Coach Chris Chougaz
Once a Panionios fan...forever a Panionios
Interview by Nena Anestopoulou for NSRELOADED.GR
As I started to write about a person that I have known for 32 years, I have an awkward anxiety about whether the text is emotionally charged and probably not so objective. Finally, I came to the conclusion that texts come to life, only if they capture truth and I easily find the way to introduce the following mini interview, with one of the most beloved people of Nea Smyrni, and fan of Panionios, my friend Chris Chougaz. Chris, was born in Alexandria, Egypt, to Greek-Egyptian parents and grew up in Nea Smyrni. He went to school in Lycee Leonin and afterwards graduated from the University of Athens, Department of Physical Education and Sports. He made his first basketball steps in the basketball academy departments of Panionios, where he finally lived some of the most important and unforgettable moments in his career as a basketball player, in the team of the '80s-'90s, with Fanis Christodoulou, Boban Jiankovic and the other teamates, under the coaching of Vlado Jurovic.. His basketball career as a player was completed with his participation in the rosters of other teams, such as Daphne BC, Larissa, Papagou, Near East, Bayreuth Germany and Gmunden Austria.
His great love for the sport combined with his university studies, kept him on the floor as a coach, after he retired as a pro basketball player. Apart from Greece, where he was the Head coach of Panionios, of course, of Kavala, Iraklis and Ofi, he sought his coaching career in foreign countries, as well as many other Greek coaches did so recently. Worked at Apollo Limassol, Egoe Brno & USK Prague, Corerecaminos Victoria Mexico.
The Austrian club with the youngest roster, Redwell Oberwart, was the team that for two consecutive seasons, gave him the greatest distinctions both collectively and individually.
The team won the ABL Championship and the Austrian Cup, while he was named head coach of the Austrian all star game for two consecutive years, coach of the year and coach of the year in all sports in 2016.
Today, his coaching trip around the world brought him to France, where for the second consecutive season, he has been the Head coach of L Union Tarbes-Lourdes Pyrenees, a young team that is fortunate to be coached by Chris, an expert we could say in building competitive teams with young and inexperienced children, that have the will and excitement.
Qualifications that apparently are shared by both his twin sons, also stemming from Panionios sports academies, one of whom plays professionally for Ionikos Nikaia BC and the other is playing for NSU Demons, NCAA Division I , with an athletic scholarship in the USA, combining basketball and studies.
Q What is Nea Smyrni for you?
It is my beautiful village. My home, my school my childhood memories, my team.
Q Nea Smyrni + Panionios or Panionios + Nea Smyrni?
These two are one. It can never be the one without the other. The aura of the city of NS, is not the same without a strong Panionios team, and Panionios suffered when he had to use as home court a stadium in another Athenian district.
Q What is the best and most memorable moment you have in Nea Smyrni and in Panionios.
The endles playtime as a little boy in the streets of Nea Smyrni with the beautiful houses of a past era. The best memory for Panionios, the great success of this huge and timeless club that faced Aris and PAOK in the 80s, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos in the 90s. And of course winning the cup will forever be in our hearts.
Q What is your opinion for the situation today concerning Panionios?
Unfortunalely, Panionios is at its darkest and worse years in the club's history. I came back twice from abroad to help in difficult times, not for saving the team and ranking only, but with the hope of reviving and restarting the fundamentals and foundations that this club was built on and made it great. The last time, I am extremely proud to have quit and not witness the parody I already had sensed that would follow.
Q You are born raised a fan of Panionios...so are your sons...What is the missing ingredient today so that the academies can bring up talents again?
I am proud ! The club lacks vision and people that love the team. Money is the least important thing. Now we should all help I think to rise the club from the ashes. I believe it is the right moment. However, this should be done with stringency, planning and solid values. Success is built with patience, hard work and vision.
Q The "Artakis" court...will it remain only a dream?
The "Artakis" stadium was a temple we can say for basketball. Of course, I am in favour of building a new, modern court. It is the people who are responsible to do so to find out how this can be done. The new stadium is over and above any politics or interest. I hope that the time will come and I will manage to enter the new one with pride regardless what it will be decided as a label name.
Q Having lived in many cities abroad, and living in Nea Makri whenever you are in Greece, what are the advantages and disadvantages comparing the situation of living abroad? Professionaly, it is what is missing from Panionios and every club, Planning, support from local authorities and societies, hard hork and most importantly voluntary work, patience and vision. Of course, there are positive things in Greece, such as "philotimo", that although it is rare nowadays, it still exists and this helps the Greeks make wanders.
Q Which places do you visit whenever you are in Nea Smyrni?
The central square, St. Photini, the Artakis stadium even now that is has been demolished, my school Lycee Leonin, the football stadium, and the timeless "Nikos" for the all-time classic cheese pie.
Original source of the interview in Greek can be found here