SPORTS

Olympiakos has new coach

Israeli basketball coach Pini Gershon, who has led Maccabi Tel Aviv to three Euroleague triumphs, has assumed the coaching job at Olympiakos, the Greek club announced yesterday. The 55-year-old Israeli was expected to arrive in Athens early today ahead of his official presentation to media and fans this afternoon, the club said yesterday. Gershon replaces Lithuanian Jonas Kazlauskas, who resigned from the Piraeus club just days ago, presumably to focus on his other, parallel coaching position with the Chinese national team in its lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Gershon, who cut short a mediocre career as a player in his early 20s to try coaching instead, led countless Israeli clubs before moving his way up to assume the post at Maccabi Tel Aviv, a traditional powerhouse in Israeli and European club-level basketball. Besides his three European titles with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Gershon has led the Israeli team to five Euroleague Final Four appearances, and as many finals. Last season, his team failed to defend its European title after losing to CSKA Moscow in the final. The Israeli’s move to Olympiakos ranks as a major accomplishment for the Greek team, which is seeking to regain its place at the top of domestic and European basketball. The club had fallen out of the picture in recent seasons, both domestically and in Europe, but there were signs of a revival last season. Olympiakos ended second in the Greek league after losing 3-0 to Panathinaikos in a best-of-five final series. The club also narrowly missed out on a Euroleague Final Four appearance after losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv with Gershon at the helm in the quarterfinals. In other transfer news at Olympiakos, the club’s hopes of signing Greece guard Nikos Zisis, one of the national team’s stars at last summer’s Eurobasket triumph in Belgrade, ended yesterday as a result of the player’s decision to carry on with Italian champion Treviso Benetton. Zisis renewed his contract for a further three years, ending rumors of his possible repatriation. Both Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, winner of both the Greek league and cup titles, were reportedly interested. Amid the speculation, the player himself had ruled out the likelihood of a return to Greece. «Benetton announces the extension of its collaboration with Greek guard Nikos Zisis right through the 2008-2009 season. The club is very satisfied with this deal and the player’s level of focus. He is a major and necessary cog in Benetton’s machine,» the Italian noted in a statement. Crowned Italian league champion just days ago, Treviso Benetton also renewed the contract of its coach, David Blatt, who rejected an offer from Maccabi Tel Aviv.