There aren’t many German players playing in the NBA, but it has grown in the last years. You have Isaac Bonga in Washington, Moritz Wagner in Orlando, Daniel Theis in Chicago, Dennis Schroeder living the glitz world in Los Angeles with the Lakers, Maxi Kleber in Dallas and Isaiah Hartenstein now in Cleveland. But there is a big difference to how these players are living in comparison to how Isaiah Hartenstein was in the Mile High city Denver recently. The young German kids in Washington and Orlando re alone while Theis and Schroeder have their families, but none of them have their father living with them. Isiah’s dad Florian has taken a break from the coaching world while still looking for that new opportunity and has accompanied his son while he continues to make new strides as a NBA player. In the summer of 2020, Florian flew down to Houston to help his son seek a new address in the NBA. Isiah signed with the Denver Nuggets and Florian was by his side in Denver. Even if Florian was a professional player for 13 seasons and has been coaching for 6 seasons, he also can boast about having another massive talent that he gave Isiah during his time in Denver that helps him be the best possible professional player off the court. Eating right is something that very athlete needs to have locked into their brain and dad Florian has aided his son with the right diet. ‘ It started last summer where I cooked on a regular basis for him and he then asked me if I could be in charge of his diet to make sure that he eats enough portions, carbs and vitamins. He really liked it in Houston. Since I did not get a new job he wanted me to come to Denver to be in charge of all of his food. I like to eat good food and so I’m in the process to leaner new and different recipes to make sure that he eats good and healthy food. I watch what and how much he eats and everything is made from scratch to make sure we know what goes into his body. There is no more ordering food for him. If he is lucky he can order once a month, but that would be it. Only home cooked food. That is way cheaper then hiring a full time cook. He really liked Bolognese, which I don’t understand. It is the easiest dish to make. He is not a picky eater. He eats what I give him. He does not have a choice’, laughed Florian Hartenstein (6’9”-C-77, college: Oregon). Florian Hartenstein is hungry for a new Coaching challenge but also content having been in charge of son Isaiah’s diet.
Let’s rewind back to November 2019 where the world in many ways was still all right as COVID-19 wasn’t born yet. However on the basketball front the coaching run for Florian Hartenstein with his club Artland Dragons came to an end. Hartenstein was born in Mainz, Germany in 1977 and began with basketball at age 12 and then made the long trek across the pond in1996 where he played a year of high school ball at Thurston in Springfield Oregon and then played at Oregon State from 1997-2001. He played under head coach Ernie Kent and was teammates with future NBA players Fred Jones and Alex Scales and as a senior saw young freshmen Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson make their first steps in the NCAA. He then returned back to Germany and had a long professional career starting with the Giessen 46ers where he played from 2001-2009 playing a total of 227 BBL games. My fondest memory of him in a Giessen jersey was his amazing game against top Euroleague team FC Barcelona in the summer of 2008. It was an exhibition game where he took control of the game in one half and was the best player on the floor as top players Juan Navarro, Ersan Iiyasova, David Anderson and Fran Vazquez witnessed his game and took a back seat. He then played three more years in the BBL with the Artland Dragons from 2009-2012 playing 42 BBL games and 17 Eurochallenge games. He then wasted no time of making that transition from player to life after beginning his coaching career in 2012 with Artland. He quickly showed his ability to be able to coach young talented German players and help them develop. He helped lead the 2013-2014 JBBL (U-16 team) to the German national title with son Isiah who put up staggering 24/12 season stats and gobbled up the season MVP and Final 4 MVP awards. He then also coached the NBBL (U-19 team and Pro B and Pro A teams.
In November 2019 he was relived of his duties as head coach with the Artland Dragons. A few months later came the next blow with COVID-19. The last 18 months haven’t been an easy time for him. ‘Being let go was not a good experience for me, especially since it was the first time. But they say you are not a real coach until you get fired at least one time. The season was just followed by a lot of bad luck. The amount of injuries we had was crazy. We had to practice with 4-6 guys, and there were times l had to help out in practice just so we could do a drill. When you lose more games than your supposed to, then the club will look for a change. That was letting me go. At the time of the release I was pretty down. I had worked for the Artland Dragons for 10 years. 3 as a pro Player in the BBL and the rest as coach for every level from U12-U18, Regio league, JBBL,NBBL, Pro B and Pro A. It was hard to let go from something I had built for a long time. Especially the youth part hurt the most. After about a week away from the Dragons I decided to start traveling to meet new coaches and watch their practices to learn and get new Ideas. Luckily a lot of coaches let me sit and ask questions and learn. Some of the teams that I visited were Berlin, Ulm, Crailsheim, Real Madrid and a couple others. I really enjoyed that time and learned a lot in that time. With the new ideas I also wrote my own defense concept that I believe will work best for my style of coaching. So I believe that I used my off time very well to learn and make more connections’, warned Florian Hartenstein. Then COVID-19 exploded on the world while Florian Hartensetin was trying to develop further as a coach while being able to experience different coaching philosophies with different coaches and teams. Even if COVID-19 effected and wrecked havoc on the world, the German was able to take positives from it. ‘Covid -19 gave me the chance to focus on myself for the first time. As a coach my only concern was to make sure the players, teams and the club were doing good. I used a lot of my free time in the gym with players, helping them to get better. With not having a coaching job and Covid, I focused on me and spent a lot of time working out and getting in good shape. I used the time spending quality time with my grandson and the rest of my family. After Isaiah left the Houston Rockets I went to Houston and helped him to get ready for the next opportunity. So I worked out with him and took care of his diet, to make sure that his body was ready for the new Team. ‘, warned Florian Hartenstein.
It is never easy letting go when you have been with an organization so long like the Artland Dragons and experienced so much at so many different levels and won titles. Sometimes a player and coach will return back as one has seen in Frankfurt with Gordon Herbert, but sometimes simply too much happened and even if both sides left on good terms, sometimes one just has to let the past rest in peace and accept that that chapter is over. ‘I am close to most of the players I developed of the years. I am not that close to the Organization anymore since a lot has changed over the years. We separated peacefully but I am not in close contact with them anymore. With the change from the BBL to the Pro B, the organization also changed management and some sponsors. The Person that I am still real close with is Gerd Meinecke. He had the same future vision when it came to the youth program and development. He was a big part of organization for me in the first couple of years to build a good youth program. When I started with the Pro B and later Pro A I was not allowed to control the youth part and the quality went down. With the cooperation with Vechta JBBL and NBBL it sadly killed the level of talent in Quakenbrueck. With that I see no future when it comes to youth work for the Dragons. With that I see no reason for me to go back. To do good youth work you have to be dedicated to the kids and offer full support in all areas like school, travel support and developing their body. That is not given anymore in Quakenbrueck. My satisfaction comes from the development of youth players no matter girl or boy and see them become pro players at the end. At this moment I see no chance that I would work for the Dragons. The focus for the Artland Dragons is only Pro A, youth has become only a requirement to get the league license. I do not see myself there anymore’, warned Florian Hartenstein. Being able to witness so many different levels with the Artland Dragons as a coach made him better as a coach. ‘I believe that I got better every year. I basically started from scratch almost every other year. Since I never had the chance to watch other coaches or talked to them or work under a coach. I had to learn by doing. At the same time it was a lot of fun. I was lucky that I was free to really express the way I believe a youth program should be run . For the first 4-5 years the program was run the way I wanted to and we went to top 4 every year with at least one team. I am very proud that I was able to change a program that before my time everybody laughed at, to one that was competing with Alba, Bamberg and even beat Bayern for the JBBL championship. That was the best youth game I ever saw and coached! Competition between Isaiah und Richard Freundberg was great. If anybody still has the video of the game. Let me Know ( League video is not available)’, smiled Florian Hartenstein. As he focused on Isaiah in Denver that he has the right diet on a daily basis, he is also dreaming of where that next coaching job will be. ‘As a coach you always wait for the next opportunity. With Covid it is hard to find something. Teams have lower budgets and don’t want to do many changes since they don’t know what the rest of the year will bring. I don’t want to waste my time sitting and waiting, so I focus on Isaiah and try to help him. He really liked me taking care of his diet by making sure he eats all fresh stuff and the right amount to make sure he doesn’t lose muscle during the season and has all the energy his body needs for good performance. That way he can focus 100% on basketball. There are one or two other projects that I am working on that I will explore to see if I want to go those directions. It is basketball, you never know what will happen, you have to be open for new things and be ready at the same time. But I am for sure still looking for head coaching or assistant coaching jobs at a higher level. But I really enjoy the time with Isaiah so that could also be a long term situation’, added Florian Hartenstein.
Isiah Hartenstein came to the United States in 2017 after being with B.C. Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania-LKL) and was drafted at #43 by the Houston Rockets. He spent his first season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (NBA G-League) playing 40 games averaging 9.4ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.1apg, 1.1bpg, FGP: 60.7%, 3PT: 32.4%, FT: 69.0%. That rookie season in the United States, he already showed flashes of excellence as he scored in double figures in 18 games and had 7 double doubles. In his second season, he made the jump to the NBA with the Rockets playing 30 games averaging 1.9ppg, 1.6rpg, and also continued playing with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (NBA G League) playing 31 games averaging 20.2ppg, Reb-1 (15.0rpg), 3.5apg, 1.8bpg, FGP: 67.6%, 3PT: 34.0%, FT: 66.5%. He scored in double figures in 28 of 31 games and had 23 double doubles. He produced 20 or more rebounds 5 times and exploded against Texas for 42 points and 21 rebounds. He also had a triple double against Salt Lake City with 12 points, 16 boards and 11 assists. He got into the NBA door, but didn’t get a real chance to show his skills with decent minutes. In his third NBA season with Houston his minutes increased a bit from 7,6 to 11,6 as he played 23 games averaging 4.7ppg, 3.9rpg. He scored in double figures in three games including 19 points and 9 rebounds against New Orleans, 16 points and 12 boards against Denver and 17 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks against Minnesota. He also continued to get good minutes and playing time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (NBA G League) playing 14 games averaging 24.9ppg, Reb-1 (14.8rpg), 4.2apg, 1.4spg, 1.1bpg, FGP: 66.3%, 3PT: 26.1%, FT: 66.1%. He had an explosive 34 points and 19 boards against the NAZ Suns and 25 points and 21 rebounds against Austin. After three years, it was apparent that he wasn’t going to play a role with the Rockets small ball concept. He played a total of 58 NBA games and papa Hartenstein saw his son develop further in this time despite coming from Europe and having to adapt to a different style of basketball. ‘I believe one of the main things in the beginning was the speed. That is very different in the NBA than from Europa. A lot faster, less offense structure. Finding your role in the system you play for is very important. It doesn’t matter what you can do. It is about how you can fit your skills into the system’, stressed Florian Hartenstein. There is so much stuff happening on a day to day basis in the NBA off the court that one would love to be a fly on a wall. In the last years the rise of German players reaching the NBA has been high. There will always be the utmost respect for the German legend Dirk Nowitzki, but really how well are the current German players really accepted by the other non European NBA players? Guys like Dennis Schroeder, Daniel Theis and Maxi Kleber are established and respected, but what about the few others. In Isaac Bonga’s rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers, there was a scene where he slipped a few times on the floor and you could see half the Lakers bench cracking up led by superstar Lebron James. When asking dad Florian if son Isiah could form a good relationship with ex BBL player PJ Tucker who played in Bamberg in the 2011-2012 season when Isiah was 13, and if there were any interesting stories with eccentric James Harden, the elder made a rapid and direct answer. ‘I have no story for that one. You can cut this question’, stressed Florian Hartenstein. There will obviously be only be one Dirk Nowitzki and a be a huge and long gap between him and the rest of the German players.
Even if Isiah Hartenstein paid his dues with the Houston Rockets, coming to the Denver Nuggets was one that was very well thought out. ‘I believe that the move was right for Isaiah. The basketball culture is by far more a family. He is getting regular playing time. Isaiah still has to learn and Jokic is a great player to learn from. He is still in the beginning of his career and his time will come. He is happy in Denver and the goal is long term. We will see what the future will bring. But so far it has been positive’, warned Florian Hartenstein before his son’s move to the Cavs. It wasn’t easy getting good minutes with bigs like Michael and Porter Jr around. ‘As a player you always want more playing time. If you don’t you should not play basketball. He is not competing with Porter so there is no problem. Coach Malone and Isaiah talked before he signed with Denver and he told him what role he sees for him. It is a new team that also means to fight for every minute and wait for your chances to show your talent’, stressed Florian Hartenstein before his son’s move to the Cavs. One of the hardest things to observe in the NBA is how quickly guys can go from being a starter, to playing only 5 minutes to falling out of the rotation. One of these guys that has tasted this is Isaac Bonga who was a starter with the Wizards, but now is only playing very little. ‘It is really hard for a lot of players. The NBA is a league of opportunity, taken chances and being confident. That one chance can come from one game to another. You have to be on every night, no excuses. If you are a role player you have to be ready every second. If you are not, the next one is waiting behind you. It is hard but the reward is high once you make it and that is what I believe everyone wants to the NBA’, warned Florian Hartenstein. When looking at Isaiah’s game he still hasn’t been able to develop a three pointer yet, but that also has to do with the fact that he played in a system in Houston where he didn’t have to. ‘It is not that he can’t shoot the 3 pointer. He is playing the role that the team wants him to be. For now he will play more as a true 5. But he continues to work on his 3 so that he can use it in the future. If you watched the Play-off sand finals from the G league, there he showed that he has range, the time will come again where we will see him shoot more threes again’, said Florian Hartenstein before his son’s move to the Cavs.
Isaiah Hartenstein has many strengths, but one that I think is a bit off the radar is his mental toughness. That helped him survive in Houston and kept him strong with the Nuggets. Not only has dad Florian helped him in this area, but his vast experience also has aided him in having that ability to be very mentally tough when times are difficult. ‘Isaiah grew up in the basketball world. He had seen a lot of different situations in basketball. Not just from me. But he has been close with good pro players that told him them about their experience and what works and what not. He had seen the good and the bad part of basketball at an early age. He has had a clear goal since age of 14. Play in the NBA and do anything to get there and be a bigger part of it. He has the typical situation when the teacher asked him, what you want to be when you grow up. His answer, a NBA player. Teacher responded with think about getting a real job where you can make money. Now he makes more money than most of us. Getting into the NBA is one thing, being part of is what Isaiah wants. That takes time, focus and patience. I believe that the time in Kaunas really made him mentally tough and got him ready for any tough situations. You have to be mentally tough in the NBA, one day your down and the next day could be your best day. You have to be ready every day to make sure you use your chance’, warned Florian Hartenstein. In order to keep improving his game and wanting to be that house hold NBA name, the 22 year old 213 cm German big man grinded at the Nuggets training facility, but also put in extra time with his dad. ‘The last summer I focused mostly on finishing in traffic and finishing with contact. But we pretty much try to cover all areas that he needs to work on. I was not the only person that worked with him. His Agency (Beyond Athlete Managmanet) put people around him that worked him on every situation that could come at him. Big focus was all to put more muscle weight on him’, added Florian Hartenstein. It also helped when you have the best center in the NBA with Nikola Jokic. Not only did he learn about the game, from him but could also soak up some of his good character. Jokic wouldn’t have to spend any time with Hartenstein if he didn’t want to, but as a good guy and role model, he does it anyway. ‘It is still early in their relationship as a teammates. Because of Corona I can only watch the games on TV and there I can see that Jokic talks to him on what he could do better on the court. For a superstar to do that is very nice of him to help. He is the best center in the NBA and Isaiah tries to learn as much and as fast as he can from him’, stated Florian Hartenstein before his son’s move to the Cavs.
The last movie that Florian Hartenstein watched was the Little Ones with Denzel Washington. Isaiah is now in his fourth year in the United States after growing up in Germany, but he didn’t need any time to get americanized simply because he grew up in an American type household in Germany. Father and son have a lot of time to spend together not only in the gym, but also off the court. In Denever they lived in one of the more beautiful areas in the United States, but weren’t been able to explore the way that they would have liked. Because of Corona and the NBA rules, it didn’t allow them to go in public. ‘We have not done anything in Denver other than relax at home. I love the amount of sun in Denver. I was told it has the highest amount of sun of all States That is great for me since I have dogs. So I am outside a lot with my dogs’, smiled Florian Hartenstein. With so much time at home, because of COVID-19 restrictions, you would think Isaiah could have enough time to groom relationships with the other German NBA players, but that isn’t the case as he doesn’t have a special bond to anyone. ‘Not really, they all know each other. They don’t really have much time during the season. With 4 games a week your happy when you get home or to the hotel’, expressed Florian Hartenstein. So when Isaiah is in his apartment kitchen enjoying a home cooked meal, he can rib his dad about the last one on one duel they had in gym. ‘His skill level is for sure better than my skills ever were. Plus I am 43. I can keep up with is physicality. Since I was let go by the Dragons I got myself back in shape and I would say that I am in better shape now than when I was a pro player. In the post it is not fun to play against me. I might foul out but I make sure that I will leave marks. So nothing has changed from my pro time’, laughed Florian Hartenstein. Isaiah was traded To Cleveland and now will hope that three is a charm after he was unable to make the grade in Houston or Denver. In his first game, he got the starting nod logging 26 minutes and scoring 5 points, hauling down 14 rebounds and dishing out 7 dimes. Currently he is averaging 8,0ppg, 5,9rpg, 2,3apg and 1,0bpg. He scored in double figures in 6 games including 16 points and 12 boards against the San Antonio Spurs. Unfortunately a concussion has ended his season. Since Isaiah’s arrival in Cleveland, Florian has remained in Denver waiting out the expiration of the apartment contract. So father and son are separated now from the daily meals which leaves the son with more discipline of having to cook healthy meals for himself. But one thing is for sure, Isaiah won’t make fun of his dad too much about his wins in one on one, because he will always remember where that next yummy homemade meal is coming from once they are reunited again in the NBA or at home in Germany.