Sometimes the basketball world can be so small as the day after the horrible loss to Alba Berlin a week into the new year 2018, I was flying over to the States for my annual visit with my family over the all star break and I remember getting ready to say farewell to my son at the area where one disappears and is on it´s way to the departure gate at Frankfurt airport. I remember having to look twice as I didn´t see an Eintracht Frankfurt jersey or FC Barcelona of a fan, but one of a German easyCredit BBL club. I remember wondering wow nice to see a MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg fan roaming Frankfurt airport. I quickly realized that was no fan wearing the club´s attire, but top American player Thomas Walkup who walked by me not knowing I had interviewed him once on the phone. A little less than a week earlier I had interviewed him before a game in Oldenburg. I had never met him in person, so when finding out who he was came another “wow what a small world” moment. He didn´t hesitate to mention that his parents had adored the question answer session with him. Quickly I saw more players turn up with the likes of Kerron Johnson, Adam Waleskowski, Dwayne Evans and all the rest. Soon I found out, I would be on the same flight to Copenhagen, Denmark before our ways would separate as I would be heading over the big pond to Boston and Walkup and co would be heading to Lithuania for a Basketball Champions League game the next night. With all the players slowly appearing, head coach John Patrick couldn´t be far away I thought. After a short, but as always interesting and entertaining chit chat with Adam Waleskowski on our way to the boarding gate, I soon recognized John Patrick who was relaxing in a corner. As I approached him, I remembered many encounters I had over the years with him the first being in the 2007-2008 season either in the Fraport arena or Lok Halle. He looked more tired than his players as his eyes looked bigger than usual. I had learned the club had traveled to Frankfurt during the last night following the home loss to Alba Berlin so they would have less of a hike in the morning to catch their flight to Lithuania from Frankfurt. I didn´t ask about where the tiredness came from, but a logical explanation surely could have been that he had been up the last hours trying to digest the loss to Alba Berlin via video. After a short talk we flew to Copenhagen. Then when we were in Denmark, our ways crossed again as this time I had some further chit chat with the 2010 Eurochallenge winning coach and as always our topic was basketball and the big German talents Isaac Bonga of Frankfurt and Ariel Hukporti of the MHP Riesen. His eyes had become more normal as the morning was winding down and his body was getting used to the regular day routine that he has had as a coach since entering the BBL in 2007. 48 hours later he was already on his way back to Germany having experienced a solid 87-71 win over Neptunas. This was just another short chapter in the successful basketball coaching career of John Patrick who is a perfectionist that has that first title for the MHP Riesen lurking in his rear view mirror.
It seems that with every passing unspectacular season, the lust to have a winning formula again with the combination of shear desperation of getting back to the Beko BBL playoffs is getting greater and greater each season for MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. Since leaving the BBL in the 90s and moping around in the Regionaliga via the second Bundesliga, the club finally returned back to the big show in 2002. After finishing their first two seasons in 12th and 14th place, the club had three very successful seasons finishing in eighth, sixth and second place. In the 2006-2007 season, they were one of the big surprises in the league and belonged to the best teams that season. However since 2007, the club has been buried in no mans land in the Beko BBL and last season were only saved by a wild card otherwise they would have been back in the second Bundesliga. Ever since the glory days of Silvano Poropat in 2006-2007, the club has changed their head coaches increasingly the way Tom Brady lost his receivers last season and this season has to mold rookie receivers into guys who won´t drop the ball. In this time, the club has had the services of Rick Stafford, Tolga Ongorin, Marcus Jochum and Steven Key. None of these coaches garnered the francise better than a ninth place finish. Last January, the club was at the bottom of the Beko BBL standings as winning had become as difficult for the Stuttgart neighbor as it is for Boston Redsox player Mike Napoli from cutting off his ZZ Top looking beard. The club removed Steven Key and inserted John Patrick as a type of a fireman to rescue the team. It is never easy to come in blind in a season, and he helped the team get some wins, but we wasn´t able to save the team from having to declare a wild card. The team got the wild card and kept John Patrick.It really doesn´t matter where Patrick has been, if it was in Japan with Toyota Alvark, with BG Goettingen or the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg, he was able to build winning teams and with the case of BG Goettingen make successful teams out of low budgets and sending unknown rookie players on to bigger and better teams after letting them develop in Goettingen. Patrick now was able to form his own team and has blended it nicely with players that have youth, experience and special desire that has been seen in the early going. It is early and currently the team is in seventh place with a record of 3-2 and with time the team will build even more chemistry. In the case of Patrick, one could say three is a charm as he led BG Goettingen to the playoffs numerous times and won a Eurochallenge, led Wurzburg to the playoffs in their first season and kicked out Alba Berlin and now with his third team in Germany Ludwigsburg might have that special spice to have the club magically succeed. If there is any coach that could do this then it is John Patrick.
John Patrick recently came as a fire man coach to the Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg. The former Pac-10 Point Guard and 1992 Stanford University graduate has been 5 times Coach of the Year and won 3 Championships in the last 7 seasons in 4 different leagues. (Japan Super League, 2nd German Bundesliga, BBL, and FIBA Eurochallenge) His low-player-budget BBL teams qualified for European competition in each of the last four seasons. Last season, Würzburg’s inaugural season in the BBL after finishing 2nd in the Pro A (German 2nd league) the previous season, Coach Patrick’s team had the lowest scoring defense in the BBL, and knocked Alba Berlin out of the playoffs, before dropping 3 hardfought games to Thorsten Leibenath’s RatiofarmUlm in the Semis. He psoke to German Hoops after the 79-73 win at home against ratiopharm Ulm.
Congrats on the 79-73 win against ratiopharm Ulm. Have the derbies against Tuebingen and Ulm in general been more intense then what you experienced in Goettingen and Wurzburg?
I don´t think that the derbies here are more intense as the Wurzburg fans were very motivated against Munich and I still here Goettingen fans talking about games with Paderborn and Braunschweig. I think the only difference is that we have three derbies here with Wurzburg, Tuebingen and Ulm. The game against Ulm as against Tuebingen were sold out. It was amazing how loud the Ulm fans were in the arena. Already an hour and 15 minutes before the game started they were singing. This was a big win, but I don´t want to get too euphoric about it. This was a special game for Lucca Staiger who grew up in the Ulm area. I am happy that we were able to beat the 2012 BBL finalist and 2013 Eurocup quarterfinalist Ulm. Our team and fans were very motivated tonight.
Ludwigsburg had a strong start with the 24-9 lead after one quarter. What was key for keeping the Ulm offense in check?
I have to admit that we were lucky that Ulm missed some open shots and we were fortunate to hit shots. We gave 100% effort and I have to give a lot of credit to John Turek and Eric Coleman for their job defending John Bryant and their defending the pick and role and pick and pop play. When you play against Ulm, you can´t only worry about John Bryant, but they have a great offense and you have to help on the point guard, but still get back on Bryant. We were also a bit lucky that Bryant wasn´t hitting all his shots. When he gets going then you can go home.
The former Pac-10 Point Guard and 1992 Stanford University graduate has been 5 times Coach of the Year and won 3 Championships in the last 7 seasons in 4 different leagues. (Japan Super League, 2nd German Bundesliga, BBL, and FIBA Eurochallenge) His low-player-budget BBL teams qualified for European competition in each of the last four seasons. Last season, Würzburg’s inaugural season in the BBL after finishing 2nd in the Pro A (German 2nd league) the previous season, Coach Patrick’s team had the lowest scoring defense in the BBL, and knocked Alba Berlin out of the playoffs, before dropping 3 hardfought games to Thorsten Leibenath’s Ratiofarm Ulm in the Semis. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
It has been five months since your dismissal from the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg. How difficult has this time been not being a head coach for a team?
It has been a great chance to refresh and hopefully gain a sense of perspective about Coaching and the Basketball Business as a whole.
Was it like a bad dream when you were informed from the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg that you weren´t going to coach another season for the team?
It was unexpected, of course, after such a great season with so much unexpected success. But sometimes success can be as difficult to deal with as failure. (Morgan Wootten used to tell us this at DeMatha.) Maybe the success came too fast for some.