heinnews’ David Hein sat down this week with Michael Schwarz, the newly-named head coach of the German basketball club Bayern Munich as well as the coaching coordinator for FIBA Europe. They discussed the recently-completed FIBA Europe Coaching Certificate program; the FIBA Europe U18 All-Star Game; the new foreigner regulations in Germany; his hiring as new coach at Bayern Munich; what changes and goals he has for the team; and what it’s like to be with the basketball team within a club so renown for their football team.
heinnews: Let’s start with the FIBA Europe Coaching Certificate. The first three-year program ended this summer at the U20 European Championship in Greece. What was the response from the coaches taking part?
Schwarz: We started with 60 coaches and after the exams at the U20 European Championship there were 40 who received their certificate. The feedback was very good. We had an anonymous survey afterwards and 80 percent of the coaches answered it and the feedback was very positive.
heinnews: You said there were 40 coaches who in essence passed the course. Is FIBA Europe satisfied with those numbers?
Schwarz: In the end, I think that’s a good number. At first, the program has to become recognized. Maybe not every coach was aware that they had to take part on all three courses (U16 the first summer, U18 the second summer and U20 the third summer) and that we are pretty strict. There were a couple at the beginning who figured they would just take a look at it for now. But I think now everyone knows about it. The feedback went back to the federations and even more coaches registered to take part. And the quality of the coaches – on paper – is higher than the first class. There are also senior coaches and national team coaches, which is not exactly what we are looking for. We want work with coaches who specialize in working with youngsters. But back to the first class, there were 44 coaches who took the exams and four did not pass them. Forty did and I think that’s a good number. The group was very good and motivated.
heinnews: A new group started at the U16 European Championship this summer in Lithuania. So there will be a new group every two years?
Schwarz: Yeah and that works out very well. Also because there is also the U18 All Star Game, which was very well received. So not only do you have the U18 All Star Game but you also have the best of the class – the four best coaches from the program – getting a chance to coach the teams at the game.
heinnews: What is the future of the U18 All Star Game?
Schwarz: I hope it continues. It was a relatively big success. Everybody liked it. The players were happy to play and I think it’s a good thing for the young players who really star in our events to bring them in the FIBA Europe family early on.
heinnews: And how often will the game take place? Not every year?
Schwarz: No, it will be at the senior EuroBasket. So the next one will be at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania. So, every two years, when a FECC ends.
heinnews: The past few weeks have been full of discussions about foreigner regulations in Germany. Through your time with Kickz Munich you know about the lower ranks in German basketball. What do you think about the regulations the BBL decided on – having five and then six Germans on the game roster over one German on the court at all times?
Schwarz: I think it’s the second-best solution. I think players should play because of ability. The best way would be that the Germans are good enough to earn their playing time on their own. But if we can’t get to that point then there is a certain protectionism in trying to get to that point. If nothing else works, then you come up with these rules that the Germans get to play. As a coach, it’s a hindrance in their choice of playing players according to performance and tactics. Sometimes you may have to play someone who may not be up to the level to play. So, it’s not easy. But it makes sense for the development of German players.
heinnews: Looking at the measures in the BBL, ProA and ProB as well as the advancements of the NBBL U19 league and the start of the JBBL U16 league, how do you see the future of German basketball?
Schwarz: I think the Germans had a very good showing at the EuroBasket in Poland. We have good young players. That’s exactly the point. When you talk to other federations and coaches from other countries and they say: Where have you been hiding this Benzing kid? We never saw him before. Or this player? That is telling. But I think they did a very good job there. (Dirk) Bauermann really prepared them well. But they have to play and get experience – that’s the most important part.
heinnews: So, let’s get away from the future and look at the present. You have been named the new head coach at Bayern Munich. What are your thoughts going into this assignment?
Schwarz: It’s definitely an honor that FC Bayern asked me, that they considered me to coach the ProA team. Of course it’s a difficult situation at the moment. Whenever a coaching change takes place, something did not work out. But I was very happy about the offer. I did not need to think about it very long. I was called and asked and I said right away that I was interested. Now I have had two practices with the team. And they are motivated. The team has potential. And I hope that we can bring home a couple of wins.
heinnews: It’s well known how unceremonious the break-up between Bayern and coach Georg Kämpf was. How difficult is it for you to enter this situation?
Schwarz: For me, it’s more important that the team is intact, that there are motivated players and no one is saying, Oh I don’t want to play for that coach or anything like that. But I want players who want to play and want to win games. I have no problems with the guys. And I am not thinking about anything else, about what happened with Kämpf and what didn’t. We can’t waste any time thinking about that. We have to look forward and prepare the team. Hopefully we don’t need too long for the team to understand my philosophy and for me to know all the players and their strengths and weaknesses.
heinnews: Do you have any ideas about what you may want to change within the team after the first couple of practices?
Schwarz: We will change a few things on defense though the basics are pretty much the same. And we will make things a bit simpler on offense. I think as coach you have to have your signature. But we will take things step by step. We won’t be putting together a whole new playbook or anything like that. But over the next 3, 4, 5 games we will add a couple new things.
heinnews: Was there any doubt about keeping Mauricio Parra as assistant coach?
Schwarz: He’s a good person to have there to talk to. He was hired by Bayern Munich to work with the youth teams and he has done a tremendous job. Plus he knows everything that was discussed in the pre-season and during the season and he knows the systems. I am happy he is here.
heinnews: What is the goal for the season?
Schwarz: Just play game for game. We don’t have any playoffs, so we have to make sure we finish as best we can.
heinnews: When you look around Europe, clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Panathinaikos all have superb basketball and football teams. Bayern Munich is known really only for football. Do you think Bayern is a club that could have a presence in both sports at a high level?
Schwarz: I think the potential is in the club. There is a commitment to see basketball played at the top level in Europe. And they know that it’s good for the image of Bayern. But it remains a question how far the chairmanship wants to go. They want to reach the first league. But they are looking at everything cautiously, which is probably the best way for them. And they want the basketball team to do things themselves – work things ourselves and look for sponsors ourselves.
But if a Munich team would reach the first league and establish themselves in that league than it would be Bayern Munich.
heinnews: But doesn’t it aggravate you at all, knowing that just one fewer South Americans football player could do quite a bit for the club in basketball?
Schwarz: Well, compare that to the millions and millions that Real Madrid are spending.
heinnews: No, not for the Euroleague over night. But building up something slowly. Getting to the EuroCup you don’t need that much money necessarily.
Schwarz: That’s true. But what’s important is that you see signs that things could be going that direction. Now let’s see what happens this season. We need to win some games and then things will maybe look better.
heinnews: Do you see any players who need to step up to get promotion to the BBL?
Schwarz: We are not talking about the promotion right now. We are just 2-3 right now. So that’s not really the right time as we are in the lower third of the standings. First let’s win some games and slowly move up the table. But as far as individual players, I think the whole team needs to step their game up. It wouldn’t be right to single out one player. And if I were to, that would be done internally.