David Pick - Teil 33

Daniele Baiesi: "I talked with ALBA Berlin GM Himar Ojeda and I said - I see you're a little stressed. The Euroleague is a different beast. Of course we want to win more games, but we are rookies in the Euroleague".

The recent MagnetaSport Podcast hosted by Michael Koerner and my man Alexander Dechant with Bayern Munich GM Daniele Baiesi was F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C. It would be crime if I don't highlight some of the things that were discussed.

The above noted quote, for example, is something Baiesi and I had digested multiple times. Not many people know Baiesi, though they think he lives a pretty easy life. The truth is he does, but nothing was given to him. He earned it all.

Baiesi is a tough negotiator, a philosopher, a brilliant scouter and tactician, and one of the best debaters I've encountered who will challenge and question everything you believe or say - whether it be about life or basketball. He is a philosophic-quote-spitting machine, who remembers ancient lines and phrases from coaches, politicians and movies like it was something he heard or read in the morning newspaper over coffee (I'm now not even sure he drinks coffee. He made me question that belief just now. Let's go with a glass of red wine. I know he loves red wine).

"Here's a quote from the movie Blade Runner," he sparked during the interview: "The light that shines twice as bright lasts half the time." He also said, "There are people who burn their candle from both ends." WOW. DEEP.

When I was mapping out the outline of this blog, nothing could've prepared me for what the people upstairs at Bayern Munich were cooking for all of us, especially for then Head Coach Dejan Radonjic.

Furthermore, I was going to digest how ALBA Berlin made "mini history" and handed Maccabi Tel Aviv its first back-to-back-to-back losing streak of the season, given all the injuries the Israeli team is suffering from. However, my vision and thoughts were crushed because ALBA blew a really good opportunity to top Maccabi.

I'm not sure where the coaching staffs at Munich and Berlin saw their teams halfway through the season, but I can promise you that being two of the worst clubs in the Euroleague was NOT staring them back in the mirrors. ALBA (5-13) is ranked dead last alongside Zalgiris Kaunas and Zenit Saint Petersburg, while Munich (6-12) isn't at all far ahead with just one game between both German powerhouses.

I want to freeze our discussion surrounding the unbelievable karma that caught up with Mr. Radonjic - fired after a 30 point blowout on the road against his former club Crvena Zvezda, which he had led to the 2015-16 playoffs.

We will talk about that soon enough, but I want to micro digest this ALBA vs Maccabi game. I wasn't impressed that Tel Aviv brought 1,000 fans to Berlin. ALBA has a FIRE home gym and great fans. Nothing should phase them.

That being said, Omri Casspi OUT, Tarik Black OUT, Maccabi in bad shape with Ls vs Anadolu Efes and Zalgiris Kaunas. I thought ALBA was going to dominate. But we learned that names on the back of the jerseys don't win games. It's the name on the front that counts and matters - who is more of a team and plays with more heart and dedication will most of the time prevail. I'm not at all saying that ALBA didn't show heart and devotion - because they did, they really gave Maccabi a good battle - however I wanted to see them capitalize on how awful Maccabi was.

So, how awful was Maccabi? Check out this breakdown: Othello Hunter 0 FG made. Aaron Jackson 0 FG made. Nate Wolters 0 FG made. Yovel Zoosman 0 FG made. How crazy is that?!

It doesn't matter if ALBA dropped six of their last seven games - THIS GAME WAS A MUST WIN. Not for the standings, but for the colture.

Elijah Bryant took control of the game and dominated with 5-6 3-Pointers made, sparking a tough road win for Tel Aviv. ALBA's rotten luck could've have gotten any worse with Bryant catching fire. Just 48H later he was ICE COLD staring 0-5 2-Pointers vs Hapoel Holon and finishing 1-7 total from that range. Is that why they say "lightning never strikes the same place twice". Haha

The fire alarm went off in Munich as Bayern announced the dismissal of veteran guard DeMarcus Nelson, shortly followed by the firing of 49-year-old head coach Dejan Radonjic on the brink of a monster 30 point blowout to his former club Red Star Belgrade. It was the last straw that Munich would swallow. The timing was odd - right before a home game against the shaky CSKA Moscow - but not totally out of the blue.

Radonjic dropped six of his last eight games with a season average of minus 19.5 point differential. So in all honesty he was getting blown out the gym, flat out run over and demolished. These were brutal defeats for the Bundesliga's undefeated No.1 seed. It was a bitter-sweet separation from a coach that led the club to the 2018 and 2019 German League Championships, though a message was needed to be sent.

It was more than just the language barriers the drifted him from his soldiers. Radonjic might've won some battles, but he lost the ultimate war. His assistant Oliver Kostic, 46, would inherit the club going forward.

Koerner and Dechant did a good job on their podcast getting Baiesi to open up about a lot of tough decisions. One of his answers, that you'll never hear another Sports Director voice out loud, was incredible. That's Baiesi - good or bad, cold or hot, in rain or in shine - he will be 100% honest. 

"I can't be disappointed in the team. How can I be disappointed in something that I contributed to the most - if not the only part - to put this team together? I am responsible. I am the Sports Director. Is there a chance that I can be released? This is a question that can't be addressed to me. Seriously, I feel responsible, but it has nothing to do about being fired. I don't operate in fear. I have other issues that I'm dealing with that if I would approach in fear, I'd be dead now."

Baiesi was never a good athlete nor did he play basketball. He was a different kind of individual - he studied accounting and got into a physical confrontation punching a professor. He was, at one point, living on the edge. But he's a calmer individual now. There are some stories that should be remained untold. LOL

Panathinaikos' head coach Rick Pitino's quote on pressure was raised in the podcast. I shared a similar perspective with Baiesi, and although I understand where Pitino comes from, I don't entirely agree with his statement that "pressure is your best friend in life."

IMHO (IN MY HUMBLE OPINION), pressure comes from the expectations that one sets for himself. Losing a close game down the stretch can be stressful to X but irrelevant to Y. Let's me tell you the truth - leaving a safe job and secure check each month in the media to become an agent with two kids and a family to provide for on a daily basis, betting on yourself - THAT'S PRESSURE. I don't think Mike James feels pressure. Shane Larkin doesn't feel pressure.

Baiesi: "Pressure is there to show your performing at a high level and it comes from expectations around, or expectations within myself. I respect such a successful coach for his words, but there are different kinds of pressure."

Don't think that it all came easy for Baiesi. He's been down that road of being laid off, like most of us. "I've been fired four times in my life so I know what it feels like to lose an opportunity. Failure is never failure. It's the end of something, but hopefully also the beginning of something better."

On the decision to unload Dejan Radonjic: "I felt Dejan was tired about the situation around him, and for us we had to do it and we went for it. These are complex decision that don't happen because of one or two things. We found ourselves at a crossroads and needed to decide if to keep going on the same path or change directions, and thought it would've been hard to get results if we went down the same road. So in order to try to get the best out of this season, we needed to make a drastic change. The pressure that I personally feel is taking a job away from a person, and it's never pleasant."

Some of the numbers Baiesi addressed that forced Munich's hand were - "we play the slowest pace in Euroleague" and "we are the worst team in defensive transition." This wasn't a rush decision. It was very much calculated before executed: "We didn't flip a coin."

More from Baiesi: "We didn't offer coach an extension after we beat Real Madrid, and didn't fire him after we got beat by Baskonia. Dejan's technical proposal wasn't received by the players anymore. We can't say now this was a mistake or that was a bad player to sign - we can have that discussion at the end of the seasons."

Carrying on their backs embarrassing defeats vs Zalgiris Kaunas (73-98) and Red Star Belgrade (63-93), Munich was set to host the reigning Euroleague Champions from Moscow. Baiesi had little hopes to sneak out a win, but high expectations to see how his men would respond on the floor. It's OK to lose to a superior team in tactics, schemes, and talent - but there is no excuse for lack of heart, energy, or passion. "I don't expect to see tactics and Xs and Os vs CKSA to be a difference maker. I expect to see people diving on the floor, playing defense and hustling. We are very low in hustle points in the Euroleague rankings. We lack that and we need to show more purpose and desire and toughness. It looks like we are playing with no purpose."

CSKA would go on to secure the road W in Munich, but the Bavarians drew compliment for their resilient approach and heart and drive to continue to battle despite an early margin, to fight back and cause a scare within Dimitris Itoudis' camp: "I think it was plus 20 for us. But then Bayern reacted pretty well. We gave up 52 points in the second half and 27 in the third quarter. They wanted to compete as a team. Congratulations to Bayern."

Oliver Kostic: "We achieved many things in this game. We were stiff and nervous. There is not much to change in a short time, but we worked on speeding up the game, to bring back our dignity. I think we did a great job. We played with great energy in the second half and great enthusiasm, and good numbers. We were fighting on the floor, all together. In the end, we got close, but we couldn't take the next step, but we should be really satisfied about how we responded in the second half and the way we looked on the floor."


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