Face To Face With John Patrick

The former Pac-10 Point Guard and 1992 Stanford University graduate has been 5 times Coach of the Year and won 3 Championships in the last 7 seasons in 4 different leagues. (Japan Super League, 2nd German Bundesliga, BBL, and FIBA Eurochallenge) His low-player-budget BBL teams qualified for European competition in each of the last four seasons. Last season, Würzburg’s inaugural season in the BBL after finishing 2nd in the Pro A (German 2nd league) the previous season, Coach Patrick’s team had the lowest scoring defense in the BBL, and knocked Alba Berlin out of the playoffs, before dropping 3 hardfought games to Thorsten Leibenath’s Ratiofarm Ulm in the Semis. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.

It has been five months since your dismissal from the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg. How difficult has this time been not being a head coach for a team?

It has been a great chance to refresh and hopefully gain a sense of perspective about Coaching and the Basketball Business as a whole.

Was it like a bad dream when you were informed from the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg that you weren´t going to coach another season for the team?

It was unexpected, of course, after such a great season with so much unexpected success. But sometimes success can be as difficult to deal with as failure. (Morgan Wootten used to tell us this at DeMatha.) Maybe the success came too fast for some.

How difficult was it accepting their decision? It almost doesn´t make sense how you could not remain head coach after the incredible regular season reaching the playoffs and then beating Alba Berlin 3-1 before losing to ratiopharm Ulm. Were you ever told why you had to go?

I still feel extremely lucky to have had the whole experience in Würzburg. I met some great people there. The Fans were incredible there, almost as enthusiastic as those in Göttingen.I have played and coached now- since finishing Stanford- in Japan and Germany for 22 years. I have been surrounded by very professional businessmen in Japan, at top companies, coached hundreds of young men, and have enjoyed the process and challenges of buildng competitive, winning teams during each step of the way. Würzburg was no different. I was surprised by their decision, but it is part of the business.  You deal with it and move on.

The next time that you interview for a job will you take more notice of the character of your new employer?

Lack of experience in the business does not necessarily have to mean lack of seriousness. But I do have certain expectations from staff and management that need to be met in order for the team to function on the court, as does any coach with team rules,  and who stresses discipline. I would always like to know that the goal of a club is to build a successful team culture and win games.

Press reports reported that you had problems with your players. Can you please clear this up. It was reported that some players didn´t shake your hand after the series loss to ratiopharm Ulm.

No, I didn’t catch that, at all. Maybe a couple of bench players wanted to play more, but that is normal. The players and I maintained a level of  professionalism, respect and decency that I was satisfied with.. Players competed every day. I demand that. I guess there was some misinformation. That was unfortunate. In any case, I felt like the players gave everything in the season, dispite injuries, and in the playoffs. It was a real team.

I can´t imagine you having problems with your ex players from Goettingen with Ben Jacobson, Jason Boone or John Little.

Those guys are all solid team players and good guys. They are like brothers. Fighting in practice one minute and joking and laughing about it the next.

What was the real reason for American Chester Frazier returning to the States during the playoffs? It was stated that he got an offer from an NCAA team to coach or was there tension between you and him?

Chester was a great player, but he always wanted to coach college. It’s his calling. He got the offer for this unique chance when Bruce Weber took the KSU job. I talked to Coach Weber, and he said Chester could, for KSU interests, stay in Germany until June. Of course I was not happy about him leaving earlier than this, and I tried my best to convince him to stay…. Starting PG and great defender leaves suddenly in the Semis; not a scenario I expected or the team needed to beat Ulm…but in the end, he felt like he needed to go. It is another piece of adversity that, as Head Coach, you and your team have to move through.. At some point in a team crisis you have to stop thinking shoulda, coulda, woulda and find solutions. The same goes in Chester’s case last year…He was a good teammate, always encouraging the others, and has a great future as a coach, I believe.

The fans stuck behind you. What would you like to tell the fans of the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg?

You deserve a new gym! Great city. Lot of  Friendly people, and my kids loved visiting for the home games there.

Do you still follow the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg. What is your impression of the team this season? Will they be able to reach the playoffs?

I try and catch a couple of BBL games each week to stay sharp, Würzburg included. Of course Würzburg is familiar with 7 of my ex-Göttingen former players. They are very talented this season

You coached American Chris Kramer to helping him become a better player. Will he make the next step to a top European team or even make an NBA team?

Chris had an amazing first season in Europe, making the adjustment from the Dleague on the run. (I can remember my first year overseas, and it isn’t always easy)…If he has a role where he is free to play to his strengths, Chris can play at any level.

You have had some offers from teams to coach. Would you like to stay in Germany? Could you imagine to jump in for a Beko BBL team after a mid season firing?

I could not accept  offers from other clubs in the summer because of a binding contract in Würzburg. As of now, however, I am free to work again.

Ex ratiopharm Ulm head coach Mike Taylor is coaching the D-team Maine Red Claws this season. Is the D-league an interesting option for you?

I will be cheering for Mike- we had some great games while he was in Ulm-  and also my buddy Darko Rajakovic, who got the head job in Tulsa of the D League. It must be quite a contrast to coaching in Europe.I plan to stay in Europe to coach for a serious club. I look forward to a new challenge.

Thanks John for the chat.

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