heinnews’s David Hein talked to BG Göttingen men’s basketball head coach John Patrick. They discussed the impact of beat Besiktas Cola Turka in the Eurocup – a game which would later be nullified and a replay set for December 16; facing former NBA great Allen Iverson; his team’s struggles in the German BBL league; the Bayern Munich project; and quotas in German hoops.

heinnews:  Coach Patrick, congratulations on the game. How important is a game like this after the team had lost four straight in the BBL, especially that your guys had the wherewithal to win in the end.
Patrick: I think we controlled the game for a great part of it. We started to fall apart and we lost our concentration for sure and we made some dumb fouls. But I’m very proud of our guys. Even though we were emotionally very pumped up to play against Allen Iverson – it’s a childhood hero of many of our players and someone we all have so much respect for – we were able to get stops in the end when it counted. Especially in the last 19 seconds we knew the situation that we recognised that we could get the ball back. Maybe that was the difference – maybe the concentration of knowing the game situation that if we got it we would still have time to get off a shot. It was a lucky win but I think these little things add up and we had some little things go against us and in the end knowing the situation was a big key to the victory.

heinnews:  How much can a victory like this help in getting the team going in the BBL?
Patrick: We’ve struggled big time. I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied with our results or with our effort and concentration in the Bundesliga. There’s no excuse for the problems that we’ve had. Tonight we kept playing even when it was ugly and we did shoot some air balls and started to lose our concentration. But we didn’t give up. And I think that’s a key to pro basketball – playing without an ego and continuing to play even if it’s not perfect. I hope we can take a lesson from this game. It’s easy to learn when you lose, but I hope that we can take a lesson from this game that a lot about winning at the top level is just about being a man and knowing that you’re not perfect and just keep playing.

heinnews:  What did you tell the players ahead of time with playing against Iverson?
Patrick: I told them that when you were working out in the summer if someone had told you that you’re going to have the chance to guard Allen Iverson you would have worked harder. And you guys did put in a lot of time in the off-season. We wanted this chance to play Eurocup. You’re not earning big money with us. You’re playing here for the chance. So, you have nothing to lose. Go and use the chance and show what you got. I think it’s normal to be a little star struck. But after a minute or two we were soft a little bit at first on Allen and then we realised okay he is new to Europe. I think it’s lucky that we caught him in his first two weeks because you can see what kind of talent he has. He hasn’t played a lot.

heinnews:  Would you say there were glimpses of it tonight?
Patrick: Absolutely …

heinnews:  Would you say more than glimpses?
Patrick: It was more than glimpses. He had 18 points. He didn’t play a whole lot of minutes. But it showed that he’s really dangerous one-on-one. Even though we knew what his tendencies are, somehow he’s able to get his shots off and his balance is so good. Again, especially when you think that he’s 35-years-old and he hasn’t played that much. And he’s still able to do this. We’ve played against a lot … I’ve coached against a lot of ex-NBA players overseas. I’ve coached a bunch and coached against a bunch, and usually it’s a shock and it takes weeks, if not months to adjust to the European game. And most U.S. journalists don’t understand that. I’ve seen it and I understand it. It’s 10 days since his first game, no, eight days after his first game, and he comes out and gives us 18, and we were prepared to double him and run out at him and do things that we thought he didn’t see in the NBA with running and help defense and tripling. And he still was able to score. So, I have a lot of respect for Allen. I’m from Washington D.C. and I went to high school in Georgetown, so I followed his high school career, his college career and of course like everybody else his pro career. I was in Japan when I’m giving clinics in the rice fields in the middle of nowhere in Japan and every other kid has a number 3 Allen Iverson jersey on. And that’s something that he doesn’t even realise probably – what kind of impact he’s had on international basketball and what a great ambassador he was for the game.

heinnews:  Well, maybe he will see it now playing in Europe.
Patrick: I wish he could have visited the Lokhalle because we have unbelievable home atmosphere and we really show other teams’ players respect. We don’t boo other teams’ players or anything like that. Today was a mixed crowd. We had to play here. But I wish him the best and I hope he realises that this is not really a step down. He’s got the balls, so to speak, and he’s got the heart to go overseas and give it a shot even though he had such a great career. So I’m rooting for him. And he certainly proved to everyone that he’s still got it in him.

heinnews:  What did you think about the crowd of 4,200?
Patrick: That’s our fans. We’ve played dissatisfying basketball. We lose four games in a row in the Bundelsiga and we still get more than a 1000 fans coming from Göttingen on a work night. Our fans never cease to amaze me. They hold up banners when we lose by 20. They still are clapping and saying we believe in you. I think if our young players who are a little nervous realize what a great home court advantage we had will play better and with more confidence in the Eurocup and the Bundesliga.

heinnews:  One of the biggest stories in German basketball is German national team coach Dirk Bauermann leading Bayern Munich on a march through the second division. What are your thoughts on that whole situation?
Patrick: I was excited when I heard that Bayern Munich was thinking about having a team. There are a lot of top European soccer teams that also have a top basketball team. Bayern is a brand in Germany and the management is top professional and they have a great coach. By necessity with a low budget, my style of coaching is different than Coach Bauermann’s. We can’t have big guys with experience. So we play small and fast. But I think it’s great for German basketball. It’s great for the media attention that basketball’s gonna get. I’m in touch with Coach Bauermann and I really respect him. He really reminds me of my college coach Mike Montgomery in his discipline that he requires from his players in the half-court style of basketball and just the mental toughness that he demands. So I think he’s a fantastic coach. If Bayern were able to move up I would be excited about it.

heinnews:  What impact would Bayern’s arrival in the BBL have one the league?
Patrick: Money talks. In the first year, they’re not going to play European. But the German league is getting so much stronger. We are already getting the respect that we didn’t get last year or two years ago because Bamberg have played so well, because Alba has played quite strong. We’re doing okay. We won a European championship last year. This is a strong league from top to bottom where anybody can beat anybody else. I think when and if Bayern moves up to European ranks I’m sure that Uli Hoeness and Bayern management isn’t going to aim for fourth or fifth place. They’re going to try to be champions. I love that mentality. I wish that every club, of course they can’t because of finances, but that everybody was earnestly fighting for first place. That’s when you get real excitement. And the more talent that comes into this league the better.

heinnews:  What do you say to some who fear Bauermann and Hoeness will just buy up all the German national team players and dominate the league?
Patrick: In the past coach Bauermann was the national team coach and he had a lot of national team players and former NBA players. He often played with five Americans even though he was the German national team coach. So when it comes down to it he’s going to try to win – just like we are and every other team is. He may want to bring players into his system of course to help develop them. That’s natural if he’s the national team coach. But I don’t see any unfair advantage. Maybe for his style he takes players who may fit his style and are German. But as coaches we want to win. And we’re going to take players no matter the nationality or the color of their skin or language. We’re taking players within our financial framework of our team.

heinnews:  Recently BBL boss Jan Pommer has said he would like to make the BBL long term the number one European national league. What do you think about that?
Patrick: I think it’s great. Being from a very small market team where our fans are our biggest sponsors I don’t like to use anything as an excuse not to win. It’s like street basketball. You get five guys and try to win on the court. I think if the German basketball community has that attitude that we’re not going to look at our disadvantages – the lack of sponsorship or something like that – but we’re going to try to build and make this league as strong as Spain or Italy and build on a very strong economy and financial basis in Germany and then if we build the popularity, then why not?

heinnews: Would you say the German league is most financially sound league in Europe?
Patrick: I don’t know about that. I don’t know about the finances of the other leagues so I can’t comment on that. But I do know that in Germany guys get paid what they’re supposed to get paid. It’s just the German system. They’re paid as employees. Agents do send players who are young because people speak English and it’s a comfortable place to live, the living standard is good and they can have a life outside of basketball and the competition is incredible.

heinnews:  Speaking of speaking English. Many of your main players are American. What are your thoughts on the quotas for Germans on the team?
Patrick: The more good players you have on your team, the more the bottom players are going to have to compete and get better or quit. I’m not in favor of quotas period. We teach our American guys to take German classes, we want them to be integrated. But we don’t want to make any difference between German players and American guys. Adam Waleskowski is a German guy and has started a few games. We want guys to go at it and if our young German guys can’t handle it, they can’t handle it. But I tell you, they want to win too. And they’re getting better. Cornelius Adler is going to be good. He’s coming from the ProB. But I’m not going to give him any bonuses because he’s German. And I think in the end that will benefit him. Robert Kulawick came from the fourth league and people want to classify him as a Regionalliga player and he’s out there shooting five threes in the Eurocup and people still want to be political about it and say he played in the Regionalliga. But he’s developed. He knows how to play basketball and he works his ass off. So I think any top European team would love to have a guy that can shoot like him. And he deserves it. And there’s no other reason why other young German kids can put their nose to the grindstone like Kula who sat on the bench his first 10 games in the Bundesliga and didn’t play a second and then gets his chance and shows what he can do.

heinnews:  What does Göttingen need to do to get back in the winning column in the BBL?
Patrick: We have to concentrate on what we do. We do have some complicated rules and I know it’s hard to pick up on defense for the new guys. We just have to play more solid and on offense we have to play as a team. When we get into the ego-ball and dribble it’s always ugly. But when we share the ball and play to each other’s strengths and when shooters shoot and guys who are quick drive to the basket and big guys get the ball in the post, then amazingly enough we look good and score a lot of points. I think it’s calming down and not going too fast but on defense it’s really about concentration. We’re very small so sizewise we’re going to have to hustle for rebounds instead of just jumping from them.
(NOTE: Göttingen won their next three games after the Besiktas game in Braunschweig).

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