heinnews’s David Hein this week caught up with good friend Dirk Bauermann, Germany’s basketball national team coach. They discussed in a two-part interview his recent controversial comments regarding German players in the BBL, having one German on the court at all times, games in Germany without a single German playing and the German national team’s schedule of preparation games for the 2009 EuroBasket.
heinnews: Hello Coach Bauermann. Over the past couple weeks you created quite a stir for some pretty controversial comments you made about lack of Germans playing in the German basketball league BBL.
Bauermann: That’s what I wanted.
heinnews: How important was it to get this subject back in the public eye?
Bauermann: Well, I felt that something needed to be done. My comments about some of the Americans who earn very little money were out of line. And I apologized for those. But I think we needed to address the issue. The first division does not do enough to help German players in this country. The BBL is basically an American league with a couple Germans and a couple Yugoslavs. And that’s not right. People don’t want to see that. When I watch the BBL, sometimes it’s like watching the D-League of the NBA. About 60 percent of the BBL teams play like D-League teams would. But we are in Europe, and Europe has its own identity in basketball. And Germany should have its own identity as well, similar to how the German national team has its own identity or the BBL should have its own identity.
heinnews: How bad is the current situation for German basketball?
Bauermann: Younger and older German players are not getting the minutes they need to get better. And that is disastrous for a young player. They also lose all motivation because they don’t really see chances to play because clubs are only signing American players. It’s tremendously de-motivating for young players. They don’t have nearly the chances as youngsters in Spain or Greece.
heinnews: The current rule is 9+3 meaning three Germans have to be on the roster. There is also a U24 fund where teams are rewarded financially for playing younger Germans. And next season the foreigner rule will become 8+4. But you have said that 8+4 will not help the problem much since most teams only have an eight-player rotation. You have called for a 6+6 rule or having at least one German on the court at all times. Why?
Bauermann: My perception after talking to the heads of the league is that they thought that 8+4 is enough. But it’s basically 8+0 for most teams. If the 8+4 is a stepping stone to 6+6 or one German on the court at all times, then it’s okay. And the U24 idea is good in rewarding teams for playing young Germans. But most of their playing time is when the team is up 20 points or down 20. Instead those players should be playing every game in the ProA or ProB rather than sitting on the bench. Even a 6+6 would mean 6+2 with an eight-man rotation. And some of those Germans will maybe be role players. But it’s a step in the right direction. And one German on the court at all times would solve the whole problem.
heinnews: Was there a specific moment or game which made you say things had gone too far?
Bauermann: There were three games that absolutely shocked me. And I said I have to do something. If I don’t then nothing will happen. The first was the BBL All-Star Game. There was not one German on the North team. And then there were two BBL games – Göttingen versus Oldenburg, and Ludwigsburg versus Oldenburg. Not one German played in either of those games and there was not one German coach either. That is impossible. If that were to happen in Spain or Greece there would be an up-roar. The federation president would fire coaches and the media would be calling for heads. I just thought this is impossible.
heinnews: Other countries have nationals regulations and have had international success at the club and national team level. In Russia, of course, clubs have to have two Russians on the court at all times.
Bauermann: That would be perfect. But I have to approach all this with a sense of realism. If I went and demanded two Germans on the court at all times, they would just think I’m stupid and crazy and wouldn’t even listen to me. But we have some statistics that show that Germans play only 16 percent of the minutes in the BBL. That is a disaster. And there are about 160 Americans in the first division. That is amazing. I can’t comprehend that. We have to be a bit creative in finding a solution which helps young players develop but not hurt the overall level of play. The American system year for year produces so many high quality players. They are not necessarily European-type players. But we need to find way to make sure they don’t eat us up.
heinnews: Looking at the schedule for this summer, the Additional Qualifying Round ends on August 30 which will decide which team plays in the Group B of the 2009 EuroBasket with Germany, Russia and Latvia. That leaves just one week time to prepare for your third opponent. Do you have any concerns with that?
Bauermann: That doesn’t bother me at all. You never know but it’s pretty likely that it will be either Italy or France to advance. And we will prepare for teams and watch them in the tournament. But at the end of the day, in a tournament like this where you have 24 hours to prepare for your next game, you have to have an identity and play your own game. If you have to change your approach because of a certain opponent it will be difficult. We will develop an identity and then tweak it here or there depending on who we play. We will try to play from our position of strength and make adjustments. But a week is more than enough.
heinnews: What kind of schedule have you put together as far as preparation games before the tournament?
Bauermann: We have our training camp and then play two games in Holland. Then we play two games against Serbia in Germany and then have the Bamberg with two more games against Croatia, Poland and Macedonia. Then there are four games at the big Efes Pilsen tournament in Turkey followed by the two games against Slovenia in Germany.
heinnews: That sounds like a good amount of games and good quality to prepare for EuroBasket.
Bauermann: Yeah, I’m pretty happy with the schedule. We can use the games because we may have a really young, inexperienced team if Dirk (Nowitzki) and Chris (Kaman) don’t play. Hopefully they will play.
Come back next week when Bauermann talks to heinnews in Part 2 of the interview about the likelihood of Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman playing at the 2009 EuroBasket, Germany’s chances in Poland without them, Lucca Staiger and other new names to the German team, NCAA tournament brackets, the Euroleague quarterfinals, returning to the sidelines as club coach and Germany possibly hosting the U17 World Championship.