Basketball, a family affair for the Sakotas

Back in 1991, an entire family had gathered around their Thessaloniki home’s TV set to witness husband, father and Serb basketball coach Dragan Sakota lead PAOK to a European title, the European Cup Winners’ Cup, after defeating Spanish side Zaragoza in the competition’s Geneva final. Judging by more recent family developments, basketball seems to run through the veins of the Sakotas. The younger son, Dusan, a 5-year-old boy at the time of PAOK’s European triumph in 1991, nowadays stands at 2.08 meters and ranks as one of Panathinaikos’s outstanding future prospects after working his way through AEK’s junior ranks. His slightly older brother, Milos, who was sidelined by injury for most of last season, is with Ionikos. Not surprisingly, their father – who, in his most recent coaching distinction, led AEK to a domestic league title last year – spoke proudly of his offspring in an interview with Kathimerini. «I’m happy about the development of my sons in basketball, mostly because I never pressured them into my profession,» said Dragan Sakota. «But I always believed that they would follow the same road, as they were always by my side wherever I worked, and, as they got older, they’d see their father on basketball courts every day,» he added. Despite their professional obligations with rival clubs, the Sakota brothers often test each other in one-on-one practice games with their father as referee and mother there, too, as a fan of both. Despite the entire family’s obvious devotion to basketball, the Greek-based Serb coach contended that schooling for his sons was a priority. «Both my wife and I wanted them to get an education. Basketball entered their lives gently from early on. I occupied myself with them during my spare time from professional commitments,» said Dragan Sakota. «Both learn well. They’re talented and my advice to them has always been to respect the coach’s opinion. My point of view is secondary and is delivered when they get home from games or practice. That’s what my role should be limited to. I don’t want to make them anxious and I’m not a demanding figure like parents who want nothing less than top grades in university entrance exams or recruitment into the NBA, no matter what,» he added. It is common for the father and sons to sit together and analyze performances on video. Dragan Sakota said that, as adviser to his sons, his stance was balanced and objective. «I don’t treat them softly and I don’t shout either. I talk to them as I would with my players and never give them the right to believe that their coach has been unfair with them,» said Dragan Sakota. «I believe that both have a future and will establish their positions,» he added. Both sons admitted feeling fortunate about their father-coach relationship with Dragan Sakota. «As long as I can remember, I’ve always had a ball in my hands and shot for the basket. I asked my father to teach me how to dribble, leap, and shoot. We may not have learnt from the ‘Yugoslav school,’ but our father was a mobile academy for us. He was and remains close to us and helps us both as a coach and father,» noted Dusan Sakota, who dedicated his career’s success to date to his family. Milos, his older brother, pointed out that the entire Sakota family felt at home in Greece. «At times we do feel nostalgia for some friends, but in Greece, too, we feel like we’ve assimilated with local customs and the way of life,» said Milos Sakota. «We liked the idea of getting involved in basketball and, naturally, our father assisted us.»