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.
Ulm fought hard in the second half staying on your heels, but the Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg were able to close out the game. What was key for getting the win?
We actually led by 20 in the second half. We led the whole game and it was important for our confidence and mentality that even when we made mistakes that we didn´t hang our heads. Our new player Derrick Zimmermann was very important tonight especially his presence on defence. He is like a second coach on the floor and he did a great job keeping everyone on on defence. He has extremely quick feet and the box score doesn´t tell the whole story on how he played. We did a great job beating Ulm on the boards and we were very determined to play and finish possessions something we have had problems doing in the past.
How important has it been for Eric Coleman being integrated quickly into the team?
He is a good guy. He played with Ben Jacobson and John Little at Northern Iowa and they always talked about him. He has a big heart and knows how to win. He really likes to compete. He is still getting used to the Beko BBL, but he arrived with a bang.
Is Derrick Zimmermann going to be the floor general that you hope will lead the team to many more wins this season?
He already is our floor general and he is cat quick. He is very long for a point guard at 190cm and his arms are 210cm. You can´t take the ball from him and he has a great eye for the floor. He is a great ball handler. He could of scored 20 points tonight, but decided to keep passing and setting up his teammates. He is so athletic and is like a human highlight reel. He did a good job against Per Guenther.
The news headlines of Marquis Blakely have been unending in the last weeks. Can you see a news headline reading Marquis Blakely helps keep the Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg in the Beko BBL?
After Westbrook got injured, I asked his agent if he would like to come back. He seemed to solve his personal problems in the States and decided to come back. He had only been with us for two weeks before he went to the States. He came back last Sunday and we saw that he needed practice time to learn some new plays. I don´t know if he would get a headline at the end of the season, but I hope it is the case that he continues to help us. He played 35 minutes tonight. It was only his third game. He wasn´t perfect, but he got the loudest round of applause from the fans. He gives a lot of energy and is a good athlete. He passed all the physicals and medical checks and it is sad how his name has been tarnished in the internet. What people may not know is that he is a very eloquent guy and his father is a lawyer. He may have made a mistake in his free time when he wasn´t employed, but he is very serious about his basketball career. This is his first year in Europe and he is a great kid that is polite to everyone. I hope that he can help us. I am here to help him get better.
You came to the Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg as a type of fireman to help save the team. Has this been your biggest coaching challenge in your career?
No it hasn´t. My first coaching job in Japan where I took over a team that was 0-5 and I ended up having a winning record. No risk no fun? I would not have taken this job if I hadn´t wanted to compete and take it personal. I am not concerned what happened before now, but I am fully motivated here to keep the team in the Beko BBL. It really doesn´t matter if I am coaching the U-12 or the Beko BBL team, I am here to make the team better.
How risky is it playing with an eight man rotation?
I don´t know, ask Lucca Staiger, he played 40 minutes tonight. We have a very special situation here in that we have four guys that are in their last year of school and are now getting ready to take their exams. Many guys have school, play with us, the NBBL team and the PRO A team Kirchheim. Besnik Bekteshi played in Tuebingen and is also taking exams. Everyone is here to help us, but it is up to me who plays. With the team getting in better shape, we can play more guys with less risk. I am proud that these guys come to practice at night to play against the pro´s despite having to get ready for the exams. I don´t think that there are many other BBL teams that have this type of situation.
Are the Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg in the drivers seat now against the Fraport Skyliners who have three tough games against Berlin, Ulm and Bamberg?
No we aren´t. All that matters is who we have played and who we still need to play. Frankfurt still has to play Giessen and that speaks for itself. I think at the moment that we are even with Frankfurt. We still play against many of the same opponents that Frankfurt had with Munich, Berlin and Artland. Frankfurt had some big wins the last weeks against Tuebingen. Frankfurt has improved a lot and have two new players. They look good. The most important thing now is that we concentrate only on ourselves. We need every win.
What have you liked the most about living in Ludwigsburg?
I like the food especially the Spaetzle. The people are straight here. It has been a good experience here for me. This is an easy place to work. I can concentrate 100% on my job.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Parenthood with my kids.
Thanks John for the chat.