Tale of Two Coaches
Beko BBL Game of the Week Preview
April 14 – For Bamberg, it’s been the best of times, and now even better times. The home of the two-time defending Beko BBL league champions Brose Baskets is currently the center of the German basketball universe. And the reasons lie with the two coaches involved in this weekend’s top game in Munich.
When the Baskets enter the Audi Dome to take on FC Bayern Basketball on Sunday, there will be many elements in this budding rivalry. There’s the Bavarian element, the city of Bamberg sits in the northern part of the state called Franconia. Munich is the capital and the metropolitan city of the region. Both teams have clinched a spot in the playoffs and if matters play out as the seedings currently stand, Brose and Bayern will face off in the second round of the playoffs.
And of course, anything to do with sports in Germany centers around FC Bayern Munich and their successes and failures on the football pitch. For cities like Bamberg that don’t have a team in the Bundesliga football league, sports clubs and fans are able to display their contempt/hate/jealousy for the Big Reds on other fields of play, like the basketball court.
But most intriguing is the history of the two coaches in Bamberg, Bayern’s Dirk Bauermann and Baskets’ Chris Fleming.
Bauermann won seven titles in a row at TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen and after brief stints in Greece and an even shorter stay at Brandt Hagen sandwiched between the Hellenic jobs, the German national team coach came to Bamberg in 2001. In the second season, he had the club in the Basketball Bundesliga Finals in consecutive years only to finish second. But in 2005, he won his eigth title, and then his ninth title in 2007. He also took them to the final 16 of the Euroleague in 2006.
During this time, Bauermann was also serving as the German national coach, leading a mini-revolution for Germany on the European stage thanks to Dirk Nowitzki, earning 2nd and 5th place at the European championships, in 2005 and 2007 respectively. In December 2004, he named an up-and-coming Fleming as the U-20 coach. Fleming had just helped the Artland Dragons earn promotion into the top flight with an undefeated season.
“It was a really big opportunity that Dirk gave me at the time, I’m very, very grateful for it,” said the 42-year-old from New Jersey, USA. “It was a big experience as a young coach for me to do that.”
Fleming went on to lead the Dragons to a second place finished in both the league and cup competition in 2007, leading to finally winning the cup in 2008. And that attracted the Baskets who were in need of a new coach, as Bauermann decided to focus on leading the international team full-time.
Stepping right in, Fleming built a perennial power in the league. And the Baskets have dominated, winning the domestic double in 2010 and 2011. They are half way to complete a three-peat this season, already winning the Champions Cup last month.
“They are a really good team and they have a great program,” remarked Bauermann. “It takes a lot of people to be successful. What management has done, what Chris has done, what the players have done – it’s exceptional.”
This season, they will head into the playoffs as the top seed, the clear favorite to win it all for the third consecutive year.
“They’ve won two championships, and they are the big favorite to win it again,” admitted Bauermann, who returned to the league to coach Bayern in 2010 and helped earn them promotion into the top flight to battle against his former club. “They have six of the top 10 players in this league, he has them playing defense and has them playing together. I think they are going to win it all.”
“Our core group has gotten used to (playing the favorite role),” agreed Fleming. “We’ve won the last couple of championships and we are in first place right now. I think it’s fun, when the ball goes up you have 40 minutes to prove you are better and we keep trying to do that.”
If the Baskets continue winning, Fleming will definitely attract attention of other clubs or perhaps other leagues.
“He’s an excellent coach, he does a great job,” added Bauermann. “I’m proud of him, he deserves every bit of success that he’s enjoying.”
When asked about his future, Fleming indicated his intention on staying in Bamberg. “I’m really, really happy what I’m doing, working for a great club, I’ve a great staff members who are partners trying to help us move forward, I love the team, I love this town. Where I’d like to be in future is coaching a very good Euroleague team and I have a chance to do that here.
“But in this business, if you think too much about what’s to come, you don’t live enough in the moment.”
And that’s what he and the Baskets will expect to do at the Audi Dome on Sunday as they prepare for the playoffs and look to sweep Bayern this season. The teams played a tough, highly contested game back on January 7th, Bamberg winning at home 89-77. Each team had four players in double figures. This time Bayern will hope their strong home record (13-1) and a sold-out Audi Dome will help beat Brose, who are strong on the road, but lost all three of their games of the season away from Stechert Arena.
With the top seed wrapped up and home court advantage guaranteed for Bamberg, will Fleming and the players have any extra motivation against their Bavarian neighbors and their former coach who have stolen some attention away from the defending league champions?
“Playing in Munich is for sure interesting because it’s a derby, they are a possible second round opponent, and obviously the name Bayern Munich has a big pull to it,” said Fleming about his team playing their new rival. “So maybe the game is something more, but at the end of the day we haven’t changed our approach how we are going about it.”
Expect the best of games.
The game is sold out, and will be broadcast on German national TV on SPORT1 starting at 16:45 CET.
Sport Eagle will have Salman Mitha tweeting live during the game, follow him @Sal_SportEagle for insight and analysis.