The basketball offseason is already in full swing and sometimes a simple dream can lead to some healthy, but speculative thinking about what could happen down the road of basketball. Or as Eddie Murphy loved saying in his popular 90´s talk show “Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm”. In the NBA the speculation buzz in the off season at times seems like a circus with no ending as this summer people will be talking about the possibility of Kemba Walker being in Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving being in Brooklyn and if the Los Angeles Lakers deal for Anthony Davis will pan out. In European basketball, the off season basketball transaction speculation is already buzzing just as much as the tabloids have been in the states about ex Baseball muscle man Jose Canseco looking for publicity and tattling on other ex MLB muscle man Alex Rodriguez and Jennefer Lopez. Many will wonder will CSKA Moscow continue to keep their amazing roster intact for added titles next season, where will basketball legend Rick Pitino land next and who will be the next wave of NBA players to press their luck in Europe. In the German basketball scene there is speculation as well, but maybe not as wide spread as in other European countries like Greece or Turkey, but it is alive. One will be wondering if Alba Berlin can rebound from their disappointing 2019 final sweep loss to FC Bayern Munich and will Franz Wagner remain or go to the NCAA. Some will wonder how the roster of Brose Bamberg will develop and if Paris Lee can replace Tyrese Rice and in Munich there will always be names thrown into the speculation talk the way as there will always be talk about if Tom Brady will be capable of winning another Super Bowl. I will refrain from making any more Munich predictions after going 0/2 the last two summers with Kyle Kuric in 2017 and Philip Scrubb in 2018. Back in March 2019 for some reason I dreamt that Pedro Calles was head coach of the Fraport Skyliners, but then I woke up. I wrote this article back in March and couldn´t bring it since the Skyliners coaching spot was unresolved, but finally some light came into the picture. The club named Skyliners Pro B coach Sebastian Gleim head coach who has made a name as an excellent coach in the youth area who has helped develop guys like Isaac Bonga, Niklas Kiel and teenagers Len Schoormann and Maxi Begue. It is official now that Gordon Herbert will coach this season and next season in Canada but also be with the Fraport Skyliners in 2020-2021. Herbert is associate head coach for the World Cup this summer assisting 2019 NBA champion Nick Nurse and in his second year will be head coach for the 2021 Fiba Americas Cup qualifiers while also coaching Frankfurt again. “I´m real excited about combining the associate head coach and head coach job with Canada. Canada has a lot of potential. It is a great opportunity for me to learn from Nick Nurse and grow as a coach”, stressed Gordon Herbert. With the head coaching job resolved in Frankfurt, it still is interesting to wonder what would happen if Pedro Calles coached in Frankfurt one day. Calles will coach in Vechta again, but surely would have looked good as well coaching in Frankfurt.
Before talking about what kind of head coach could bring success to the Fraport Skyliners, one can´t forget the accomplishments that Canadian Gordon Herbert has given the organization. The club has three titles in their 20 year existence and two of them with the 2004 BBL title and 2016 Fiba Europe Cup were produced by the guidance of Herbert. He could of won a third title in 2010 had the club had a few more bounces and breaks go their way in the deciding fifth game in Bamberg. Herbert has coached 11 seasons in Frankfurt starting in 2001 to 2004. He returned in 2010 in April to take over for Turk Murat Didin and led the team to the BBL final and returned back in 2013 after a short stay with Alba Berlin. His record has been almost immaculate as he led the team to eight playoff appearances and a lot of joy over the years with titles and bringing in unforgettable players and helping develop Johannes Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel into Euroleague players and Isaac Bonga into an NBA player. Who knows, but his protogee Elijath Clarance from last season is a player where the sky is the limit and could be that next Euroleague or NBA player. One of the biggest strengths of the 1984 Olympian has been making very good teams with limited resources in the money department. He has shown time in and time out to have that fascinating ability of being able to get the most out of his players and knowing how to develop and motivating them to make the next step. Of course one can´t forget his faithful side kick Klaus Perwas who has been a huge help with his unrelentless work with the young German talents and making them better each season. Another big strength of Herbert has been having the ability of finding the right impact players to help the team be successful. His ability to find those players is similar to a magician never failing to present the right surprise from his pockets. Already early in his career, he knew that an unknown Tyrone Ellis who played in the NAIA would be the right fit or the athletic beast Chris Williams could do more than just dunk in Australia where he found the American trying to be noticed by European teams. In his second go around he brought in risk player Dashaun Wood who had been out a whole season due to injury, but returned to an MVP season. He also brought in a Justin Cobbs that turned the season from worse to good in 2014-2015 and in 2015 found an unproven Jordan Theodore who had never had winning success as a professional, but came to Frankfurt and led the team to a title in 2016. But Herbert told me a secret last week that he can´t take the credit alone for having the right feeling and elite scouting ability for getting these players. But the talent runs in the family as current assistant coach Daniel Herbert has been vital for these players coming to Frankfurt. “In 2010, I was offered Kyle Hines, but I thought he was too small and chose Joe Dabbert. Three weeks later Hines was signed by Chris Fleming in Bamberg In Berlin I was offered Marcus Slaughter, but thought he was too skinny and took Torin Francis. My son watched Wood and Theodore on film and watched Shavon Shields and Taj Webster at Portsmouth. He has a good eye for talent”, stressed Gordon Herbert. Only the number 11 hangs high in the Fraport arena as fans will never forget the accomplishments of 2005 European silver medalist Pascal Roller, but if Gordon Herbert had a number, then his would be hanging next to his ex player someday. Herbert is without a doubt the greatest coach the Fraport Skyliners have had in their 20 year existence Thank you Gordon Herbert for many great memories and everyone is thrilled that he will return back to Frankfurt in 2020.
So why could Pedro Calles be the perfect candidate to coach in Frankfurt had their been an opening for him? Before we began to observe the interesting parallel´s between him and Gordon Herbert rise early in their career´s after their first success one has to look at what Pedro Calles has achieved in Vechta. What makes this story so amazing is that Calles not only came from Spain, a country that doesn´t send Germany much in terms of basketball talent, but rather yummy fruit in winter so there will be added vitamins in the cold and a few less germs and sick kids going to school. Over the years seeing Spanish faces in the German easyCredit BBL has been rare. Last season Pro B team VFL Sparkassen Bochum introduced two interesting players who had played in the Spanish fourth divisions EBA and Alba Berlin pulled a Gordon Herbert in terms of pulling out the right ace from their sleeve by bringing in head coach Aito who has totally turned around the organization into a massive winning culture that believes in developing it´s young German´s and displaying breathtaking team basketball and helped make Joschiko Saibu into probably the most improved BBL player ever. Pedro Calles has been in Germany since 2012, but if someone was in a closet before this season would never have noticed. I follow German basketball closely and remember seeing Pedro Calles for the first time in the 2012-2013 season when he was an athletic coach for the Artland Dragons. I remember being fascinated seeing a Spanish face at a German basketball game. I was also amazed how young he looked. He seemed like he could still have been a university student, but back in 2013 he had already turned 30 and had somewhere been blessed by being touched by the fountain of youth. Six years later, he hasn´t aged much and possibly is a cousin or relative of actor Mario Lopez who actually is 10 years older than Calles and at age 45 and found the same fountain of youth. Calles remained in Germany and after moving up to assistant coach with Artland and getting two years of experience in the German basketball shark tank then quietly found a new home in Vechta in 2015 and worked diligently and successfully as an assistant coach for Andreas Wagner and Doug Spradley. He took over late in the 2017-2018 season for Spradley leading Vechta to the Pro A title and last season was the master mind behind the Vechta Cinderella story. With the club´s success and his rise, one could already say now and the rest is history. He led the club to a semi-final appearance beating Brose Bamberg and then being swept by FC Bayern Munich. Rasta Vechta has given the name over performance a new name and the biggest reason for the success isn´t the players, but head coach Pedro Calles. It would be interesting how other coaches would have faired with this roster, but not everyone would have been able to lead the club to this success. Calles is a very special coach just the way Gordon Herbert is. Herbert has been very aware of the success of Calles and observed his work last season closely. “He was the man behind the Cinderella season. I think there were three things key to their success. He got the players to play hard and together. He also got them to understand their roles. They played aggressive on the defensive end and always played with great tempo. It is tough to say how he would do in Frankfurt if he ever got the chance. Let us see how he does in his second season with Rasta Vechta”, stressed Gordon Herbert.
It seems the Spaniard is living a charmed life, because everyone is enchanted by his basketball mind, character and success. It didn´t take new Vechta player Tyrone Nash long before being infected by the unbelievable success of his coach. “For being a ‘young’ coach and with this being his first head coaching position, his intensity, passion and knowledge of the game is remarkable to me as a player. He pushes each of us to get the best out of each individual player. As long as we play hard, he gives us the freedom to play our game. As players, we really appreciate that”, stressed ex Notre Dame(NCAA) forward Tyrone Nash. Rasta Vechta started off slow losing it´s first three games and the early season warning signs that the club didn´t have the abilities to play with competitive BBL teams came about, but then as suddenly as the New England Patriots rebounded from being back 28-3 in Super Bowl LI to win 34-28 in one of sports greatest comebacks of all-time, it went bang bang bang for Vechta as they reeled off 15 wins in 17 games as a new German basketball Cinderella story was born. The club scored 87 points per game and belong to the top five defenses in the BBL. They like to play a press, but also annoy the ball handler with a sudden double team surprise and then have the rest of the players sneak into the passing lanes. That was a massive recipe for defensive success this season. There are teams in the easyCredit BBL that will never beat a FC Bayern Munich or Alba Berlin, but what new team in the BBL can say they beat Alba Berlin, FC Bayern Munich and Brose Bamberg in one season?. Vechta did this and surely had some people giving that Mccauley Culkin expression. The success in Vechta was a huge surprise for many and the fact that they beat these three top teams in one season is an unbelievable feat. Not too mention winning in Freak City was an unheard thing to do only a few years ago under Chris Fleming and even now not an easy task. Rasta Vechta were the feel good story of the BBL season and as always when you ask his players about the biggest reason for the success, the name Pedro Calles is always mentioned. “Pedro has been the biggest reason for the success of this club. From his ability to capture his players, to his coaching philosophy, to the way he approaches the game, he is the ultimate professional. Our guys love playing for him and as you can see, we play extremely hard under his leadership. It’s been cool to watch him grow as a head coach this season. I’m glad we are able to be apart it with him”, warned ex Tiger Tuebingen guard Josh Young. But then again those that are very close to the organization don´t see the success as a big surprise.” I don’t think anyone who knows Pedro is surprised that he has been successful thus far. He has been the reason for all of it. His coaching philosophy and principles are what make this team go. Pedro is passionate about basketball and wants the best for each one of us. He makes the game fun and challenges us to improve every day. It’s easy to play for a coach like that“, stressed Rasta Vechta guard Seth Hinrichs.
When looking at the current position that Pedro Calles has one has to mention a Gordon Herbert. There are a lot of parallel´s that the two basketball coaches share. After getting his first real coaching experience with Tapiolan Honka (Finland) in the 90´s, Herbert then made the next step with Oberwart (Austria) achieving coach of the year in 2000. He made the next jump with DJK S. Oliver Wurzburg (Germany) in 2000 and had his first taste of success in the BBL. There he was able to help develop young Germans like Demond Greene, Robert Garrett and Marvin Willoughby In 2001 he made his next step to the Fraport Skyliners and in a matter of three years won the organizations second title in only five years. Even if Herbert had more coaching experience and was older than a Calles is now, the way the Canadian jumped to a bigger club Frankfurt is similar to Calles´s situation. No matter what happens next for the Spaniard, he will be ready for that next step. Calles has a two year contract with Rasta Vechta and will coach one more year there, but what will happen then? Another parallel in Herbert´s and Calles coaching ways is that character stands above everything else. The best example is Chris Carter. He belonged for years as a top guard in the Pro A, but didn´t get the amount of minutes he could have in the BBL. Despite this, he was always in attack mode for more minutes, but at the same time was the utmost professional about his relationship to his coach. “It has been a tough adjustment for me when I look at last year to this year in terms of playing time but to me this first BBL season is a marathon, not a sprint. I am a person who works hard every day and I will not stop working. Things have been going in the right direction for me over the last 6 weeks so I am just trying to keep building on that day by day. Well I haven’t accepted my role. I am working every day to improve my minutes and show everyone that I belong here. I try to work on having a strong mentality and let my work ethic build my confidence. He is a great coach and I have a lot of respect for the way he handles himself and the team. He wants to bring the best out of you day in and day out. You can tell that he takes his job seriously because he is the first one in and last one out which is what you want to see from your head coach. I hope we keep winning and he gets COY because it will be well deserved”, stressed Rasta Vechta guard Chris Carter during last season. Another parallel is that both coaches have had a big desire to develop young German players. Herbert has proven that with players like Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel, Isaac Bonga and Niklas Kiel. In Vechta Calles has loved to give minutes to Philipp Herkenhof and Luc Van Slooten. Especially Herkenhof is on a fine way to becoming a very good BBL player and his future surely is in the German national team. Herkenhof could be the next Danilo Barthel.
Another parallel is that both coaches believe in producing a strong defense and then getting out on the fast break leading to easy points. Rasta Vechta have had to display an aggressive defense day in and day out, because they don´t have the needed length and size to bang down low. Character has already been mentioned and a very important aspect in the philosophies of both coaches. Herbert has demonstrated time in and time out by bringing in good character players and Calles showed this season that he has the same ability. He showed his strong confidence in his players. So often one can witness after a team wins a title and moves up not having the classy side and keeping and rewarding the players, but releasing them and finding new possibly stronger and more experienced players. That wasn´t the case with Calles. He kept Josh Young, Chris Carter, Seth Hinrichs and German Robin Christen. For many other coaches a huge risk as only one of the four had BBL experience and that was many years ago with Josh Young. He believed in them and they came through big time no matter how many minutes they got or not as the most important thing wasn´t their ego, but team. The two biggest Calles pick ups were TJ Bray and Austin Hollins. Hollins had a solid first BBL season with Giessen, but who would have guessed that he would take off so much in his second season? Calles had the right feeling and it paid off. I wonder what Giessen was thinking about not keeping Hollins? Possibly the biggest signing in the BBL and biggest surprise was TJ Bray. Nobody except for Calles and John Patrick would have believed that he would take off and have such an amazing season. He was a candidate for MVP. This also shows another parallel in both Herbert and Calles as both understand not only how to scout properly with a limited budget, but also how to build a potent team despite limited resources.
Pedro Calles will continue to have numerous offers in the future not only in Germany, but also from other countries. You can be sure that many Spanish teams will already have asked Aito where this Calles guy came from. Calles is on the radar of many teams. Calles will continue to go up the basketball ladder in the next years the same way Gordon Herbert did. For years there was that special Canadian/Finish flair in the Fraport arena and in the BCM, but having that youthful Spanish flair could also be a refreshing new thing in the Fraport arena. But then again I only dreamt that Pedro Calles was the head coach of the Fraport Skyliners which in reality was just a harmless dream and nothing more. Calles won´t be in Frankfurt this season, but now Sebastian Gleim will have one of many special challenges next season against Vechta and Calles. In Frankfurt eyes won´t be on Calles this season, but on Gleim in his first BBL season. Gordon Herbert will also have him under his wing and is confident that he will adjust well in his new job. “Sebastian is in a real good situation in Frankfurt. There is a real good infrastructure and basketball culture there. The Frankfurt organization is fantastic and with Klaus Perwas he has one of the best assistants in the league. He has a great group of young Germans and he is highly organized and motivated. I feel very confident in him moving forward”, warned Gordon Herbert. Pedro Calles is still head coach of Rasta Vechta. I´m sure Rasta Vechta fans won´t mind if I have another dream of Pedro Calles next summer dreaming he will remain head coach there. My dream most likely will be outlasted by reality, but at least Calles will give fans in Vechta fond memories for a long time.