks at the Panathinaikos against Olympiakos derby, but this says nothing to him.
I am a Panther! This is how I grew up and so I will remain! says proudly.
Panthers is the nickname of Panionios fan club. Chougaz is in contact with them, so he went to coach his beloved club at the beginning of this season, even though he knew about the team's financial difficulties. But when they got worse, he felt the need to leave.
Europeans are good soldiers
After last year's conflict between the club's management and the coach Dejan Jakara in Brno last year, Chougaz was a great choice for the basketball players.
He has experience working in Central Europe.
"The teams are not at the top European level, but the players are good. They only need to be directed. They are disciplined, they follow the program as good soldiers. I'm just asking for more resilience, "the coach adds.
During his career, he has sucked in more basketball styles.
He went to work once to Mexico, but he stayed in Victoria only for a short while.
"It's not an easy place to live," he says diplomatically. There was a passion for basketball, but there was also, crime and dangerous streets.
In Europe, he puts down roots as a three-year old after his parents returned with him from Alexandria, Egypt. The strong Greek community had already been incorporated with his ancestors, but then the political situation changed.
"The new government tried to push foreigners out. So we returned to Greece, "Chougaz draws a past that he remembers only from narrative.
Because he began living in Athens as a small child, he is considered to be a complete Greek.
"My home is Nea Smyrni," he highlights the district where Panionios' home is.
From there he moved to Marathon seven years ago. "The sea is within reach, and it is a place of great battle with the Persians. I try to transfer that spirit to Brno. However, I would like to visit Egypt once again. It would be nice" he dreams.
This is a distant dream. One of many. The closest, as basketball coach, Chougaz lives right now
ORIGINAL ARTICLE CAN BE FOUND IN CZECH HERE