Patrick Elzie has been a coach for more than 25 years and was recently named head coach of Pro B team EPG Baskets Koblenz. After his playing career, he began his coaching career in 1998 with the Paderborn (Germany2). In the next decade he got very much experience coaching organizations like TV Langen, BC Hamburg, Tuebingen, BG Karlsruhe, Kirchheim Knights, Bremen Roosters, Eisbaeren Bremerhaven and AEK Larnacas. He then found consistency coaching Rasta Vechta for 6 seasons and SC Itzehoe for 7 seasons. He helped Vechta up to the Pro A and BBL and Itzehoe to the Pro A. He spoke to germanhoops.com recently about his new challenge in Koblenz.
Thanks Pat for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment?
Hi Miles. I’m currently in Itzehoe and recovering from shoulder surgery. The basketball life is good, but after last season it’s nice to have the time off to recover mentally and physically.
Congrats on signing to coach the EPG Baskets Koblenz. How have you followed that organization’s development over the last years?
Thanks for the congrats. I’ve been following the Koblenz organization like I follow all the teams in Germany. I wasn’t following them any more or less than the others. As a basketball guy, you stay abreast of what’s going on in all the leagues.
How quickly did you and the organization come to terms? EPG Baskets Koblenz CEO Thomas Klein has known you since the good old days.
We came to terms fairly quickly. It wasn’t complicated at all.
How much of a role did the fact play that Koblenz is a very interesting basketball location and the EPG Baskets are a very ambitious club that have been working hard the last 2 years with the goal of reaching the Pro A.
Yes you’re right. Koblenz is a very good organization and it is a beautiful city. I have helped other clubs that were not yet on the basketball map like Itzehoe, Vechta, Kirchheim, reach their goal of playing Pro A. However, with Koblenz I have never seen a club with their facilities and infrastructure at this point in their development.
You have shown in the last decade that you know how to help move teams up a league as you did with Rasta Vechta and Itzehoe. How much of a challenge is the EPG Basktes project when you remember what you experienced with Vechta and Itzehoe?
When I went to Vechta and Itzehoe, they did not have the goal of moving to the Pro A. Both organizations were skeptical about the possibility and I had to convince them that it was a reachable goal. Neither club had the facilities to play Pro A and they were content to play Pro B. But I have always been a person who strives to get to the next level and this enthusiasm rubbed off on the people in charge and the rest is history. As a coach you always have to prove yourself over and over again. If you don’t have success you become expendable very quickly. I have been fortunate to have good players and people around me that have helped make things easier. It’s very hard to be a good coach when you have bad players and work for bad organizations. However, Koblenz has a very good core of German players and the club, with Thomas Klein at the helm, is well organized and everyone that I have talked to is very excited about the future. Even though I have been able to move up 7 times as a coach, it does not guarantee that it will happen this time. A lot of things have to fall into place and a bit of luck is always necessary. However, with hard work everything is possible and things usually work out for the better.
Thomas Klein is a diehard basketball fan and has big love for his club EPG Baskets. Will you have 100% control of the team?
Yes, I will have 100% control over the team when it comes to the sports side of things. Thomas is a diehard fan of basketball in general and his energy permeates throughout the organization, which is very good.
Thomas Klein told me there will be some surprising and interesting new players this season. Will you have total control of which new players will come?
Yes, I will. Of course I will consult with Thomas and my assistant coach about any new additions, but I will have the final say.
What is your most important aspect when finding a new player besides the usual bla bla of abilities and character?
When it comes to players, every season is a new challenge. It is never easy to find the pieces of the puzzle that fit well together. This past season in Itzehoe is a good example. I was confident that our team was good enough to stay in the Pro A. However, after going 2-0 to start the season, things unraveled pretty quickly. Even the best teams and coaches pick players that they think will fit, only to later find out that it’s not working out. Just look at the BBL teams that made the playoffs this past season. Almost all of them had to make adjustments to their rosters during the season. If you’re not able to go to Las Vegas or other summer leagues to meet players personally and spend time with them, you have to do your homework, watch a lot of video, talk to people, talk to players, trust agents. The most important thing for me other than ability and character is durability. Chris Hooper never missed a game in the three years that he played for me.
The 2022-2023 team hasn’t been built yet, but what kind of style would you like to play. Last season the club had a lot of very skilled players, but offensively underachieved. What kind of personal touch will your team have?
A winning style. I’ve heard so many coaches and organizations talk about playing modern basketball or Spanish basketball. Never really understood that. But I think every coach wants to play a style that, in the end, has positive results. If you’re playing so called modern or Spanish basketball and you are not winning, nobody cares about the style. This season I was accused of playing old-school basketball. I didn’t change much from the way we played when we were winning and when we moved to Pro A no one mentioned our style as being old-school. A lot has to do with the personnel. If you have a lot of 3 point shooters a la Golden State Warriors, you will play a different style than Philadelphia Sixers, who have a dominant center. I want to play team oriented on both offense and defense.
The team defended very well last season and probably would of gotten further had they had more of a consistent offense. How confident are you that with the guys staying like Marvin Heckel and co plus the new pieces, this new team will be able to play a role as a successful offensive team?
Me, as a coach, wants my defense to help generate offense. If you’re playing good defense it allows you to get easy buckets. If you are looking at the raw numbers, stats can be deceiving. If the team is playing fast paced offense to create more shots, this also allows the opponent more opportunities. Therefore, defense is more about the field goal percentages of the opponent rather the points. I am sure Marvin and Co. will be able to continue to play good defense and improve on their offensive output.
Thomas Klein stated that back in the day you were the Charles Barkley of the Bundesliga. Will the big men play more of a role in the offensive systems than they did last season?
Of course, if they have the ability to do so. Centers play close to the basket and those are normally high percentage opportunities. Why would I not take advantage of that?
You were instrumental in Chris Hooper being a top second Bundesliga player with Itzehoe. Will we see the next Chris Hooper with Koblenz this season?
Chris Hooper is, in my opinion, a BBL player who can help any team reach its goals. He is one of the best players and personalities that I have ever coached, the numbers don’t lie. He brings so much heart and energy to the game. He developed into a multi-position player who could bring the ball in fast break situations, who was practically unstoppable in the post, and has worked hard to improve his perimeter shooting. Additionally, he is a very good defender. If I am able to find another player like Chris I will be very happy.
In your first 11 years as coach you were with 8 teams and in the last 13 with 2 and now a 3rd. What kind of coach did you become with Vechta and Itzehoe which you weren’t necessarily in the first decade of your coaching career?
Even though I’m 61 years old I’m still able to learn and improve. Early in my career, I was unfortunate to coach organizations that were not always financially stable or where I was “forced” to do more than my job description. I was in Paderborn for 3 years and they went bankrupt, BCJ Hamburg went bankrupt even though we finished the season 27-3 and won the second league championship to move to the BBL. Tuebingen was an elevator team before I arrived and I kept them in the BBL in my first season with the smallest budget in the league. In my second season we started off 6-6 and were in the middle of the pack. Due to injuries and personal tragedies within the team, we then lost 5 games in a row (2 in overtime) and were still in 11th place. I was fired and replaced. At seasons end the team was in 12 place. Karlsruhe was a misunderstanding and terrible situation. Kirchheim was great and a well ran organization, but my kids were starting to go to school and my partner at the time wanted to return to her base in Hamburg.I always started with the intention of staying longer, but as a coach in any sport longevity is not promised. Overall, many situations were out of my control, but that’s the life of a basketball coach in Germany.So to answer your question, I don’t think I’ve changed a whole lot, but rather have gained valuable experience with all types of different situations.
You have ben a coach since 1998. What gives you the biggest joy coaching guys most now as you have reached your 60’s?
When I first came to Germany as a player in the 80’s there was only one foreigner allowed and no support system to help me adjust to Europe or European basketball. Therefore, it is important for me to give players, either domestic or foreign, the support they need to be successful. I’m all about helping others.
Thanks Pat for the chat.