heinnews’s David Hein figured this week it was time to chat again with German basketball national team coach after quite some time without catching up with the former Bamberg boss. In the first part of a two-part interview, they talked about the 2010 World Cup in South Africa; the BBL finals; the promotion of Bayreuth to the BBL; Robin Benzing and Tibor Pleiss; two decisions made by FIBA Europe and the impact of the U17 World Championship in Hamburg on German basketball. Part two will come next week.

heinnews: Hi, Dirk. Long time no chat. The World Cup is just about ready to kick off. What do you think about the German group of Australia, Serbia and Ghana?

Bauermann: I have no idea. I have no idea man. I can’t tell you anything. I have watched the German team and obviously I’m always pulling for them. But I don’t follow soccer that closely and don’t know how good Ghana and Australia and Serbia are.

heinnews: You have another sport to worry about.

Bauermann: Yeah, that’s right. I have another sport to worry about.

heinnews: So, let’s move to more your specialty. The BBL finals have the Deutsche Bank Skyliners taking on Brose Baskets Bamberg. What do you think about the final round of the playoffs?

Bauermann: It’s a bit strange that the top four teams didn’t even make it past the first round. I think that’s kind of unheard of. But that’s the kind of parity you get when you have – and I’m exaggerating here – if you have eight Americans playing against each other.

It’s good in that there’s a lot of parity and anybody can win it. Obviously there are a lot of close games. It’s a good level of basketball, no question. But it’s a little strange.

heinnews: Looking at the finals between Frankfurt and Bamberg, with your history with Bamberg are you pulling a bit more for Brose to win title number three?

Bauermann: Well, not really. Obviously I still have a lot of good friends there. But I’m the national team coach now and I think I need to be impartial. Frankfurt is playing well, Bamberg as well and they are no doubt the favorites. They won the cup and have been playing really well the last two or three months or so. They have home court advantage. They are definitely fresher than Frankfurt is.

But Frankfurt is a good team. They have a lot of talent. And it looks like signing Gordy (Gordon Herbert) late in the season was a good move for them.

heinnews: I wanted to ask you about the promotion of Bayreuth to the BBL. They have some pretty strong history in German basketball. So what do you think of Bayreuth returning to the top flight?

Bauermann: They have a young coach who did a really good job with the team. It’s always good if the ex-powerhouses  – the places, the cities where basketball has a tradition – if they’re able to re-establish themselves at that level. That’s always a good thing because you know they’re always going to have a very loyal following. The gym’s going to be packed. So I think it’s really good for German basketball that Bayreuth is back in the BBL.

heinnews: Robin Benzing was heading to Treviso for the adidas Eurocamp. Perhaps you could say a few words about his development.

Bauermann: We have a handful of very talented young players. And they all played last summer for the national team. That gave them a lot of confidence and a lot of confidence in their abilities. They proved that they can become very, very good players at that level. Maybe even in the NBA. He’s one of those three or four, and he has developed this season no doubt about it. Being able to play a major role in Ulm, getting the minutes that he needs. And that has really helped him.

There’s no question that the sky’s the limit for Robin if he keeps working hard. He’s a well-grounded kid so I don’t think he’ll ever do anything stupid or lose his hunger or lose his ambition. I think he’ll just keep working hard and try to get better every single day. And if he does that and he doesn’t listen too much to all the people that pat him on the back and tell him how good he already is, like I said, I think the sky’s the limit for Robin.

The same thing for Tibor (Pleiss). Same thing for Elias (Harris). Tim Ohlbrecht has somewhat gotten lost in the shuffle after his bad year at Bamberg. People didn’t have him on the radar any more. But he is only a year older than the other three. And he is still a tremendous talent. And I think he can turn into a really, really good player as well.

So those four players are going to be really, really good for a long time.

heinnews: I see that Tibor wants to play one year in the Euroleague and then look at maybe playing in the NBA. He’s had an excellent development this season as well. How much would a year in the Euroleague help in his development?

Bauermann: First of all, the fact that Chris Fleming decided to start him right around December when the team was really struggling that was just a huge stepping stone for his development. To feel that kind of confidence and that kind of trust I think really, really helped his confidence level.

He’s a unique player, with the ability to run the floor the way he does, block shots, his length, he has a really good pair of hands. He has a good feel for the game, which you don’t always find with guys of that size. He’s a really, really talented guy. And I think he’s ready for the Euroleague level. But he needs a situation where he has the trust of his coach and he has the trust of management. If you just kind of let him battle it out with the veterans and if he has to survive in a very professional kind of situation then he might be a year from doing that – just because of the maturing aspect. But if he feels the confidence and trust of his coach, and people show some patience with him and work with him, I think he can again develop to the point where the sky’s the limit. The next step in fact could be the NBA.

heinnews: FIBA Europe made a couple of big decisions recently. The first one was expanding the field at EuroBasket from 16 to 24 teams starting in 2013. What are your thoughts about that?

Bauermann: It’s a great decision. It came at a very opportune time. European basketball has gotten so good. So many European countries have developed great players and have very good national teams. It’s just a shame to only allow 16 of those countries to compete for a championship. I think to go to 24 was an excellent decision and I can only congratulate the Executive Board for doing that.

heinnews: FIBA Europe also decided to increase the size of rosters for the tournament from 12 to 14 players. Obviously, that’s a big help in the case of multiple injuries. But what impact will that move have?

Bauermann: It makes it easier for injuries. And it helps the teams that have more depth. Smaller countries are usually happy if they can put 12 guys on the roster that can really play. Whereas other countries like Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Russia and so forth, they have to leave people at home who are really, really good. So I think in a way it helps them, which is fine. It forces everybody to not only develop top talent but also develop good, solid players.

That’s one thought. The other thought is that sometimes it’s hard enough to keep 12 guys happy because only eight or nine, sometimes 10, get into a game. Now if you have 14, you’re looking at five guys who don’t get to play. So in a way it’s good, if you do have injuries. Or if guys are getting too tired then you can rest them. So that’s a good thing. But in the case of team morale and guys getting unhappy, guys not pouting, it makes the coach’s job a lot more difficult. We have to find the right people who will accept a role like that. It’s very difficult.

heinnews: The U17 World Championship Men is taking place in Hamburg in July. It’s been a while since Germany has hosted a European or World Championship. I was wondering if you could comment on the importance of Germany hosting that tournament.

Bauermann: We’re really thankful that FIBA World awarded this championship to Germany. I know that every possible effort is being made to be a friendly, polite, professional host. I think everybody in the federation knows the responsibility that goes along with a decision like that. I know the kids are working extremely hard. (German U17 team head coach) Frank Menz is doing an excellent job. The federation is doing every possible to make sure that they are as well prepared as they possibly can be. So it’s great for German basketball to have this wonderful tournament in our country. And hopefully the Germans will play well and defend their colors with pride and quality. I am really looking forward to it.

heinnews: Do you think this improves the chances of Germany getting a EuroBasket some time soon?

Bauermann: I would hope so. It’s been such a long time that we’ve had a major championship – be it a world championship or a European championship – in our country. So obviously if (the U17 Worlds) would help, it would be great.

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