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Pozzecco, the ‘madman’ who has turned the Eurobasket upside down

Few basketball fans will be disappointed with Eurobasket 2022, a roller coaster of sensations, great performances, controversies and unexpected swerves that have kept the parish of the basket in an infinite trance since the tournament began on September 1. Of the monstrosities of Luka Doncic (47 points against France) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (top scorer with 29 goals per game), to the big refereeing decisions, through the unexpected rebirth of Spain, few games have followed the expected script, a constant that aims to continue in the quarterfinals.

Among the survivors and in the race for the title appears Italy, the team that best exemplifies the blessed madness that the continental championship has brought. The Mediterraneans, who are facing France today (17.15, Four), suffered a severe blow by losing their best player, Danilo Gallinari, just three days after his debut after breaking the cruciate ligament in a preparation match. They suffered greatly in the group stage, fourth classified, and, when they seemed destined for the abyss, they surprised the world by knocking down Serbia (86-94) last Sunday in the round of 16, one of the top candidates to win gold. Despite the great performance of Nicolo Melli, Simone Fontecchio, Marco Spissu and Achile Polonara, captains against the Balkan storm, it was their coach, Gianmarco Pozzecco, the man of the night.

Gorizia’s was a whirlwind from the first minute of the match. So spirited was his performance on the Italian bench that it took only a few moves for him to receive his first technical, a penalty that came back on him in the second quarter, when Serbia flirted with breaking the game with a lead of more than ten points. It was then, with the expulsion already certified, when the tears began to slide down the face of Pozzecco. The coach, who at first refused to leave his combat position, had to face the locker room tunnel while saying goodbye to all the components of the rival bench, but not before asking his pupils to win the game for him, as he acknowledged Spissu later at a press conference.

The motivational tactic worked and Italy crushed Serbia in the last quarter with a run of 28-18, certifying their passage to the quarterfinals. «When he left the field, we received a very important emotional boost. We won because of him because in addition to our coach, he is also like a partner, “he summarized Polonara after the victory. Pozzecco’s show went beyond the benches: he had to be held back by his assistants because he wanted to return to the track even with the clock running and, after the crush, he began to run like crazy through the bowels of the Mercedes Benz Arena in Berlin. Antetokounmpo was there, playing shortly after against the Czech Republic.

Upon meeting the Greek giant, the Italian threw himself into his arms and gave him a kiss on the cheek that will remain as one of the images of the tournament. “He is a great person, that’s why I hugged him and kissed him,” said Pozzecco, in addition to assuring, half jokingly half seriously, that he had given him his credit card to your players so that they could celebrate the iconic victory without limits: «Let them do what they want».

A recurring strategy

It is not the first time that Pozzecco has forced an expulsion to motivate his players. «In the two seasons that I coincided with him at Dinamo Sassari, he was sent off eight times. We won all eight games, ”said the Croatian pivot these days Miro Bilan in the middle italian The Gazzetta dello Sport when asked about the particular method of the coach, more Balkan than Italian, the coach was born in 1972 just a few kilometers from the border with Slovenia.

Even as a player, a stage in which he was nicknamed ‘The Atomic Fly’, the now coach displayed an equally temperamental attitude. Known for his particular hairstyles (he came to play with his hair dyed red, an anomaly in the 90s in European basketball), the shooting guard fell prey to his excellent talent and strong character, which led him to situations as disparate as fight with several of his coaches in Italy or be selected by the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Draft, although he never crossed the Atlantic, the big mistake of his career, as he always remembers. After retiring in 2009 with the 2004 Olympic silver in Athens as his career highlight, he has alternated coaching jobs since 2012, virtually all of them in his native country. In June, almost surprisingly, he received the call from the federation. The rest is history.

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