Bayern Munich are the biggest, most hyped basketball project in European history in ages. One of the main men pulling the strings is former German international and former player agent Marko Pesic, who is the Munich personnel director. heinnews’s David Hein met up with Pesic at Bayern Munich’s grand opening of the Audi Dome to talk about the on-going injury concerns with the club; an injury update; how Bayern are looking to fill the hole left with the Sharrod Ford departure; if the team would consider players with NBA opt-outs; the growing Bayern Munich crowd; having Bayern football people hanging around the basketball team; and the German national team.
heinnews: I just talked to your father Svetislav Pesic about a week ago. He seems to be really having fun with all the young players at the new project with Red Star Belgrade.
Pesic: Yeah, he has already won everything there is to win and this is something that he really loves doing right now. And that is a great program for him, and I’m sure he will do a great job.
heinnews: So, on to Bayern. How nervous were you when you saw Aleksandar Nadjfeji go down holding his knee at the end of the first quarter?
Pesic: Of course you keep your eye out on the guys, especially the big guys. But I saw the situation pretty much exactly and saw that it was only a thigh knock, just above the knee cap. Of course right away it’s painful and he will feel it tomorrow. But we have a good medical team and he should be ready by Monday (the opening game).
heinnews: At the moment with the injuries and the departure of Sharrod Ford, Nadjfeji is probably one of the most important guys in the low blocks – even though he is more a power forward than a center.
Pesic: But that’s what makes his some valuable. Sasa can play both positions with all of his experience. And in very difficult stages like today you know what you are going to get from him. And you know you will consistently get something from Sasa. I think he was a big factor and Demond Greene was enormously important, especially on the defense. He brought a lot of energy from the bench.
heinnews: Looking at the injury situation, maybe you can give us an up-to-date status on the injured guys.
Pesic: Robin Benzing will miss at least another three weeks. Bastian Doreth will miss a couple of months. We don’t know how many, but at least three or four. With Darius Hall we will know tomorrow more. He got hit in the shoulder during the tournament in Bamberg.
That all hurts but injuries are part of a season and we have gotten hit with them in the beginning. And hopefully we get these guys back and others don’t get injured. But you can’t predict injuries. When they come you have to deal with them as best as you can.
heinnews: I think almost all Bayern fans are wondering one thing, how are things going with the search for a replacement for Sharrod Ford? How much are you sleeping at the moment?
Pesic: It’s not really about sleep. At the moment the situation is making the right call at the right time at the right place. You have to be alert. The market is absolutely dried up. There is nothing in Europe. You have to look a bit in the U.S. But they don’t know themselves what’s going to happen. Are we going to play or not? Some want an opt-out, others don’t. We have to be ready that if something happens like someone wanting to leave his team or whatever. You never know. But we have to be there. At the moment, it doesn’t look good.
heinnews: Just like Ben Hansbrough. When he went undrafted, the news came out two days later that he agreed to terms with Bayern.
Pesic: Exactly. We were onto Ben right away. And we have to look at things like that as well. It’s not just about signing a player. He has to be there until the end of the season, he has to fit into the character of the team and the game plan. And that is not easy.
heinnews: Opt-out is not an option at all for Bayern?
Pesic: We are not looking for players who have NBA opt-outs. But you see it, Nadjfeji grabs his knee. So you never know. We will try to avoid that. But you never know.
heinnews: I’m sure you followed what happened with Bayern last season and today we had 6,100 fans at the Audi Dome in the first game despite an Octoberfest Thursday, lots of traffic and a tramline going down. What is your take on how things have developed here?
Pesic: You can see that the people are excited and want to see what the team looks like, what does the arena look like, what kind of atmosphere is there, how do they react to that kind of loss in Bamberg? I am really happy that we played a really good game and that so many people showed up. I think about a thousand people didn’t come for different reasons. Octoberfest.
heinnews: And the traffic.
Pesic: Yeah, I sat in traffic for 40 minutes myself. So it was surprisingly good. And the further the game went on the better the atmosphere was. And that is a good sign.
heinnews: What did you think about the crowd? It seems at times that they still don’t know when to cheer or when the team needs them. Almost a bit artificial still.
Pesic: Do you have the feeling it was artificial?
heinnews: Well, kind of. The fans are still getting to know the game, getting to know the basketball culture. They really need the PA announcer to push them and say: “Okay, let’s cheer for our team for the final 90 seconds.”
Pesic: As long as the people are doing it though, that’s super. If they wouldn’t then it’s a problem. Of course it’s the first game. They have to get used to it. For the first time I thought it was super. But it has to grow – the feel for the arena, for the person sitting next to you that you don’t know.
I was in the Allianz Arena (at Bayern Munich football). I got tickets from a friend and the people sit next to each other for years. And that’s interesting. Here it’s the first time. And I think that it needs to grow. Of course we have the duty to not only win but to fight and it will grow.
heinnews: How important is it for the club and maybe the acceptance of the club that the football personnel and players are also here at the games?
Pesic: I think it’s great. I saw Basti (Bastian Schweinsteiger) and he is always there. Even after training he came over. He is really excited about basketball. I think it’s very important for the environment, very important for the togetherness of the whole club. It’s great when we have some footballers here. And I think they enjoy it when we are at their games. It’s like a small family that is growing up together. I think it’s really good.
heinnews: Serbian coaching legend Dusan Ivkovic hinted that the return of Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman kind of blocked or slowed the development of the young German team from the past two years. What are your thoughts on that?
Pesic: For all teams that were in these two groups (A and B) it was incredibly difficult to offer a prognosis if it was a step back or forward. The level was high in the first two rounds. Losing to Lithuania at home in the final two minutes cannot really be considered a failure. Getting out of the first round and then beating Turkey in the second round is not bad. Of course if Dirk were fitter he could have been a bit more dominating. But it was more bad luck with the draw than a step back in the development.
heinnews: And what about what Ivkovic said?
Pesic: It’s kind of surprising that he follows it so closely, to be honest. If he is following the development of these young players that means there is a certain level of quality.
So Pleiss did not play that much so it’s hard to say that he took a step back. But I think that Robin, Philipp Schwethelm and Heiko Schaffartzik all took a big step forward. It could be that Tibor did not because of the fact that Chris Kaman was there at his position. But I think that Tibor will have a great year this year. He has a lot of confidence. I saw him on the weekend.
heinnews: Also a bit of motivation after the summer?
Pesic: Certainly, but that shows his character and that’s good. It’s not negative. I think if you have a chance ot have nowitzki and Kaman in the team on the one hand you win and on the other hand you lose maybe something. But the groups were so tight together that it’s hard to say it was a step back.