The Old and the New
Posted by Salman Mitha
Posted in Basketball
Sport Eagle’s Christiane Rebhan introduces us to the former and now current German basketball national coach Svetislav Pešić
It is a pity no photographer was there to capture this moment: Interviewing the German National coach Svetislav Pešić is one thing, but doing this while sitting on a crate of beer is another. Regardless, the 62-year-old took his time to answer questions about the end of the Nowitzki generation and his son-in-law Jan Jagla.
Rebhan: You already got a glimpse of the German team during a three-day-test in June, now training camp starts on July 11th. What are your plans for the ten days in Kienbaum, Berlin?
Pešić: I hope the team will be complete by the start of training camp. Our main goal is to prepare the team for the qualification for the European Championship 2013 in Slovenia. This goal can only be accomplished, if we focus on building a new team by constantly improving the young players. We have the youngest team ever, we have many players without international experience.
Rebhan: How hard is it to decide whether to go for the titles, or to form a team, which will be competitive in the future?
Pešić: This is very difficult job. But we have the young team, and therefore have to deal with this situation, there are no other options. I am confident that we will be ready when the qualification starts.
Rebhan: What are the national players doing right now, it is currently the off-season
and training camp has not started yet?
Pešić: When we first came together in June, we distributed them individual practice schedules, which they are following and they also practice in small groups of four or five players in Berlin and Munich. I am in contact with them every day. For the next three days, I will join the group in Munich, while my assistant coach Emir Mutapcic is working with the group in Berlin – that means we have everybody under control!
Pešić has a big grin on his face. During his thirty years as a coach, he has never changed his philosophy: “I only added new things I’ve learned. And I have always been a part of the development in German basketball.” Ingo Weiß, president of the German basketball federation wanted him to sign till 2016, but Pešić told him, that his commitment depends on the qualities and the will of the team. “They have to be as motivated as I am. I am tending to Germany.”
Rebhan: What do you say to Tibor Pleiss’ decision going to Spain?
Pešić: For his improvement as a person and as a player, the time for a change of programs has arrived. I talked with him. My opinion was that it would be good for him to stay another year in Bamberg especially as they won the German Championship and the domestic cup again. He would have had the opportunity to get much time on the court in Euroleague. But he got the offer from Caja Laboral, which is one of the best organized clubs in Europe, and he took it.
He will play in the ACB (Spanish professional league, Asociación de Clubs de Baloncesto), which means 34 league games plus Euroleague and cup games. The coach of Vitoria assured him that he will play, not only for his improvement but for the success of the club. This is the next step for him, I think he made a good decision. He still has enough time for the NBA. In one or two years, he will be mentally ready to play there.
Rebhan: People sometimes get the impression that in your mind, the era of Dirk Nowitzki has already come to an end.
Pešić: No, I only mean the generation of Nowitzki is finished, not him. We have three generations: The team that won the European championship in 1993, with Mike Koch, Henning Harnisch, Henrik Rödl, Hansi Gnad and Christian Welp. The next group was born between 1975 and ‘78 with Dirk Nowitzki, Patrick Femerling, Ademola Okulaja, Marko Pešić and Pascal Roller – from this generation, only one is still playing and this is Nowitzki. He will still play in the NBA and if we improve this national team and he gets the feeling that he can achieve something together with them, he will walk to Germany and join the team. He has the mentality of a winner!
Rebhan: Who will be the key players on the team you are working with at the moment?
Pešić: I cannot talk about key players right now, only about the ones that have experience and the new generation. The experienced ones can support the young players, for example Yassin Idbihi at the center position, or Heiko Schaffartzik as a point guard. They are no key players who will help us win at the moment, but to help build the confidence of the younger ones on the team.
In the press conference, the experienced coach raised his temper only once: When he was asked about the 6-6 regulations – teams in the Beko BBL must have the same number of German native players and foreign players depending on the size of their roster – and if he thinks they are necessary for German basketball. “I see no one who has confidence in the young German players right now. The clubs rather hire lower level foreign players.” Pešić stated that the ’88 to ’93 generation has got talent, so therefore they need more playing time and responsibility. “Teams need to be patient and have coaches that give the players time to grow.”
Rebhan: Before we conclude the interview, I would like to know, do you have to nominate Jan Jagla for the team or will there be a strained atmosphere in the Pešić household?
Pešić: (laughs out loud) Jan is a very important player for the national team. He brings continuity to the team and he plays in a very important position (power forward). Of course he could have played more minutes and made more out of his chances in Munich, but this is the decision of Dirk Bauermann (current coach of FC Bayern Munich Basketball and national coach 2003-2011). I am sure, Jan will show his quality on the national team and fight for his place and this is an advantage for Munich as well.
Pešić is a complete professional. He talks about his son-in-law like he talks about every other player, he stays calm and friendly throughout the entire interview. He’s become a little bit more relaxed over the years, but that has not diminished his drive, he knows what he wants. Pešić might be exactly the right coach to develop this young German team.