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GRE/LAT - Latvia's Dikeoulakos an enemy to Greece on Saturday
KATOWICE (EuroBasket Women 2011) - There weren't any laughs during Greece's practice early Friday afternoon at the Spodek Arena in Katowice, Poland, 24 hours before their EuroBasket Women Group D opener against Latvia.
The time of reckoning has almost arrived for a Greek national side that never makes things look easy.
There have been plenty of close games the past two years for the team that is coached by Kostas Missas.
On Saturday, there will be an extra edge because the long-time colleague and buddy of Missas, and the good friend to all the Greek players, Latvia coach George Dikeoulakos, is going to try and orchestrate their downfall.
This is a Greek drama if ever there was one.
Dikeoulakos, a Greek, had a valuable role with the national team that had that incredible moment two years ago in Riga when they beat Italy 60-56 to finish fifth and qualify for the FIBA World Championship for Women for the first time.
He spent many a sleepless night looking at game videos and plotting strategy with Missas.
After that summer, and the season that followed when Dikeoulakos guided Sony Athinaikos to a Greek Cup, EuroCup Women and Greek League treble, Latvia came calling and appointed him coach.
It all adds up to a very interesting Saturday for Missas, Dikeoulakos and players in the Greece team like veteran point guard Dimitra Kalentzou, who played for Dikeoulakos at Athinaikos.
"I think it's going to be more difficult for him than for us," Kalentzou said to FIBA.com.
"He's going to play against his country, his colors, his flag. I think that's more difficult."
The challenge for Greece will be to treat good friend Dikeoulakos as an enemy for at least 40 minutes.
"He's our former coach, our friend," Kalentzou said.
"We talk to him at the hotel but when we go on the court, everything is different.
"We want to win. I think he wants to win, too."
Dikeoulakos used to be so integral in the game preparation side of things for Greece that it stands to reason he'll know what his former team will want to do before they even try to do it.
"I think we have to forget all of this and play as we know how," Kalentzou said.
"But it's going to be difficult because he knows how we play. This is something that we have to get out of our minds when we get on the court."
Kalentzou does have a lot of respect for her former Athinaikos coach.
"I think that he's crazy and likes to take risks," Kalentzou said.
"If you take risks when you have some things on your mind and you believe in this, that's the point, the secret."
In other words, Dikeoulakos, who spent so much time as a Greece assistant looking at videos of upcoming opponents and leaving nothing to chance, actually does things by instinct, too.
What else makes him so special that made EuroLeague Women title-chasing Fenerbahce recently decide to put him in charge of their team?
"He's young, so you cannot say that he's experienced or something like this," Kalentzou said.
"He has one philosophy, believes in this and he tries to make his players believe in this, too.
"And he works hard at this."
The Greek players are close to Dikeoulakos, but even closer to Missas.
"He's amazing," Kalentzou said.
"He's great. He's great in every minute of his life.
"We like him a lot. We love him. We've been with him since 2006 and we have had with him the biggest moments of Greece women's basketball."
Missas has done a good job of playing to his team's strengths and hiding their weaknesses.
He has made women's basketball important in Greece.
"He finds a way to use our talent," Kalentzou said.
"We were the same five, six players before Coach Missas so he found the secret how to use all of this on the court."
Kalentzou says that Dikeoulakos is far too good to be considered a pupil.
But what Missas, a university professor, clearly is is someone who has a lot of knowledge to impart.
"I would say Coach Missas is the teacher and if you are smart and even if you are a player or an assistant coach, and you have a thirst to learn, you can learn many, many things from him," Kalentzou said.
"The only thing is to be able to understand these things."
When Dikeoulakos coached Kalentzou two seasons ago at Athinaikos, he predicted that she would a coach one day.
"First of all, if I dream of becoming a coach," Kalentzou said, "I first want to be an assistant coach to Coach Missas at the beginning and then we will see."
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