Silverbacks coach George Galanopoulos was very emotional during the post match interview of Uganda’s stunning win over Nigeria on Tuesday.
Uganda beat Africa’s number one 80-68 at the Kigali Arena to seal a place in the Afrobasket Quarterfinal for the first time in the country’s history.
Galanopoulos, whose side will face Cape Verde in the Quarters on Thursday, has ranked the milestone highest on his Coaching CV.
Back in 2017, the former Video Cordinator at Dallas Mavericks, was approached by then Silverbacks player Stanley Ocitti and General Manager Mohamed ‘Haji’ Santur for the national team opportunity.
Galanopoulos says that he has since realised that coaching Uganda has been more than something to put on his resume.
The tactician, who doubles as the coach at Texas Legends, added that Uganda’s impressive journey at Afrobasket will inspire many generations back in Uganda to play basketball.
“Of course, there will be influence these players will have on the young generation, I grew up in Chicago rooting for the Chicago Bulls, many guys will start to play the game more and more because of a win like this,” Galanopoulos said after Uganda’s win over Nigeria’s D’Tigers.
“We do not focus on that (inspiring generations) when we go through on the process of playing but I think when you take a step back and you think about the bigger picture and you kinda of broaden the perspective about the impact you can have on the nation and especially for the generation to come, it gives you an extra motivation to understand that you are working with people for something so much meaningful than your own individual goal.
“Just for example when I was first offered this job, I was 28 years, I just saw the opportunity thrown on my resume just to be a head coach, I did not realise by grace of God that this will be the best thing to have ever happened to me for more reasons than just my coaching experience.”
Courtesy Video – Galanopoulos Leads celebrations after Uganda beat Nigeria
Galanopoulos, who has Greek roots, started out as a Player development coach at Bakersfield jam where he was later named an assistant coach. He has also had coaching stints in New Zealand top flight league.
He was the head coach as Uganda finished 13th at the 2017 Afrobasket.
In his first game in charge, Uganda lost in overtime to giants Angola 94-89 on September 8 2017 in Dakar at the Afrobasket. The team lost 57-54 to Central Africa and 79-70 to Morocco to finish bottom of the group.
Into his second Afrobasket campaign with the team in Kigali, Uganda beat Cameroon and continued to punch above weight with a win over Nigeria.
Galanopoulos added: “Its hard to put in words but all I can say is that am extremely proud of this group, am so proud and humbled to coach them. This is the best collective group of people that I have ever been around.”
Toronto Raptors new signing Ishmail Wainright scored 11 points and as many rebounds while Robinson Opong shot lights out on Tuesday.
“The most incredible thing about Ish (Ishmail) is that nobody sees, unless you are around him or the team, his legitimate impact on the culture of our group.
“He is a connector, he is an NBA player that you would never know just by having a meal with our team. He is a humble guy, he is so grateful to be part of this and I am extremely grateful to have him around and I know other guys are.”
On Robinson Opong, he stated:
“I have been with Opong from the very first game I coached with this group and when that guy gets hot, Man!!! People talk about the Zones, talk about getting on the floor, you saw it tonight, he was unconscious, there was nothing else in the gym that was on his mind other than the ball going in the hoop, and its just an incredible thing to watch.”
Uganda return on court against Cape Verde in the quaterfinal, a side they beat in the qualifiers in November last year.
Weighing in on Silverbacks chances against Cape Verde, Galanopoulos commented: “They have rested, they are very different from when we played them in 2020, they have got Tavares who is a great player, impress a lot of problems for us but just like any other game, every game possess a unique challenge.”