Germany finally have their man – and it’s an old, well-known and much-beloved friend as the German Basketball Federation (DBB) brought back Svetislav Pesic to replace Dirk Bauermann and become the 23rd German national team head coach.
“I am very happy about the up-coming work with the DBB. I believe that there is still much to be accomplished with the German national team,” was Pesic’s message on the federation’s website on the announcement of the decision on Wednesday.
The 62-year-old Pesic will be officially introduced on March 6 in Berlin, where the former German national team and club coach still has an apartment. The official details are yet unknown but the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported that Pesic’s contract with Germany will run until 2016. Still, Pesic was non-committal about the future in an interview with the SZ.
“The times have unfortunately changed a bit. Pesic does not plan long-term any more. I have a contract with Red Star Belgrade until the summer of 2013 with an option for another year. I feel very connected to Red Star. It’s a unique project. The first real one like it here by us (in Serbia),” said Pesic, who heads a youth-development driven project as head coach with Red Star Belgrade, which consolidated teams this past summer with the club FMP, which was well-respected for bringing up many young Serbian talents.
The fact that Pesic is allowed to keep his job with Red Star Belgrade while also serving as Germany boss is the only real sour issue among many observers in Germany.
Looking forward, Pesic spoke in detail about his thoughts of taking over the German national team, which he initially coached from 1987 to 1993.
“My first job will be to put together a roster. The second thing will be to talk in the coming months to the coaches who are responsible for the DBB youth teams,” Pesic said in the interview with the SZ. “Then I will see how much this written-up concept is worth and at the same time analyze the past results of this concept.”
Pesic didn’t hold back any punches in the interview: “In theory, the Germans are world champions in selling concepts at press conferences and so. I have heard all that blah-blah-blah more than a few times. Now I want to know. What is theory and what is real life.”
Pesic also said the German federation hid behind Dallas Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki too much.
“Nowitzki is great. But he was always the problem solver. Everybody kind of depended a little too much on him – the federation and the other players. They hid behind him. ‘Dirk will take over. We’ll just give him the ball and see if he makes it or not.”
Pesic said he wants to meet with the NBA champion in the coming months to see what Nowitzki’s plans are: “He needs some peace now. He has to recover in the summer and think about his future.”
Pesic also said he would like to talk with Bauermann after the former German boss “did good work as national team coach”.
The new German boss also pointed a directive finger at the German BBL league, saying it must help in the continued development of German basketball. Pesic approves of the Bundesliga’s next step in requiring six Germans on the 12-man roster starting next season.
“But the mentality has to change as well. I mean, there has to be more trust in German players. They have to play – they have to gain experience and learn to accept responsibility. The league has to play its part. The sport does not solely live from their league but also through the successes of the national teams,” Pesic told the SZ.
No coach in the world can question Pesic’s resumee – and even fewer can come close to matching it. The Pirot, Serbia native is the only active coach to have won Europe’s top club competition as player and coach – winning the European Champions’ Cup in 1979 as player with KK Bosna Sarajevo and then winning the Euroleague as Barcelona coach in 2003, when the Spanish side also won the domestic league and cup.
Pesic is also responsible for Germany’s brightest basketball moment, coaching the Germans to a shocking defeat over Russia to win the 1993 European Championship at home in Munich.
He also was über-successful with the Yugoslavia national teams, winning golds at all three levels – cadets (1985), juniors (1986 and 1987) and senior. He guided the Yugoslavs to European gold in 2001 and won gold at the World Championship the next summer.
Pesic was clearly one of the favorites for the German job, which opened up when Bauermann decided against remaining with Germany in favor of his spot with German club Bayern Munich. The German BBL does not allow a BBL club coach to also be a German national team coach – which not only eliminated Bauermann from keeping his job but also from excellent coaches like Stefan Koch (Artland Dragons) and Mike Koch (Telekom Baskets Bonn) and Henrik Rödl (TBB Trier) from taking the post.
“I am very happy that we can work together with such a successful and respected coach like Pesic. He has enormous experience and is exactly the coach we had imagined,” said DBB President Ingo Weiss on the federation’s website.
The return of Pesic, who beat out German U20 and A2 national team coach Frank Menz and former German women’s national team coach Tony di Leo for the position, was much welcomed by much of the German basketball world.
“It’s a great thing for German basketball that such an experienced man is available,” said Bauermann. “He is an internationally recognized coach who will certainly help the young team with his vast experience.
“Sveti has a gigantic treasure chest of experience and is very ambitious. I can only congratulate the DBB,” said Alba Berlin general manager Marco Baldi, who worked with Pesic for years with Alba as the duo guided Berlin to four German titles from 1993 to 2000 as well as two German Cup and the 1995 Korac Cup. He also guided Spanish club Girona to the 2007 Eurocup crown.
“It’s a great thing for German basketball. He is one of the most well-known and successful coaches of all time in Europe. It’s a great thing that the DBB could get his as national team coach,” said German national team point guard Heiko Schaffartzik.
“We know each other very good and I have already trained with him. He is an unbelievably good coach with so much experience. I am very happy about it,” said German national team forward Robin Benzing, who has worked out with Pesic in past summers.
Pesic has a vast amount of young talent to work with – something he especially values and a field he works in with FIBA Europe.
Some of the young Germans looking to make some inroads in the senior side are Per Günther, Tibor Pleiß, Karsten Tadda, Maik Zirbes, Philip Zwiener and Johannes Lischka as well as U.S. based Elias Harris, Mathias Mönninghoff, Niels Giffey and Partrick Heckmann among others.
“I know that it was an important factor for him that there are perspectives and talents on hand. If that were not the case, he would not have taken the job,” Bayern Munich sports director and Svetislav Pesic’s son Marko Pesic, who helped Germany to the 2002 World Championship bronze medal and 2005 European silver medal, told sport1.
Remaining to be seen is what happens with some of Germany’s older players. Nowitzki has yet to make a decision and Chris Kaman has only played for Germany when the Mavericks star has played. But what will happen with Demond Greene, Steffen Hamann, Sven Schultze and Jan Jagla?
Pesic has some time to figure out his personnel decision as his official games back at the helm of Germany will come in August and September when Germany begins their qualification campaign for EuroBasket 2013. The Germans have been drawn into a qualifying group Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Luxemburg and Sweden.