Mr. Pešić, your team must play six matches within the next ten days. Four times in the Euroleague, twice in the Bundesliga. It starts this Friday with a home game against Belgrade and then continues with five away games, the first Saturday in Oldenburg. Will you be able to watch these matches with a clear conscience in the light of the load?
I want to tell you a story from my time as a player. Before we prepared, we always had to do the Cooper test in the summer. Run for 12 minutes as far as you can. As a young player, I wet my pants before this test. But the older and more experienced I became, the more relaxed I was. Why am I telling this? There’s one mistake you can not make: crying too much. You must at least do the Cooper test – these are the six matches within the next ten days. If we complain, we will not only lose a lot of games, we will also have problems in other ways. We need to focus on what we can control. How we master the journeys e.g. We play in Oldenburg, twice in Istanbul, in Madrid and then in Giessen. You should not approach it emotionally, but rationally.
From a rational point of view: Is the health of your players in danger?
We will have to protect them a lot over the next ten days. After that, the season is not over. Then things really get going. That’s why we have to get through the six games to position ourselves for the playoffs. This is how a Cooper test passes to be allowed to play on the team.
What do you want to say to your players? That they can sometimes save a step and allow a thump in the defensive?
No, I certainly will not tell you that. But we have to make strategic decisions with Andrea Trinchieri and Daniele Baiesi (coach and sporting director of FC Bayern; ed.). Without Corey Walden and Nick Weiler-Babb, who will continue to be absent for the next few days, how can we handle the strain on the players? The doctors and coaches decide who will play how and where, not me.
And what about the burden on the coaches, who not only coach the matches but also have to prepare and follow them up?
Right. We must act well. We agreed that we would sit down after the match against Belgrade. Then we decide which coach to use where.
Does that mean you want to not only rest players but also coaches?
I’m a big supporter of that, yes.
You could say: The six matches in nine days are a special situation. However, the way the Bundesliga and Euroleague are structured (34 main round matches plus play-offs per competition) constantly creates special situations. Is this a flaw in the European basketball system?
This is a problem that has been exacerbated by Corona. We are in this situation because we had to postpone several matches due to corona infections on our team. Basically, I think one needs to think about a reform of the game plan. It will be necessary for the main stakeholders to meet again. It’s about our players, but also about our fans. It’s about the future of European basketball.
The problem has consequences: In the Bundesliga, there are always matches on the weekend where your team can hardly win due to Euroleague pressure during the week. This is contrary to the idea of European sport.
Last Sunday, Alba lost Berlin (the second German club to play in the Euroleague, along with FC Bayern; ed.) In Chemnitz. It has already happened to us this season. It’s not like players do not want to play in games like this. You just can not! Then you lose to a team that is not better, but more rested. But we must not point fingers at the schedule afterwards. We want to play in the Euroleague. And therefore we must make sure to find a sensible solution.
How about reducing the Bundesliga? 14 instead of 18 clubs?
At first glance, this seems to be the simplest and fastest solution. But I’m not the big fan of it. Why should the Bundesliga and German basketball suffer because two teams play in the Euroleague? In Chemnitz or Crailsheim you can see how small places turn into basketball centers in their regions. How they use the opportunity that the top league offers them to do great things for our sport. We must look for a different approach than relegating the Bundesliga. I also have ideas that I do not want to share publicly yet. The important thing is that everyone should sit at a table – with an open visor.
The problem is that the representatives of the Euroleague and the European Federation FIBA Europe, who were to meet at this table, have been competing and quarreling with their competitions for many years.
The time will come when they will all sit down and think of solutions for basketball. When? I cant say that. The Corona crisis and its consequences can provide an opportunity for fundamentally new solutions.
What can you do for so long to minimize stress?
We need to look at the health of the players. As I said, the most important phase of the season has just begun. We want to be German champions. We must be wise to that. We have to protect the players. If you do not protect the players, it makes no sense.