Mantzaris leaves Piraeus after memorable eight-year stay
AGONAsport takes a look back at Vangelis Mantzaris’ successful eight-year spell at Olympiacos BC after he recently left for UNICS Kazan.
Eight years, three Basket League titles, two EuroLeague championships. Not a bad return at all. After joining from Peristeri BC in 2011, Mantzaris was a key member of the Olympiacos squad, often displaying remarkable composure which allowed the team to emerge victorious in crucial matches. A perfect example is the 2012 EuroLeague final against CSKA Moscow in Turkey.
Late in the third quarter, CSKA boasted a commanding 19-point lead, but Olympiacos made an extraordinary comeback with Mantzaris playing an important role in the win. In the final second of the third frame, Mantzaris drained a three-pointer to get Olympiacos within 13 points, a moment which proved to be the turning point. Giorgos Printezis won the game for the Erythrolefki with a buzzer beater in the fourth:
In the next season, Olympiacos won their second consecutive EuroLeague championship, but Mantzaris had received an anterior cruciate ligament in January and wasn’t able to compete in the decisive games. Nevertheless, when making his return in October, he helped Olympiacos win the 2013 FIBA Intercontinental Cup in Brazil by averaging nine points, three assists and 4.5 rebounds in the two games.
Mantzaris continued his rapid progression in Piraeus. In the 2013/2014 campaign, he was one of the best EuroLeague players in terms of the assists-turnovers ratio, and his statistics constantly rose as we entered the 2014/2015 season.
The point guard contributed with a memorable moment in the dramatic quarter-final triumph over Barcelona in the spring of 2015. Olympiacos were trailing by four points in the concluding moments of the match at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, but by hitting a three-point attempt, Mantzaris gave his team the belief that it was possible to emerge victorious. He then also dished out the assist for Printezis’ effort which handed Olympiacos the lead:
Mantzaris would enjoy one of the most memorable nights of his career a year later. In a match against Real Madrid in Piraeus, the Greek international knocked down six out of six three-pointers, a feat which he is yet to repeat:
Fast forward two years and Mantzaris once again fired Olympiacos to a vital victory, as he registered 12 points and nailed four out of nine three-pointers with the Piraeus giants defeating CSKA Moscow in the semi-final of the EuroLeague:
Upon the completion of a strong 2016/2017 campaign with the Erythrolefki, Mantzaris was rewarded with a new three-year contract with increased earnings by the organisation, and there were rumours that Panathinaikos had offered the player an even more lucrative deal.
However, after that superb season, Mantzaris’ form began to gradually dip and the arrival of new head coach David Blatt ahead of the 2018/2019 campaign signalled the beginning of the end. His lack of scoring didn’t impress the boss, and with Blatt not giving Mantzaris a lot of opportunities on the court, he rapidly lost confidence and mutually agreed to terminate his Olympiacos contract this summer. In the past season, Mantzaris only managed to average a disappointing 1.1 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 27 EuroLeague appearances.
The move to UNICS Kazan of the VTB United League in Russia gives Mantzaris a chance to get back on track, and despite the underwhelming 2018/2019 season, the Olympiacos faithful won’t forget his contributions to some of the club’s biggest successes. Mantzaris issued a message of thanks after his departure was confirmed.