Ludwigsburg out to compete in every game, says coach Patrick
LUDWIGSBURG (Basketball Champions League) – The biggest accomplishment of coach John Patrick during his first three seasons at the helm of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, apart from steering them to three consecutive trips into the German BBL play-offs, has been to build a team with an unmistakable playing style which no opponent is happy to cross paths with.
In his fourth season in charge, Patrick and Ludwigsburg will face the double challenge of sustaining their upward trajectory in the BBL while navigating a demanding group in the Regular Season of the inaugural Basketball Champions League.
The German side were initially set to enter the competition in Qualification Round 2 but following the expansion to 40 teams they will do battle in Group E with AEK Athens, Besiktas Sompo Japan, Partizan KK Belgrade, Stelmet Zielona Gora, Dinamo Sassari, Proximus Spirou Charleroi and Szolnoki Olaj.
Ludwigsburg might lack the European pedigree of some of these teams but the 48-year-old American tactician has the experience of guiding a modest club like BG 74 Göttingen to the EuroChallenge crown in 2010. Coach Patrick spoke to the official website of the Basketball Champions League and made a very convincing case about his team’s prospects in the Basketball Champions League.
First practices have been going well! Excited for the season! pic.twitter.com/3JplL5QtTY— Wes Washpun (@WesWashpun11) August 19, 2016
How much do you know about your opponents in Group E and what is your assesment for the level of difficulty your team will have to face?
John Patrick: I have coached against some of these teams before, we played against Besiktas when I was at Goetingen. It will be the first time we play Szolnok although I am familiar with some of their players and we are also familiar with some guys on Sassari because they played in Germany in the past. Partizan will be great, I have been to Belgrade a few times to study as a coach, we played there against FMP when they had a young [Miroslav] Raduljica and it is always a great atmosphere to go and play in Belgrade. Zielona Gora and Charleroi are always favourites to win their domestic leagues while AEK Athens has a super strong roster so it is a very tough group, there is no question about it, but we are looking forward to it.
"We’re going into the BBL and the Basketball Champions League trying to win every game, we are not going to be there just to participate." - Patrick
Is it tough enough to make your team feel excited about it but not that tough to intimidate you?
John Patrick: We probably don’t have as many big names as some of these teams so we are not going to be the favourites, but our style is unique and we will enjoy testing ourselves in the Champions League and in the BBL this year. We are not going to be afraid or to back down, we want to see how successful we can be playing our style and I know that our guys are very excited to be here.
Your arena is not among the biggest in Germany but in the BBL your fans certainly make it look at least twice as big, do you detect among your fanbase a level of enthusiasm that will produce this effect in the Basketball Champions League as well?
John Patrick: Our gym is not big but it’s so nice! It’s really one of the nicest in the German league, we have skyboxes, it’s all new. Our experience in Europe last year was that we had the best crowd in the competition, we had considerably more fans than the other teams in the Eurocup. Our fans travel with us and in some cases on the road our fans were making more noise than those of the home team. They are truly great fans in every sense. I think that playing in the Basketball Champions League shows to fans the ambition of our management, of our players and we’re going into the BBL and into the Basketball Champions League trying to win every game in both competitions, we are not going to be there just to participate.
Your roster is going to look very different to the one you finished last season with as you brought in nine new players in the off-season (Anthony Gill would be the tenth but he did not pass the medical on Tuesday), what were the main reasons for such a radical overhaul?
John Patrick: The simple answer is that we are not a big-budget team. We have had a great streak in the last three seasons and made the play-offs with a small budget. I have been through similar situations before at Göttingen, where after a successful season I could only keep one guy out of 11 professionals. This year we have two guys who are coming back but it’s great that we can be a platform for players, that we can get young, talented guys that want to showcase themselves, want to work hard, and they can take that step up from out team. I had the chance to coach Jon Brockman, DJ Kennedy, ex-NBA players or future NBA players and it is great to see how these guys mix with guys who are coming from college or from the third [German] league.
Considering all the new personnel, are you looking to modify any aspects in your team’s style of play for 2016/17 compared to what we saw last season?
John Patrick: I think one of our problems last year was that we were not as physical as we needed to be. Teams like [Brose Baskets] Bamberg and Bayern [Munich] in the BBL and also [Zenit] St Petersburg in Europe hurt us with their physicality. We had a successful season but the teams that beat us did so by playing more physical. This summer we got Jack Cooley from [Unicaja] Malaga who is an undersized center at about 2.06m, he is physical, smart and plays hard. Johannes Thiemann who played on the German national team is young, but I am really happy with him and so I am very happy with our center pick-ups, while our guards are as usual very athletic. So I think we are going to play more or less the same style, but then we have only had a few practices so far.