Brose Baskets Bamberg coach Chris Fleming clarifies his team's rotation at center and calls for support from the fans for Maik Zirbes

Brose Baskets Bamberg coach Chris Fleming clarifies his team’s rotation at center and calls for support from the fans for Maik Zirbes

Brose Baskets Bamberg head coach Chris Fleming has admitted in a video interview that he was very disappointed that Bamberg fans recently called for Maik Zirbes to be taken out of the game and used the opportunity to explain his big man rotation including AJ Ogilvy’s diminished role.

During Bamberg’s 88-68 victory over Neckar Riesen Ludwigburg on February 25, fans at Bamberg’s Stechert Arena chanted “Zirbes raus! Zirbes raus! (Zirbes out! Zirbes out!)” while holding up signs demanding more playing time for Ogilvy.

Fleming took to the cameras of the club’s internal television broadcaster brosebaskets.tv to express his disappointment in the fans’ behavior and explain how his team still has a lot of developing to do with the new additions and how he will not change his players’ roles again.

“I would hope that our fans support Maik. I have never had a player here who has received as little support. And that’s disappointing because the kid is the first who’s at training and he’s the last to leave. He works so incredibly hard,” said Fleming.

“We signed him for three years because we believe in him. And we do. He will make mistakes. And he can make mistakes. And we will have his back.”

Combined with a dip in Zirbes’s performance of late, Fleming said a lot of fans picked up on the recent BIG magazine interview with Bamberg general manager Wolfgang Heyder  in which he said of Zirbes: “He is working on himself. But I see a dangerous tendency of complacency. That is not good. He must keep wanting to reach a step further. Not stop, but keep going.”

Heyder also praised the 23-year-old Zirbes in the interview.

“He is a typical low post player. Maik has loads of moves, is very robust. He has the body, rebounds well. He has left out the jumper thus far. But at 2.07m he is actually too small to just play around the basket. If he wants to do that, he must add some weight.”

In regards to Zirbes’s perspectives, Heyder continued: “That only depends on him. He has the goods to be one of the best centers in Germany, maybe even the best, even though Tibor (Pleiß) is still ahead of him. But he needs to work on his weaknesses, especially on defense.”

“I understand Wolfgang’s point of view,” said Fleming.

“Maik must grow up as part of this process. When you think about how long he was in Trier with a protected surrounding. He’s a classical late starter. He played for a team that was more worried about staying in the league. It’s understandable that he also has to take a big step off the court. But he has done that. He’s working on that. I think that Wolfgang supports that off the court. And it was taken wrong by the fans. I saw some games by Tibor from the past where he didn’t look good and I never heard anyone say “Tibor raus” (“Tibor out”). I cannot understand that.”

Fleming said he believes a problem may have been the All-Star break when the Bamberg coach thinks Zirbes may have started to think he’s further along in his development than he actually was.

“He played very stable and solidly until the All-Star break. Very, very solid. Higher than our expectations due to some very hard work. And he had a situation which was very good for him with the injury to AJ. He used the situation really well. You cannot forget that he had 15 points against (Anadolu) Efes (Istanbul) in the (Euroleague) game before the All-Star break and really had a good performance.

“After that, we had a situation that we also saw with Karsten (Tadda), which we also experienced with Tibor, where as a young player he achieved a lot more than maybe even he himself had expected.  (Zirbes) had a short break to think about it, and thought he’s at the summit already and is surprised to think about how high he is, without really realizing that he’s only at the base camp and still has a long trip ahead of him. But that’s normal. We also saw that with the other young players. We expected from the beginning that he would have highs and lows. We still expect that. But he’s leveled off. When we decided to go this way with both very young players (Zirbes and 21-year-old German center Philipp Neumann), we accepted and knew that we would have that.”

Fleming also addressed fans’ calls for more playing time for Ogilvy by saying the Australian is the unlucky loser in the rotation development, which includes having Sharrod Ford on the court at the center position at the end of games and has seen mid/late-season acquisitions Jeremiah Massey and Matt Walsh added to the team.

“We are not at the end of our development. In other years, especially the last two, this (time of the year) was when we were working on the fine-tuning. But that is not at all where we’re at right now. We are in a stage where you would see a team in October. It just is that way. This is not DSDS (Deutschland sucht den Superstar – Germany’s version of the reality talent show Idol) where the fans can decide who plays. We have the players, we have very good players. In our opinions, we have put them in roles which we will keep and where they can grow. When the roles keep changing it’s very hard for players to find a rhythm. And we are going this route. And we think this will be very good for our success. I hope that we will have the support (of the fans) … But I am not willing in any manner to switch the roles again. We’re going to let the players play, and make mistakes.”

Fleming and his staff decided in November that they needed more help at the power forward position and added Massey.

“We knew that if we went that way that we would have to take AJ out of the rotation because we need athleticism and versatility. We need Jeremiah’s stability at the four position. And we knew that we would have to go that way.”

Fleming explained the decision about the center position – which includes Zirbes, Neumann, Ogilvy and Ford.

“We have three players at the center position who get time. Having Sharrod on the floor at the end of games is without a doubt. We have always had athletic players late in games like Kyle (Hines) and Marcus (Slaughter). Sharrod has needed some time to find his position but is playing very, very well and very stable. And if we play AJ in the Bundesliga then we have to take someone out. And a center has to sit on the bench. For me, that really doesn’t make much sense.”

Fleming said this team has really gone through some tough times getting used to the changes in the roster later in the season – which also saw the departure of Teddy Gipson in early February.

“We never had (so much change) in the other seasons. It’s new territory for this group but they have to recognize that even though we are going through all of these problems we are still doing well in the Bundesliga. The guys have gotten the job done. And I think we are on the road to getting better.”

Despite the rotation juggling, Bamberg are still the runaway Beko BBL leaders at 21-2 – well ahead of the quartet of Bayern Munich (16-8), EWE Baskets Oldenburg (15-7), Alba Berlin (15-7) and ratiopharm ulm (15-8) battling for second place.


Ogilvy meanwhile was brought in during the off-season to be the starting center but missed the first eight weeks of the season with groin surgery and watched Zirbes and Neumann pass him on the depth chart. He has only appeared in two BBL games.

When asked if Ogilvy was fully out of the rotation and if there were any personal problems between the center and him, Fleming answered:  “It was very unfortunate the injury that he had. AJ is still a very good player, also a very good guy. I have absolutely no personal problems with him. Like I said, the decision came in the end of November … We knew that we needed to bring in another player. When we decided to bring a four we knew that we needed to have Sharrod at the five. We need his athleticism. That meant AJ would be out unless there was an injury … Maybe an injury will happen over the course of the season where AJ will get a bigger role. But at the moment, and this has absolutely nothing to do with personality of AJ Ogilvy – I think of him highly as a person and a player – but I think my decision is the best for the team. And this is the direction we will go.”

 

– – –

Here is a full translation of Fleming’s comments:

“I understand that the expectations in Bamberg are very high. It’s very dangerous when we have a win by 20 and cannot enjoy it. Especially in the Bundesliga we are in a situation where we can only lose in terms of expectations. Of course we are fighting against that internally. Bamberg has set certain standards in the past when you talk about championships. But the road there is very important, and the development is very important. And it’s important to have setbacks, and a lot of them. We don’t like them but altogether we have to be careful not to look at these kinds of opponents (Ludwigsburg) and think we have to blow them out. If we win by 20, we should have won by 30 or 40. The league is good. The quality of the teams is good. Even though the game wasn’t perfect, the game was certainly a step forward for us as a team – a relatively new formed team. From that stand point, I think we have to tone down the general expectations and think about what we have here and work together towards our goal. We cannot just have expectations but we have to also just live with certain things.

We are playing with some young players, especially at the center position. And we have to give them time. When Tibor (Pleiß) left us, he was by far the best center in the league, even better than John Bryant. The way there wasn’t a perfect one for Tibor. He had a lot of highs and lows. And that’s the situation that Maik and Philipp are going through now, where you play really well one night and really poor the next.

In regards to Maik’s situation, he played very stable and solid until the All-Star break. Very, very solid. Higher than our expectations due to some very hard work. And he had a situation which was very good for him with the injury to AJ. He used the situation really well. You cannot forget that he had 15 points against Efes in the game before the All-Star break and really had a good performance.

After that, we had a situation that we also saw with Karsten, which we also experienced with Tibor, where as a young player he achieved a lot more than maybe even he himself had expected.  He had a short break to think about it, thinks that he’s at the summit already and is surprised to think about how high he is without really realizing that he’s only at the base camp and still has a long trip ahead of him. But that’s normal. We also saw that with the other young players. We expected from the beginning that he would have highs and lows. We still expect that. But he’s leveled off. When we decided to go this way with both very young players we accepted and we knew that we would have that. It’s certainly been unfortunate with AJ – for him and for us because he’s a very good player. On the other hand, Philipp and Maik have used this time to improve. At the end of November we decided that we needed some more stability at the power forward position and we signed Massey. It took longer than we had hoped but we knew we wanted to go in that direction.

We knew that if we went that way that we would have to take AJ out of the rotation because we need athleticism and versatility. We need Jeremiah’s stability at the four position. And we knew that we would have to go that way.

Now we are in a situation where we have to decide. We have three players at the center position who get time. Having Sharrod on the floor at the end of games is without a doubt. We have always had athletic players late in games like Kyle (Hines) and Marcus (Slaughter). Sharrod has needed some time to find his position but is playing very, very well and very stable. And if we play AJ in the Bundesliga then we have to take someone out. And a center has to sit on the bench. For me, that really doesn’t make much sense. Especially when you take the newly-formed team – and it is that as Jeremiah could play but then he couldn’t and then AJ played. Matt is new to the team. And that’s a big change, at least at this stage of the season. We never had that in the other seasons. It’s new territory for this group. But they have to recognize that even though we are going through all of these problems – and we had that with John’s injury and AJ and other additions – we are still doing well in the Bundesliga. The guys have gotten the job done. And I think we are on the road to getting better.

But I am not willing in any manner to switch the roles again. I think we’re going to go this route. We’re going to let the players play, and make mistakes. That will happen at this stage.

I would hope that our fans support Maik. I have never had a player here who has received as little support. And that’s disappointing because the kid is the first who’s at training and he’s the last to leave. He works so incredibly hard. We signed him for three years because we believe in him. And we do. He will make mistakes. And he can mistakes. And we will have his back. I think a lot of people picked up this interview with Wolfgang. I understand Wolfgang’s point of view. Maik must grow up as part of this process. When you think about how long he was in Trier with a protected surrounding. He’s a classical late starter. He played for a team that was more worried about staying in the league. It’s understandable that he also has to take a big step off the court. But he has done that. He’s working on that. I think that Wolfgang supports that off the court. And it was taken wrong by the fans. I saw some games by Tibor from the past where he didn’t look good and I never heard anyone say “Tibor raus”. I cannot understand that.

In regards to the center rotation, I think our fans must understand, and most of them do, that the team needs a lot of support, especially at this time. We are not at the end of our development. In other years, especially the last two, this was when we were working on the fine-tuning. But that is not at all where we’re at right now. We are in a stage where you would see a team in October. It just is that way. This is not DSDS where the fans decide who plays. We have the players, we have very good players. In our opinions, we have put them in roles which we will keep and where they can grow. When the roles keep changing it’s very hard for players to find a rhythm. And we are going this way. And we think this will be very good for our success. I hope that we will have the support. I always had the feeling that the fans in Bamberg knew when the team needed a push and got behind them. Especially regarding Maik’s situation, I would hope they do that. But not just that. I hope they understand the stage we are in. And especially the goals that we have. The collective goal, which the fans certainly have as well.

Question: is AJ Ogilvy fully out of the rotation? Are they any personal problems between you and him?

It was very unfortunate the injury that he had. AJ is still a very good player. Also a very good guy. I have absolutely no personal problems with him. Like I said, the decision came in the end of November where do we go from here. We knew that we needed to bring in another player. When we decided to bring a four we knew that we needed to have Sharrod at the five. We need his athleticism. That meant AJ would be out unless there was an injury. Again, I am totally convinced that if you want to find your rhythm, you have to shorten your rotation. That’s just the way it goes. Maybe an injury will happen over the course of the season where AJ will get a bigger role. But at the moment, and this has absolutely nothing to do with personality of AJ Ogilvy – I think of him highly as a person and a player – but I think my decision is the best for the team. And this is the direction we will go.

Tags