Promoted side s.Oliver Baskets Würzburg, 2010 FIBA EuroChallenge winners BG Göttingen, LTi Giessen 46ers and ratiopharm Ulm all have picked up new coaches in the German BBL basketball league while Mike Koch will return somewhat unexpectedly to Telekom Baskets Bonn.
Many German basketball observers expected Koch not to re-sign with Bonn and take over as German national team coach after Dirk Bauermann finished his tenure this summer at EuroBasket 2011. But Koch, who has coached Telekom since 2005 and guided them to the BBL finals in 2008 and 2009, agreed to a two-year contract with Bonn.
“I would like to thank the heads at Telekom Baskets Bonn for the show of faith in me. I continue to look forward to working with the entire Baskets family. After the difficult last season, it’s time to look positively into the future,” said Koch, whose team struggled to a 14-20 finish this past season – the worst in their history – and failed to make the playoffs.
“We will not make the same mistakes a second time and everyone will give lots of heart and energy to revive the old Baskets virtues,” said Koch, who as a player won the 1993 European championship, six German titles, four German Cups, four Greek crowns and one Euroleague title while playing 140 times for Germany.
The biggest coaching change was John Patrick moving from Göttingen to newly-promoted side Würzburg as coach and sports director. Patrick had been with Göttingen since 2003 save for a one-year break in Japan for the 2005-06 season and also won the BBL Coach of the Year award in 2009 and 2010.
“The speed of the growth of Göttingen basketball was fantastic. It was a lot of work to keep up with this speed and create the necessary conditions. I am proud of what we did together,” said Patrick, who guided Göttingen to promotion to the BBL top flight in 2007 and then won the 2010 EuroChallenge and reached the quarter-finals of the EuroCup this season.
“We would have liked to have continued our collaboration with John and made an offer which he refused. Now the time has come to go our separate ways,” said Göttingen CEO Marc Franz.
In Würzburg, the 43-year-old father of five, Patrick signed a two-year contract starting on July 1 and previous coach Marcel Schröder, who guided the club to a 21-7 record this season in ProA, will stay on as assistant coach on a two-year deal as well.
“It was time for me to look for a new challenge. I see a lot of perspectives in Würzburg,” said Patrick.
“I know that the management, the fans and the whole city is excited about basketball. The s.Oliver Baskets have high goals and there are clear structures in the organization. I see a chance to build something big in Würzburg.”
Würzburg jumped to the BBL after one season in the ProA second division after one season each in the third divisions ProB and Regionalliga.
“It’s an extraordinary stroke of luck that we could convince a man like John Patrick of our program,” said Würzburg CEO Jochen Bähr.
“Our season goal clearly is saving the league. And with John Patrick we have found the right man … In the four years of our existence we have accomplished so much, but the whole organization is missing the Bundesliga experience … He proved year for year in Göttingen that he could get the most out of modest means.”
Taking the place as Patrick’s successor at Göttingen was his former assistant Stefan Mienack, who brought in former Göttingen player Michael Meeks as his assistant – both on two-year contracts.
“For two and a half weeks we looked intensively for a successor for Patrick. In the end we determined that the team just fits well together,” said Göttingen boss Franz.
“Important for us was to find a coach who can deal with a small budget,” said new sports director Jan Schiecke, who interviewed 40 candidates.
“Mienack and Meeks just had the best concept,” said Schiecke. “We want to accomplish structures for the future to integrate players from the region who play for BG 74 and ASC 46 Göttingen in the NBBL and JBBL over the long term into the Bundesliga team.”
The new concept centers on giving German players a major role in the team – especially important since starting in the 2012-13 season BBL teams must have six Germans on the game roster.
“Stefan deserves this chance, it’s a good solution. Michael Meeks adds his enormous experience. That can work,” praised former Göttingen boss Patrick.
One of the candidates for the Göttingen job was Göttingen native Björn Harmsen, who left Mitteldeutschen BC Weissenfels to take over at LTi Giessen 46ers on a one-year contract.
“From an emotional standpoint, Giessen is a club with an impressive tradition and unbelievably great fans. But I see more potential to develop. And I think we can push things forward together,” said Harmsen.
Despite being just 28 years old, Harmsen has already guided two teams from the former East Gemany to promotion into the German top flight – with Jena in 2007 and MBC in 2009, both times winning the Coach of the Year award for the second division.
Harmsen turned MBC into one of the surprises during the 2009-10 season, finishing the campaign in 10th place with an 18-16 record and competing for the playoffs.
In February 2011 he had to step down from his post at MBC due to health reasons – pancreatitis – and the club won just two of their final 15 games and were relegated to the ProA.
Harmsen, who served as a youth coach under Dirk Bauermann at Bamberg in 2001-02, replaces Steven Key, who had taken over after Vladimir Bogojevic stepped down to concentrate on his duties as sports director and helped Giessen avoid relegation on the final game day.
Former Giessen assistant coach Thorsten Leibenath (2000-2006) will have a huge task in replacing Mike Taylor as new head coach at ratiopharm Ulm. Taylor spent eight years in Ulm, leading them from the second division to the playoffs.
Leibenath’s first head coaching job was with the Scottish Rocks of the British Basketball League and ended as Cup finalist. He moved to Giessen for one season and moved to Artland Dragons for two years and reached the EuroCup Top 16 and the FIBA EuroChallenge Top 16. In 2011 he served as head coach as ProA club Osnabrück from January to April. Leibenath also worked on the scouting team for the German national team that won the silver medal at the 2005 EuroBasket with Bauermann.
“Thorsten had quite a lot of international experience. Besides he knows the German market very good,” said Ulm manager Thomas Stoll.