(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole [file])
Pini Gershon was officially presented as coach of Greek giant Olympiacos Piraeus at a press conference in Athens on Thursday evening.
"I'm happy to be here," Gershon told the press. "Coming to Olympiacos is a huge challenge for me. The differences between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Olympiacos aren't that big and I believe that the team can go one step higher in Europe."
Gershon leaves Maccabi after becoming the yellow-and-blues' most successful coach ever, winning three European championships and taking the team to two more final appearances.
Gershon had said many times last season that it would be his last in coaching, but three weeks of vacation and a reported onemillion-euro pay check seemed to have changed his mind.
The Euroleague Final Four will take place in Athens next season and Gershon was fully aware of the expectations. "Our goal is to win the championship and qualify for the Final Four," Gershon said. "I want to be as successful in Greece as I was in Tel Aviv. If I didn't have high expectations for the team I wouldn't have come to Olympiacos."
Gershon takes over for Jonas Kazlauskas, who left to focus on his other job, preparing the Chinese Olympic team for the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Gershon will be joined in Greece by his Maccabi assistant, Elad Hasin, and Tel Aviv fitness coach, Avi Kovalski.
"In my last team I didn't have the best players in Europe, but I had the best team," Gershon commented. "That is exactly what I plan to do here. I want to build a winning team and have 10,000 fans behind us at every home game."
Olympiacos president Sokratis Kokkalis, who sat by Gershon at the press conference, gave his reasons for hiring the Israeli. "Gershon is one of the best coaches in Europe," Kokkalis said. "His personality and character are perfect for our team. Olympiacos was at the top but has since fallen. We want to get back to the top, to win the Greek championship and the Euroleague."