Gordon Herbert (agency: BeoBasket ) is a Canadian/Finish coach who is currently in his 27th year coaching and is head of the German national team. He has a long coaching resume that includes having coached in Finland Austria, Russia and in Germany he coached Wurzburg, Alba Berlin and was with the Fraport Skyliners for more than a decade. He also coached the Canadian national team and was active with the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a World Cup qualifying game against Israel.
Welcome back to Frankfurt. What has it been like being in Basketball City Mainhatten. What have you missed most from the facility?
It’s nice to be back in Frankfurt. I missed the people in the Skyliners office the most. Everybody around the team really made my job a lot easier during my years there.
You have been driving all around Germany the last months to observe German players. Have you noticed differences in the country on your drives that you don’t remember seeing 20 years ago when you were on road trips with Wurzburg?
I think the biggest difference is that there is a lot more construction now. Another big difference is the infrastructure of the BBL clubs. The organization and arena’s is among the best in Europe.
The German national team are training in Frankfurt at the Skyliner facilities. How were the first practices? I would imagine that the players are all in good shape. You are working on all parts of the game. On what area of the game will be most important to have tweaked well when facing Israel?
We only have a very short period of time to practice, 3 and a half days. We want to get our offensive and defensive packages right as best as possible. I thought that we played well in the last game against Poland. We need to build on that.
When you’re a club coach establishing an identity is always very important. It isn’t any different with a national team. But how difficult is it to do that when the team is always off for so many months?
It’s not as easy to build an identity when your coaching a national team. We didn’t even know until Saturday night which players would be able to come with all the Covid protocols. It is a tough situation in the world now and you need to find a way to adjust. We need to create an identity as best as possible in the short time. That is most important.
What kind of an identity is your goal with team Germany. With the Fraport Skyliners defense was always a large focus.
It will always depend on what players we have and what guys are committed. Then we focus on the short term goals. Having an identity is what we feel and what the people on the outside see.
Robin Benzing has gotten some criticism, but he is so important with his vast experience. Can you say he isn’t one dimensional as only an offensive weapon?
Robin has been great in camp. He has always represented Germany and been very committed. I really respect that from him. He is a great teammate. You can’t criticize that. We live in a negative society where it is easy to criticize with social media. We all have weaknesses, but he has made a great commitment for his country and he should be recognized for it.
You have nominated Hamburg Tower Max DiLeo who has come for the injured Karim Jallow. Couldn’t he become that special anchor on defense?
He brings something very special to the team. Sometimes it isn’t always about players that have the best all around skills, but often guys that have the roster spots 10-12 that bring an extra special quality. He brings special intangibles. Max wins battles, plays hard and is a great teammate. We will see what happens. We have three guys from Hamburg in Camp. They could all be in Heidelberg on Monday. Hamburg next play Munich on Wednesday. I had no problems from the Towers having them in camp. I want to give a big thanks to Marvin Wiloughby. Hamburg was no problem.
How have you seen the development of Bennet Hundt. Did the losing in Oldenburg effect his game in any way?
Losing can affect anybody. Losing brings negativity and when it comes it can have an affect on you. I think the losing did affect his game somewhat. But he is young and is a great person. He will fight through it.
How have you seen the development of Philipp Herkenhof who is averaging 7/3 stats in 18 minutes. How much can one rate his ability to see minutes on a deep roster like Ulm?
Yes Ulm has a lot of very talented imports. It is good to see that he has gotten a good role. They had injuries and his role grew. He really has stepped up his game. He is young and will get better. He can be a stretch 4 or 5. He is very skilled.
How have you seen the development of Skyliner Len Schoormann? He seems to be making strides on offense, but his off ball defense is a weak spot at the moment. Will you work on that?
We only have three days. We don’t have the time to get into shooting mechanics or other aspects of players games. We don’t want to interfere with the coaches of the players. We try to make our team as quick as possible and play to their strengths. I feel that Len has made good strides and he has a good coach working with him. He will continue to make good strides.
Have you had any extra communication to the German NBA players: Has the incredible rookie season of Franz Wagner surprised you?
I have had communication with all the German players in the NBA. I don’t really know of anyone that saw that success coming that Franz has had. We knew that he is an all-around good player, but he definitely has exceeded expectations. He is a great situation with Orlando getting many minutes and much responsibility. He has a chance to make mistakes there, but still grow. But my main focus now are the players I have now in Frankfurt.
How interesting is Isaiah Hartenstein? He seems to be a guy where the sky is the limit. Shouldn’t he be getting more minutes with the Clippers? Ivica Zubac isn’t better than him.
That is tough to say. I’m on the outside and can’t give you a definitive answer. He has played very well in the minutes that he has gotten. He is very talent and brings a different dimension to the game.
How excited are you to be playing Israel. How is the state of Israeli basketball now? Was it at it’s peak some years ago when they had more NBA guys?
It is very good at the moment. Their U-18 and U-20 teams have performed very well at the Euro’s in the past. They have great young kids like Blatt and Zoosman of Alba Berlin. Israel is a good basketball country and culture.
They have a very nice roster even with some NBA guys missing. Is there any special player to watch that may be off the radar?
I think Yam Madar is a very interesting player. He was a second round draft pick in the NBA and currently plays with Partizan Belgrade. He is very talented and will play against us this weekend.
Did it surprise you that an athletic dog like Shawn Dawson didn’t reach the NBA? You saw him play in the Fiba Europe Cup 7 years ago in Frankfurt and like Quantez Robertson is a freak athlete that can leap out of the arena.
It is tough to say. I don’t know him so well. He is in Spain at the moment. He is a very talented player. There are so many guys in Europe that can play in the NBA, but it’s all about timing and being in the right place at the right time.
It seems like many in the basketball world have a story with Pini Gershon. Have you had any dealings with him over the last 20 years?
Pini was coaching Pirus when I was coaching Aris in Greece. We had some really good games. He is a very nice person, but I don’t know him so well. I know other coaches like David Blatt with whom I have worked with and Sharon Drucker better. But he definitely has an interesting character.
Germany will first play in Israel and then in Heidelberg. What kind of games can we await?
I think that we have to play the way we did against Poland. We have to be physical and play as a team. I hope that we have some guys that can step up when we need it. But first and foremost we have to be a team and then have the individual talent. All say that there should be no I in a team, but that’s not true. First you need team and then I. I learned that from Peter Jenson who I worked with. He was at 5-6 Olympics.
Thanks Gordie for the chat.