Uwe Sauer(USC Heidelberg): Dirk Nowitzki Is Much More Than Just A Basketball Superstar

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. Currently he is the head coach of USC Heidelberg and talked German Hoops about many different basketball topics.

Coach you are currently preparing USC Heidelberg for the upcoming PRO A season. How much were you able to follow the 2011 European championships and were Spain and France the 2 best teams in the tournament?

Yes we are trying to get ready for the upcoming season, nevertheless as a basketball- junkie i had to watch as much as I could, of course the games of the Gteam. I think the 2 best teams played the final, but is was still sad to see the home team Lithuania not being in the Finals.

Spain were the strongest team at the tournament. It is no secret that they have a great youth program as they have had young guys playing at a high level for years. Why does the youth program work so well in forming players in Spain and not as much in Germany?
I don’t exactly know the rules in Spain, but there always have to be 2-3 Spanish players on the floor , that means their Spanish players get playing time . In Germany you can play the whole game without a German player have to play a single second. From the better basketball countries in Europe, I think we are the only country without having to play. It gets even worse with the rule in the BBL, that you got to have at least 4(?) German players on the roster. That means, the better Germans instead of playing in the 2nd league or somewhere else, they have to sit on the bench to fulfill the requirements instead of playing and develop their game.

Germany were unable to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. Did Dirk Nowitzki help or not help the young team chemistry that had been building the last two years?

I think Dirk is the best German player ever (I myself had the privilege to play with the 2nd best – Detlef Schrempf) and there is nothing better than to learn from the best. And as far as I know, he is a great team guy, very unselfish, works hard, is a top professional on and off the court. Dirk Nowitzki is much more than just a basketball superstar. There is so much to learn from him for everybody , especially to let the team come first and put your own ego way behind. And especially that is something a lot of the young players have to learn, before they claim a star status for themselves.

How do you see the future of Germany as Dirk Nowitzki will take a few years off and Svetislav Pesic has been rumored to get the job.

I can’t see that Dirk takes a couple years off. He will play if he still has fun doing so. And that’s more than ok, after all he has given to German basketball in the past years. As for the future it will not get better unless the German basketball federation changes their rules so that in every league, especially BBL ,ProA and ProB, you have to play German players, at least 2-3 at all times. This is the only chance to develop as a young player. You don’t really get better just sitting on the bench and not play.

The German team have good young point guards with Heiko Schaffartzik and Per Guenther , but which guards in the 17-22 age range do you see making the team in the next years?

The question is how do you define young players. It’s funny, because in Germany you are still considered a young and talented player, even at the age of 22-23. At that age there are plenty of players that play for 4 or 5 years in the euroleague or even in the NBA. Like I said earlier the players have to play even at a younger age, maybe not necessarily in the BBL, but definitely in the ProA and ProB, otherwise they will never have a chance to make it.

The Beko BBL seems to be getting stronger each season. Who is stronger on paper now Alba Berlin or The Brose Baskets Bamberg?

That is a difficult question, especially since this is a new season. Alba has a good team and a very good Coach. Bamberg also, and they are the defending champion and cup winner. But I don’t think it will be a race just between those two.

How much of an impact will FC Bayern Munich make this season. Is this a team that will contend for the title?

We will see. They will definitely be in the mix. The question will be if money can buy championships. If that would be true, then Bayern Munich Soccer team would win the title every year, but we all know that it doesn’t work that way.

The rest of the playoff places will be up for grabs. A team that could do a lot of damage could be the Fraport Skyliners. Where do you see them ending and could Justin Gray become the new Dashaun Wood?

I’m not too familiar with the new Frankfurt team. But it will be hard for anybody to fill Dashauns shoes. But it’s a new team with different players and it wouldn’t be fair to compare Justin Gray with Wood, he will make name for himself.

Which teams do you see as the best candidates for demotion? Giessen, Hagen and Tuebingen seem to be teams that could have a tough time.

Like every year the teams with lower budgets will have to fight to stay în the league. I think that it will come down to which team did their homework better when it comes to recruiting new players. Due to the NBA-Lockout and some leagues no longer exist( spain…) there are a lot more quality players on the market.

Are Duesseldorf and MBC the favorites for the PRO A title this season?

Right now it looks that way. I know what money those teams can spend on their players, therefore they should have more quality and a deeper bench. But we’ll see. Düsseldorf for example just released 4 of their players, that means they didn’t do their homework good enough. If that transfers to the season other teams will have a chance.

What can we expect from USC Heidelberg this season? What is the goal of the team?

I expect my team to be a team, and not a bunch of players that happen to do the same sport at the same time. We have at least one good German player at every position, that means we will have quality minutes for the german players. We could even play without imports, that’s something not many teams in our league could or even would want to do. But we all know that the league will be decided by the best team, with the best and most imports.

How much of a delight has it been coaching Oliver Komarek? Are you amazed that his studies seem to be more important than a career in the Beko BBL?

I don’t know about Olis’ studies, but Oli has to play good , for us to have a good season. He knows that, he also knows he has to work harder at times, but i’m there to remind him of that.

Will Kai Barth ever make the jump to the Beko BBL? How are you helping him develop best?

That is not for me to say. I don’t even know if the BBL is a goal for him. I think he is where he wants to be. In Heidelberg he can play in the ProA and go to the university at the same time. I think he got a lot better compared to last year. I got trust in him that he will give us quality minutes off the bench and he knows that. He still has to speed up the tempo a bit more, but we are working on that.

Charles Burgess played for the legendary Bobby Knight. If you could ask Bobby Knight one question what would you ask him?

I would definitely ask him which of the numerous rumors and Bobby Knight stories are really true.

What is the most important thing that you want to achieve as a coach for USC Heidelberg besides winning games this season?

I would like to see our team play great team basketball, hopefully play a lot of minutes with our talented German players and still win enough games to call this a successful season. The fans have to see that each and every one on the team wants to be here and identifies with our team and our goals.

Thanks coach for the chat.

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