Uwe Sauer: Basketball Is Just a Game, But The Greatest There Is

Uwe Sauer played at Santa Clara university where NBA superstar Steve Nash also played and enjoyed a very successful basketball career in Germany from 1985-1997 winning titles with Cologne and Bayreuth and being the youngest German playing at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. After his playing career, he became a coach. He was assistant coach for SSV Ulm from 1997.-1999. He then coached in Tuebingen from 1999-2003. He then coached for BG Karlsruhe from the 2003-2006 season. Since then he coached clubs like the Mitteldeutscher BC, The Teckpro Braves in Kaiserslautern and recently BG Illertal-Weissenhorn. He spoke to German Hoops about the past, present and future about basketball.

Uwe thanks for talking to German Hoops. You coached BG Illertal-Weissenhorn recently. What was your summary of the 10-11 season?

We had a great season and did a lot better than most people expected. We finished in 6th place and made the play-offs, that was a big success for the young franchise of BG Illertal.

You have coached mainly division one and two teams in your coaching career. How much of a challenge is it coaching a PRO B team and younger players?

It was a very big challenge for all of us since we played with the youngest and most inexperienced  backcourt in the whole league. But they responded well and really  improved over the course of the season and made this a fun year. It was great to see the young players develop and be a part of them growing up as players.

What do you have to do differently in your coaching style?

There is always something you can do different or better. Even though it got a lot better over the years, I still get distracted on occasion by the officiating, despite knowing that the refs do their best and definitely make a lot less mistakes than the coaches and players during the game.

How much potential does Johannes Betz still have? He isnt 17 or 18 anymore but 22. Where do you see his development going in next years?

Johannes had big problems with his knee, not knowing if he could play on a higher level at all. That is why he didn’t play for us this season. If he is healthy he is a very talented player that can play multiple positions. So if his knee is fine and he really wants to fit in a team concept he still be a valuable add to a lot of teams.

You haven´t coached in the beko BBL since 2005. How much is coaching in the beko BBL itching you again?

For me personally it’s really more important right now to be in a healthy and supporting environment, whether it is BBL or ProA. I know that I can coach in the BBL given the chance. As of right now i’m trying to find me a good situation and i’m very optimistic it will happen soon.

There has been speculation that the Giessen 46ers have been interested in your services. Can you picture yourself coaching the Giessen 46ers?

As a player I could have never seen myself being a 46er,because the crowd in Giessen was quite hostile towards opposing teams and me as a player. As a coach it’s totally different. They really want their team do do good and do everything they can. If a BBL team is interested in your services, especially one with a long tradition in the 1st league you definitely have to consider it.

The Giessen 46ers haven´t been in the beko BBL playoffs since 2005 where German coach Stefan Koch was on board and Chuck Eidson scored 40 points against Bamberg. Is it time for a new German coach in Giessen?

In 2005 Giessen had a great coach in Stefan Koch and probably the best and most versatile player in Chuck Eidson. They had the right pieces to be successful. To answer that question you would have to ask the Giessen Management. It’s not for me to say who they should put in charge. Whoever it may be i’m happy for him, because I know how difficult it is to get a coaching job, especially one on a high level like the BBL.

What has been mainly the biggest problems in Giessen the last years? Why has the team been so unsuccessful in the last 6 years?

Like for a lot of teams with a lower budget it is very difficult to establish continuity over the years. You have to do even better in recruiting than the higher budget teams, but even if  you  do great there you face the next problem. Is the player good the other teams want him and make him an offer you can’t match. If he underachieves you don’t want him any longer. In both cases the player is gone and you have to start all over the next season. If you look at the successful teams it’s the ones that are able to keep their players for a couple of years.

Does it bother you that top beko BBL teams dont ask for your services? BG Goettingen is looking for a new coach as well.

I’m 48 years now, I had  a successful career so far, but I also have a family that always stays at home near Ulm, no matter where i’ll be coaching. Top programs knowing that I think it is not very likely for them to consider me for the job. Does it bother me? Sometimes I wish i’d be given the chance again (like in Karlsruhe or Tübingen), but you never know if or when it will happen.

How has your coaching vision and Philosophy changed over the years?

You always have to be true to yourself. Therefore my vision and philosophy has not really changed over the years. I try to adapt to the given circumstances(quality of players, practice times…), but it is very hard to go through with your ideas,given so little time. I am very high on team basketball, I don’t press my team in tight concepts,my players are allowed to play “their game”,as long as they are working together at both ends of the floor. I try to find my players their comfort zone on the floor, controling their egos and have fun while working hard. I always remind myself and others that basketball is just a game, but the greatest there is. And you can only be good playing basketball if you are passionate about it and have fun doing it.

You coached two seasons in Karlsruhe leading the team to two 10th place finishes. Why was this team unable to reach the BBL playoffs in this time?

Honestly, I don’t think we had a good enough team to be in the play-offs. We were close, but 10th place both years was really good for this franchise, better than they ever did, before or after.

How important were you in the early development of Alba Berlin forward Derrick Allen?

I gave him the chance to play in the BBL even though he did`’t have great stats in college and just came from a season in Iceland, not really one of the top leagues in Europe. But he proved he was worth the risk, because he was(and I bet still is) the most endurant player I ever coached. Maybe not the most talented player to start with but unmatched in his work ethic, always working extra hours on all aspects of his game. He really became a great player, but he’s even a better person and a pleasure to coach.

Patrick Heckmann will play for Boston College. How much potential does he have and will he be able to be  a solid role player at the NCAA level?

He is a very talented player that I had the chance to coach against this season. He played a major role on his team, which really helped him to develop as a player. He got good size, can shoot the outside shot and can put it on the floor. Once his 3point shot becomes more consistant and he rebounds the ball better he will be a good player for his Boston College.

UCONN forward Niels Giffey had a solid season with UCONN winning the 2011 NCAA title as a freshman. How far can he go in the NCAA and what player does he remind you off?

Well, he just won the NCAA title with UCONN. It doesn’t go any further than that, at least not in college. But being on a championship team and getting some playing time (even) as a freshman is really an achievement. He got good size at 6′ 7” and plays for a great program. Staying healthy it’s all there is for him to have a bright future as a ball player. Again, being 19 years old, being a freshman, getting minutes and winning the NCAA title, how much better can it get?

How do you see the chances of the German National team at the European championships this summer with or without Dirk Nowitzki?

First of all i really hope that Dirk (finally) wins his 1st NBA title. More than everybody else he really deserves to be an NBA champion. Maybe then he’ll play the European championships as the ” icing on the cake”.If he plays, then Chris Kaman plays. With the two of them,plus the rest of the very talented German players we should really have a very good chance to do great.

How happy have you been with the development of the beko BBL this season. fan attendance has risen again and next season FC Bayern Munich will enter the beko BBL.

It’s great to see the BBL get on a higher level each yeat. This year the top teams like Alba, Bamberg, Frankfurt or Artland really played great basketball. A lot of good players play in this league like Hines, Jakobson, Allen, Bryant, Wood just to name a few. And next year will be even better with the return of Würzburg and the new powerhouse Munich.

You played professional basketball in Germany from 1985-1997. What were your nicest memories as a basketball player?

There are quite a few. Moving up to the 1st league as a starter at the age of 19 with USC Heidelberg, winning 3 championships in a row(2 with Cologne,1 with Bayreuth),winning the double with Bayreuth(cup and championship in ’89),playing 2 European championships, World student games, World championship and of course playing in the ’84 Olympics as the youngest player on the team vs the likes of Michael Jordan.

Who was the best player that you ever played against in Germany?

This is very hard to say because there were a lot of very good players I played against during  my 13 year career. One that stuck out though was Keith Gatlin, due to his size and skill level as a guard. But I would probably go with Alvin ‘Bo Dukes, even though we played on the same team in Bayreuth. But I had to play against him every day in practice and he was definitely the best in making everybody on the team a better player. He made us play harder, plays very unselfish and thus made us more confident in ourselves and consequently made us become winners.

You played at Santa Clara(NCAA). Do you follow alumni like Doron Perkins, John Bryant and Kyle Bailey?

I sure do. You just mentioned a few. But there were also a Jens-Uwe Gordon who I coached back in Karlsruhe, Harold Keeling who played in the NBA for a while, Brian Jones and Lloyd Pierce that I both had in Tübingen and Sean Denison from Bremerhaven. Too bad though I  never had the chance to coach the best Santa Clara player of all time – Steve Nash

How do you see the beko BBL semi final match ups Bamberg-Artland and Alba Berlin-Frankfurt. Who will reach the final and win it all?

The best 4 teams square of in the semi-finals, coached by  probably the 4 best coaches. It is really an open race this year, no absolute favourite, even though you can’t deny the home court advantage that could become the decisive factor down the stretch.

Will Derrick Allen win the 2011 beko BBL title?

I really hope so. He really deserves a championship for all his hard work he put in over the  years to become the great player he is now. But it will be very difficult, not only do they have to steal home court now from Frankfurt, but also (most likely then) from Bamberg in the Finals. I wish him good luck!

Thanks coach for the chat.

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