Less than two weeks after losing in the German basketball BBL Finals to Brose Baskets Bamberg, Alba Berlin have clearly thrown down the gauntlet that they will be 2011-12 title contenders as they signed past BBL champion coach Gordon Herbert and 2010-11 BBL MVP DaShaun Wood away from Deutsche Bank Skyliners for the up-coming season.

The 52-year-old Canadian coach last week told German media that there was nothing to the rumor that he would be going to Alba. What a difference a week makes as now Herbert has signed on a two-year contract with the eight-time German champs, who are looking for their first BBL crown since 2008.

“We were free, he was free – it just worked this time,” said Alba general manager Marco Baldi, who has tried to bring Herbert to the German capital for a couple years.

“Gordon Herbert’s teams were always very passionate and extremely motivated – regardless of were he was. And that has been evident over the years and was decisive to us.”

“Since I came to Germany for the first time in 2000, Alba was the measuring stick in German basketball and a top program in all of Europe. The clubs has a big tradition. The infrastructure and organization are first class,” said Herbert, who guided the Deutsche Bank Skyliners Frankfurt to the German BBL title in 2004.

He left the club after the season as he and the Skyliners could not agree on a new deal. Herbert returned to Frankfurt in April 2010, guiding them to the BBL finals and German Cup final last season and the semi-finals of both this season.
“I want to return to the Euroleague level. Berlin play in a new arena in which the possibilities are boundless.

Unfortunately the possibilities with the Frankfurter Halle are limited,” said Herbert, who becomes the first North American to coach at Alba Berlin, who have gone more with German coaches and coaches from the former Yugoslavia.

Herbert, who lives in Finland in the off-season, replaces Israeli Muli Katzurin, who took over from Luka Pavicevic in January 2011 and led Alba to the BBL Finals and a fifth and decisive game – which Berlin lost in Bamberg.

Herbert – who has coached Finland, Austria, France and Greece; worked as an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors; and coached the Georgian national team from 2005 to 2007 – nearly bounced Alba from the playoffs in May, losing in Game 5 at home 68-67 after winning two games on the road.

There are five players currently under contract with Berlin: Heiko Schaffartzik, Yassin Idbihi, Sven Schultze, Lucca Staiger and Derrick Allen, who he coached at Frankfurt.

“I am very satisfied with the five players already under contract. That is a good foundation,” said Herbert.
There is also talk that the expiring contracts of Julius Jenkins and Immanuel McElroy could be extended.

Another player for Herbert next season will be 2010-11 BBL MVP DaShaun Wood, who exercised an option in his contract to leave if Herbert left the team – according to the Skyliners’ website, which quoted Wood’s agent.

Wood, who averaged 18.9 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds for the Skyliners this past season, originally had signed a contract extension until 2013. But the 25-year-old American guard will follow his coach Herbert to the German capital.

“The decision by DaShaun is a big loss for us, but it is not surprising. The developments of the past couple of weeks have clearly shown in which direction things could go,” said Skyliners sports director Kamil Novak.

Novak said losing Herbert and Wood will signal a new beginning for the Skyliners, which lost its long-time sponsor Deutsche Bank but will be renamed the Fraport Skyliners starting July 1, 2011 after the Frankfurt Airport operating company.

The name being rumored as a possible replacement in Frankfurt is former Ulm coach Mike Taylor.

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