By Eurohoops Team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Former player and current general manager of FC Bayern Munich, Marko Pesic, set his future on and off the court plans for the German champions talking about transfers and departures, comparing Bayern’s basketball side to the football side, also touched on many more topics in an extended interview posted on his club’s official site. The first two parts (PART 1, PART 2) are available.
Per FC Bayern Munich:
Marko, during one game you chew 20 pieces of gum and drink a lot of water, even if you’re not thirsty – all for reassurance. How many packs and how many liters did you go through this summer in the decisive series with Alba Berlin?
Four to five half-liter bottles for sure, I didn’t count the chewing gum. When I started my job here, Uli Hoeness asked me why I wasn’t sitting on the bench. I said, “I can do it, but I’ll be in the way more than I’ll help.” No, I’m just too restless.
Double in 2018, Championship in 2019 – is the FCBB the new force in German basketball?
Probably this is a bad answer but I don’t care that much. I’m interested in what we’re going to do. We have the development in our hands. We have opened all the doors that we can open ourselves. Are we the new great force in German basketball? Currently yes. Will we stay it? That is our goal, our obligation. We have a very young team behind the scenes that is building this department so that it can be successful in the long term. Success must not be defined solely by the result on the court.
The footballers have been champions seven times in a row. Questions like “how” are actually a nuisance: Is that also true of basketball?
No, we are part of this big club and must not be annoyed. We also have our standards, and they are the highest. You just have to never forget that we don’t have as long a history as our footballers. We develop and we develop quickly. We can learn an incredible amount from our footballers, in all aspects. I always wonder when people don’t register what an enormous mental achievement it is to be the hunted player in every game and still be at the top in the end.
A year without a title would be a bad year for footballers. Is it the same in basketball?
The crucial point is that you don’t question the whole development when you don’t win a title. I assume that we will win titles every year – I have been a competitor since my childhood, I have to think so. But of course there are never any guarantees.
Uli Hoeness wants to qualify for the top 8 in the Euroleague.
I agree in principle with our President that we must aim for that. But in operational terms this is a mammoth task. My vision is that we will be the basketball capital of Europe in the foreseeable future. The club has every opportunity as we have a lot to offer in terms of sport, and the best framework conditions. Munich is a wonderful city, in the heart of Europe. A basketball culture is developing here, the international scene is already registering this, and word of it will continue to spread. Before the third final, we had more than 20,000 ticket enquiries. The thrilling victories against Fenerbahce Istanbul and FC Barcelona were an incredible advertisement and I am sure that we will become a top European team.
So, playoffs next season?
I don’t know if that will have to be next year. You can’t guarantee that if you take a look at the spectacular transfers that have already taken place in the EuroLeague so far. But what I can guarantee is that we in the club will get the most out of it. And if it takes a year or two longer, that’s okay. It simply has to be sustainable. Jordi Bertomeu, the head of the Euroleague, recently said that the other clubs should look to Munich because they are working so exemplarily on their structure. For me, such a statement is worth as much as a title.
In 2021 the new hall will come – will you have to be an international heavyweight by then at the latest?
It’s our job that people accept basketball even more and that we live up to the expectations that we ourselves have created. But the Audi Dome will remain our living room, where we always like to play. We won’t give it up for the next ten years. We then go to the SAP Garden for the big games. This will be our ballroom.
Do the players and their advisors really understand that they are not earning millions in salaries even though FC Bayern invests large sums in football?
They have to. In the beginning it was difficult, but now we know how we work and with what means. Our former players are worth their weight in gold. Because they are our best ambassadors. A Malcolm Delaney or Tyrese Rice come around in the basketball world and talk about their experiences in Munich. That helps us a lot. The image you get of FC Bayern Basketball is getting stronger and stronger.
What can FC Bayern Basketball do to to bring in the best players?
It’s no coincidence that every newcomer feels at home here within a very short time. Last season Derrick Williams came from the NBA, from another world, and after ten days our veteran, Alex King said to me: “Wow, he feels like he’s been here for years!” Now we actually won Greg Monroe, among others, for us, who surely noticed Derrick’s way. Talking about family in sports is often an empty phrase. But we’ve all been involved in this project since it was launched a good eight years ago – and that’s something that’s spreading to the floor. Our mentality is that an Alba Berlin not only plays against five players here, but against all of us. Of course, players leave us for various reasons, like now after three years Devin Booker, but everyone has at least a lump in their throat when they go.
Marko, club president Uli Hoeness is proud that fluctuation among basketball players has been kept to a minimum in past seasons. Some changes have been made recently, as short-term contracts are much more practical than in football. How difficult is it to have continuity?
We look at the playing qualities, but we also pay attention, perhaps more than others, to personality and character. To be up to date: After borrowing Robin Amaize and Devin Booker’s not quite expected farewell, we are now forming a team with at least seven players who will stay with us, some of them for the fourth or even sixth year. Whereby Paul Zipser is actually also one of them. The most important thing is that players develop empathy for our project. Without empathy there’s no identity and without identity you can’t take responsibility. And Mr. Hoeness is right when he puts his faith in this continuity. We haven’t won our titles recently because we’re so much better than the others but because we have this community.
Can this be maintained in the future if you want to continue to develop at the highest level?
It’s still a professional sport, and this includes it being a business. But the environment in Munich is definitely special. When I came to FC Bayern, I was looking for an apartment. Then my doorbell rang and Steffen Hamann stood there and said, “Come down, I’m here with a buddy, we’ll help you with your search now!” Then I went to his car and Bastian Schweinsteiger was sitting at the wheel! I didn’t even know him at that time and he said that Steffen had told him I needed an apartment, so he wanted to help me. We drove three hours through Munich, Schwabing, Gärtnerplatz, everywhere – and I always thought: Where is the hidden camera? After all, this is Schweinsteiger here! But then I noticed that this is the culture of FC Bayern. I made up my mind: If Schweinsteiger sets an example, I have to as well. The players remember that. Vladimir Lucic recently had very, very good offers but as soon as he had the security of being able to stay another three years, he didn’t think about it for another hour. The contract negotiations show that they want to be here, they firmly believe in our future and in what has been and will be built here.
Losing a Paul Zipser or Maxi Kleber to the NBA hurt. How can you find a model to keep such young players and build them up into long-time stars in Munich?
Our goal is to eventually reach the same level as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and the big Greek and Turkish clubs. But you always have to say that, unlike other clubs, we don’t have any cross-subsidies from football. We have to see that we are perhaps offsetting our somewhat weaker financial position by other aspects. Where are FC Bayern’s competitive advantages? They are our cohesion and continuity. With us, a good player can develop into a very good one. When Paul and Maxi left, we weren’t as far as we are today. Danilo Barthel could certainly have joined the NBA now but he stayed. This is because he recognizes the possibilities here. Paul now also sees the possibilities, which is why he is back again after three years.
You yourself stopped playing at the age of 30 with the reason: “Everything was just about earning money, I don’t play basketball for that”. How can that be reconciled with the position as managing director?
I still have a differentiated view of things. I played basketball from an early age because I come from a basketball family – it was never about earning money. Some people can now call me a romantic, but nobody can tell me the opposite. If I don’t love what I do, I have to do something else. Our players will always get better offers, because without a doubt you can earn more with other clubs than with the basketball team of FC Bayern. But we are on a good way to anchor a spirit here that money is not everything. Our current team core suggests to me that it works. They have a tremendous character.
When Uli Hoeness wasn’t here, development came to a halt. How important is the president?
His importance for FC Bayern and his life’s work are beyond question. He has been hugely important not only for our project, but for the entire BBL. For example, he is responsible for ensuring that the league distributes the proceeds from the media revenue to the clubs. This is a milestone for the development of the Bundesliga. From my personal point of view, I can tell the following story about him: My contract expired two years ago. At the end of June, Mr Hoeness asked when we would extend the contract and I told him we had to restructure first. When we had implemented everything, he asked again: “What about your contract?” I said FC Bayern might need someone else now. He said: “Nothing there! There’s no such thing as simply stopping, that’s out of the question!” He said, we’ll extend by two years, then we’ll see how everything develops. I think I needed such an experienced man to stand behind me in this situation. We have rebuilt and built so much since then. Mr Hoeness was right: simply stopping when there is something to be done, it is not possible. I am always glad about his clear words.
Where will FC Bayern Basketball be in five years?
I hope that our basic attitude remains as it is today: In the next five years we will be one of the best clubs in Europe, competitively as well as organisationally.
You have won the championship six times as a player and now three times as a sports director and managing director, what are your futures hopes?
Let’s see, my contract now runs for another three years. My personal goal once was to achieve a total of ten championship titles. There is still one missing. But I don’t think I’ll be able to sit back and relax. I’m not the type for that.