Florian Wedell is a German basketball coach working for Danish Basketball Champions League team Bakken Bears as an assistant coach. He coached the last 10 seasons in the FC Bayern Munich organization. He helped build up the youth system and last season was an assistant coach for the easyCredit BBL team. He also recently was head coach of the German U-20 team. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Basketball champions League game in Ludwigsburg.
Thanks Florian for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment?
Hey Miles. Thanks for having me. I am in Aarhus, Denmark – my new home in the north. Things are going great, very happy to be here. We just came back from a successful BCL qualification tournament in Belgrade and are now preparing for the upcoming tasks in the Danish Basketligaen and our first BCL game in Ludwigsburg next week.
After 10 years in the FC Bayern Munich organization, you moved to well known Danish team Bakken Bears last summer. How difficult is it to leave a famous organization like FC Bayern Munich? You get into a comfort zone after a while and get used to doing your duties.
I would say no matter the standing of the organization you are leaving, after 10 years in one organization it’s definitely not easy to leave. For me personally, I had a wonderful and intense time in Bayern and I am keeping tons of great memories that will surely last forever. I don’t think comfort zone is necessarily the right term because Bayern has given me so many opportunities to learn and grow over the last years. They allowed me to evolve and get better and constantly gave me new challenges, starting out as under-12 coach in my first year and finishing my last season as an assistant to the first team. For me it was more about wanting to take the next step in professional basketball and to take on a role with more responsibility.
There are so many great organizations in Europe. Why did you chose Bakken? You had spent summers in Denmark. So I guess you already had a connection to the country, but not necessarily the club Bakken Bears?
I’m originally from Hannover. As a family we used to spend most of our summers in Denmark when I was a kid – mostly sailing. In that sense I did have a connection to the country a very positive feeling about the Danish culture. I had never been to Aarhus though. The Bakken Bears are already a powerhouse in Scandinavian Basketball with a lot of good seasons in European FIBA competitions over the last years. Talking to their Headcoach Anders Sommer, I could sense that despite their success in what they have been doing well already, the Bears are a very modern and hungry organization that constantly want to evolve. Right now, the next goal is to establish ourselves as a regular participant in the FIBA Champions League and we just made a big step in that direction with the successful qualification. I can totally identify myself with the Bears mentality and am looking forward to playing my part in their development.
One could say that the Bakken Bears are the FC Bayern Munich of Danish basketball. They have won 29 titles. How big is the challenge for you coming to a club that is used to winning? Do you see similarities to FC Bayern Munich?
There are similarities. In both places, everyday you go to work, and you see people that want to take their club to the next level. I love this kind of ambition and dedication in both organizations. I don’t think people in either club feel like they are used to it though – for me that would mean that you are kind of fed up with winning, which is definitely not the case. I think no matter the number of titles that you’ve won, you always have to strive for more – that’s one of the most beautiful things about working in competitive sports in my opinion.
You don’t see many young German coaches going outside Germany to coach and it is a unique thing that you are doing. Has there been any adjustment you have had to make coming from Germany and working with Danish coaches? I guess coaching is always a universal language?
Yes, its universal – I think no matter where you go there are always new people or things to adjust to. It has been challenging because of the increase in responsibility, working with the team but that was exactly the kind of challenge I was looking for. On a personal level I have to admit there are days where I realize how much Munich has become home to me during those 10 years – not easy for sure but would have been the same no matter where you go, I believe. And the next challenge coming up: Maria (my fiancee) and I just started Danish lessons.
Your strengths is developing young players the last years and with the Munich BBL team did scouting and player work outs. What exactly are your duties with the Bakken Bears?
I am the lead assistant coach to the team. Main duties are: scouting & gameplan for BCL opponents, video sessions with the team, individual workouts and helping our younger players to make the next step.
Having experience with players is nothing new for you as with FC Bayern Munich you worked with veterans and with the Bears have 5 guys 30 or older. How can it still be a challenge working with many experienced players?
I think it’s great, especially when you have such unselfish guys like we do that want nothing more than to see our organization succeed. For a young and rather unexperienced coach like me it’s a great opportunity to learn from them as well.
You have a couple experienced 19 year old kids with Gustav Knudsen and Noah Sorenson. Especially Sorenson seems to be a guy who will get his minutes in the Danish league. Can you talk a little about them as players and your relationships with them and their development?
Still getting to know each other of course but I believe that both have a bright future ahead if they keep working hard. They both are good kids that want to develop and make a career in this game. I think the best thing I can do is just to be there for them both on and off the court. Bakken has a good setup for guys like them: individual workouts, physical programs, competitive practices and games in two competitions. Looking forward to watching them grow.
What is your biggest goal that you want to accomplish in your development this season with the Bakken Bears?
Mainly I would love for us to reach our goal as an organization to establish ourselves in the BCL for the years to come. I want to be able to say that I did everything in my power to help reach that goal. Along the way, there will be tons of experiences for me to make and things to learn – and that is why I came here.
Welcome back to Germany. How excited are you be coaching against the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in the Basketball Champions League. How much more difficult is it to prepare for this game with a new coach Josh King and players then it would have been had John Patrick still been there?
Very excited! Some friends and family will be there to watch the game and I have a very good relationship to many people working for Ludwigsburg. It’ll be great to see them and compete against each other on that level. In Basti Hartmann, one of the kids that I coached for many years at Bayern just signed his first pro contract with them – a very special thing for me to see him again under these circumstances. I believe Ludwigsburg has formed a DNA as a club that will last at least in some aspects of the game even with John not being there anymore – they will still be a hardworking and physical team like we are used to seeing in Ludwigsburg. I am very excited though to see Coach King bringing some new influences to the club.
Let’s talk a little about your time with FC Bayern Munich. You were there 10 years. What did you cherish the most about being part of this organization?
On a personal level: the good friends that I made over these years. On a professional: the sheer endless learning opportunities and the ambitions that the club helped me to develop.
Last season you worked together with Andrea Trinchieri. That he isn’t always an easy coach to work for is no secret. What was it like working with him on a daily basis and what do you feel did you get most out of the experience?
Being around him and the staff was like a clinic – everyday there was something new to learn, some small detail to pick up for me. Working with them was very challenging – in a good way. He creates an environment in which every member of the staff gives everything he has – every single day.
It is no secret that young German players have difficulty getting minutes and often move on. Trying to answer this question is easier said than done. Why don’t players get more of a chance with FC Bayern Munich? Even a guy like Sasha Grant had to be loaned out. I always saw him as being possibly that player that could make it
And he still might some day. Lets see what the future holds for Sasha. I think it has something to do with the high ambitions that this organization has. For a young player it’s difficult to make the step from NBBL, Pro B or even Pro A to a team that wants to win the BBL and reach the Euroleague playoffs every year. You can see similar situations in many other European top clubs though of course it would be nice to see some more talented, young players making that step.
Jason George is a guy that seems to be the first player in a long time that made the jump? What is so special about him and why has he been able to make the jump and so many others not?
His work ethic. Last year I was assigned to help him, so he could work extra on his Jump shot. We built a good relationship and he always reached out, whenever he wanted to get some extra work done. The first couple months of the season, he did not take one day off. Whenever the team had an off day, he called me and asked if we could spend some time to work on his shot.
Is Joshua Obiesie ready for his real break through season in the easyCredit BBL with the Fraport Skyliners? He seems to have already taken responsibility in the pre season.
I believe he can and I am really looking forward to watching him develop. He definitely has what it takes to make the next step and establish himself as a good player in this league.
What was your biggest project with FC Bayern Munich over the years and what player did you enjoy working together with the most?
Hard to choose one person or one particular project after such a long time there. But I would say that the most rewarding things where, to see how some of the kids I’ve worked with over the years reach their goals or take the next step. All the guys that played for the youth national teams, Luis Wulff and Ivan Kharchenkov signing with the first team at Bayern, Basti Hartmann in Ludwigsburg, Mike Rataj and Benjamin Schroeder going to college now. And those won’t be the last ones as there are still some very talented kids in the organization that I believe can make the next step soon.
How did you follow the whole magical run of the German 2022 EM run? How do you see the state of German basketball in the youth sector? As U-20 coach how do you see the future?
I watched all the games of course and was lucky enough to have an off day on semi-finals day so I could see the game vs. Spain live in the gym. It was a lot of fun to watch the guys play – you could sense how much they enjoyed playing together and how desperately they wanted to succeed – together. I think that a lot of people could sense this positive energy. Would be great if we could carry this into the next tournaments and keep showing people what a wonderful sport this is.
In general I can see very positive things happening in German youth development. A lot of clubs have built very professional setups for players to develop over the last years, the number of full-time coaches seems to increase constantly and both DBB and BBL are investing lots of time, money and energy in coaches development. Many interesting, talented kids have already grown in these structures over the last years and I can only see things getting even better the next years. Will be exciting to follow for sure.
You saw so many famous sports figures in Munich over the years. What was your coolest experience that you had with sports figures that you won’t forget?
Tough to choose one in particular. Probably to have seen the development of some European top talents. Like Juan Nunez who I saw as an 11-year old in a Spanish youth tournament that our u-12 participated in back then. Saw him in multiple European youth championships and now he just played his first BBL game for Ulm vs Bayern. Exciting to witness that kind of development over the years.
Thanks Florian for the chat.