Dirk Bauermann returns to the BBL

After I finished reading “Teamplayer”, a biography about legendary american head-coach Pat Elzie, I was looking for some new basketball-related books. Unfortunately there are just a handful of german basketball biographies available and I thought that I already had read all of them. But when I scrolled through some related books on amazon I found something I had missed: Dirk Bauermann “Mission Erfolg. Meine Vision, mein Plan, mein Weg” [engl. translation: Dirk Bauermann ‘Mission success. My vision, my plan, my way].
Somewhere in the back of my mind I was aware of the fact that Bauermann had released a book, but I was never that interested in reading it. I saw excerpts of the text and simply felt that it was probably written on advice from a public relations office.
Published in 2012, it is still available on hardcover for 20 Euros. Obviously the book did not sell very well as it never even made it to a paperback version. And at first glance, one may wonder why. Dirk Bauermann is the most successful and most famous German basketball coach. I would even say that when it comes to basketball personalities recognized by the average sports fan in Germany he is right behind Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Schröder. Nine BBL-championships and seven cup-titles with Leverkusen and Bamberg are on his résumé and at the EuroBasket 2005, he led Germany to an unforgettable and  sensational silver medal. But Bauermann’s reputation suffered a lot after his last successful run with Bamberg. He could not fulfill the high expectations of Bayern Munich and was fired by the club in September 2012 – just seven months after the release of the book.
Ever since Bauermann has worked in different places (Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Iran), but never found a new home and was not really successful. Somehow the former head-coach of the German national team was off the radar. Whenever a BBL-club was looking for a new head-coach and some names came up, it seemed like no one was thinking about him. The way his teams had played in the past and his whole coaching philosphy did not seem well suited for the modern BBL basketball. Whatever he was doing in the middle-east as head-coach of the Iranian national team, no one seemed to miss him around the league.
The publisher of his book must have thought the same as there is a really cheap e-book version for just 1,49 €. Of course I had to give it a try.

For the sheer facts and background informations it is a nice read. But too often Bauermann sounds self-righteous and like a guru, who has faced and conquered every challenge one could think of. At the time it was written, Bauermann must have been convinced that another cycle of success was about to start. After winning championships with Leverkusen and Bamberg it would be just a matter of time before he would lead Bayern Munich to multiple titles. There is even one passage where Bauermann says, that he thinks Bayern Munich might be his last club. From this perspective the whole book is written. It is a good reminder why I did not want to read the book when it was published back in 2012. When I was midway through the book, I started to google Dirk Bauermann, wondering what he was doing in Iran now. And all I found was a press release misquoting him in bad english: “There is no success to secret.”

This gave the whole book and its narcissistic passages a ring of pity. And I started to wonder why there aren’t any struggling BBL-teams at the bottom of the rankings or maybe some uprising ProA-clubs where he could revive his career. I thought that Bauermann might be too expensive for clubs and that he probably would not want to join an organization without prospects. From his perspective a new job had to be chosen wisely to not lose the last bit of reputation. But after five years without a job in the BBL I thought he might have waited too long and with every passing season a return would become more and more unlikely. I thought it would be sad to see his career end like that, but probably that’s what is going to happen.
Maybe, just maybe it would be good to write an article about this subject, I thought. Just a couple of hours later Dino Reisner, basketball journalist and currently press spokesman of Mitteldeutscher BC, retweeted this:

I knew that s. Oliver Würzburg had just parted ways with Doug Spradley and the club was looking for a new head-coach. But even though I was thinking about Bauermann’s chances to find a new club in Germany, it did not cross my mind that a club like Würzburg would consider him.
All the waiting seems to really pay off as s.Oliver Würzburg looks like a great club for Bauermann. They have a long basketball tradition, an above average budget, a big sponsor with s.Oliver and a good core of quality players. A bigger arena is probably the only thing the club is currently missing. Every other parameter should make them a regular play-off contender. With Bauermann in charge Würzburg gets a guy who clearly as a vision. You don’t have to like the way his former teams played, but if you just consider how uninspired s.Oliver Würzburg looked under Doug Spradley, things can only get better. Würzburg had a rough start into the season and after 16 games they clearly underperformed with a 5-11 record. With Phoenix Hagen being the first team to be regulated due to their insolvency, only one other team will go down to ProA this season. It seems highly unlikeable that Würzburg will have to fight relegation. Rasta Vechta has just one win and low-budget team Braunschweig (3 wins so far) should have a hard time to pass Würzburg in the standings. And Würzburg’s current roster is just too good to not win a couple of more games. So why not give Bauermann a chance? It seemed reasonable to me and I really liked the idea of him coming back to the Basketball Bundesliga.
Later I read the official press statement saying that Bauermann had just signed a contract until 2020! I began to doubt Würzburg’s decision. Is the management really that convinced that Bauermann is the answer to their long-term goals?
The 59-year-old is a dedicated, hard working head-coach with a 24/7 mentality that can really motivate players and the whole culture of a club. But one has to doubt how Bauermann’s old-fashioned style will work in a modern BBL that has become so much more offensive-orientated with quick transitions on both ends of the floor. Generally it sounds reasonable to hire Bauermann, why not give him a try? But it is a brave decision to sign him for three more years. In some ways I could imagine Bauermann much more as a perfect sports director for an uprising BBL-club like Würzburg. JalapenoMunich sumed up nicely Bauermann’s philosophy of basketball on this homepage when he wrote in 2011:

“Bauermann has a very clear picture of his personal philosophy of basketball. It revolves around tough defense, allowing as few possessions and points as possible and milking the clock as much as you can. It uses a relatively small number of offensive plays that more often than not end with a shot shortly before the 24-second clock expires. “Free-flowing” is NOT the term that comes to mind when you think of Coach Bauermann’s offense. Neither are “fast” or “run-and-gun”. Seeing a Bauermann-coached team run the break is a rare occurrence.”

If you have seen just one game of s.Oliver Würzburg this season it is easy to detect that this description is the direct opposite of the way the team played under Spradley. They seemed like an offensive-minded team to me, trying to get easy points from steals and quick transitions. But unfortunately their defense looked horrible at times. Both, Kresimir Loncar and Brandon Lane do not look like typical Bauermann big men as they clearly have their strengths on the offensive side of the court. Jake Odum’s individual statistics may look great again. But just like last year Bayreuth his new team cannot benefit from that. Odum is a clever player with high basketball-IQ and very good ballhandling. But he also is very ball-oriented and at times takes away too much from his teammates. I always thought that he is given too much freedom offensively and considered it vital for his further development to be guided by a new head-coach to move the ball much more. With the departure of Vladimir Mihailovic Bauermann needed another ballhandler on the guard positions to fill the void. With Charles Barton jr. and Maurice Stuckey there are only two other options on the team and both are not the best scorers and pick and roll players. After extending the deal with Barton for another month, Bauermann signed Elijah Johnson who should fill the void. Generally the team needs better defenders and I would not be surprised if Bauermann signs another defensive-oriented player. Sebastian Betz, who was out of Spradley’s rotation could kind of a Bauermann-player. And so is Maurice Stuckey! I can also see Kresimir Loncar play some pick and rolls the way Bauermann likes to play them offensively. But the rest seems uncertain. It will be interesting to see Bauermann making adjustments. And even though I have my doubts and never was a fan of his philosophy of basketball, I think it’s great to see him back in the Basketball Bundesliga. Today, 6th of January Bauermann’s s.Oliver Würzburg faces BG Goettingen. Of course I will sit in front of the tv and watch it. I might even get some Coke light (Bauermann drinks 2-3 liters per day) and enjoy the game!

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