BERLIN (EuroBasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Frank Menz proved himself to be a very good coach when leading Germany to impressive fifth-place finishes at the last two U20 European Championships.
In December, the country’s basketball federation showed what they think about his ability by naming him as the senior men’s national team coach.
Menz will this summer attempt to lead the Germans into the FIBA Basketball World Cup when the national side plays at EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia.
He has big shoes to fill because last summer, Svetislav Pesic guided the Germans to eight wins in as many games in the EuroBasket Qualification Round.
Menz, who assisted Pesic, gave this interview to FIBA.com.
FIBA.com: How was Germany’s U20 team able to improve from 15th place in Division B in 2006 to fifth in Division A (2011, 12)?
Menz: We introduced a new concept back in 2006-2007, together with former national team head coach Dirk Bauermann. After that, our program continued to develop. In addition to that, we put a lot of effort into changing the structure in Germany. We introduced two youth leagues and the federation put pressure on the league to work on developing German players. Now, each BBL team has to have at least two full-time coaches for its youth teams.
FIBA.com: Was there a big change in approach of Germany's senior team this past summer to previous years?
Menz: The biggest change was the competition format. None of the players had ever played a European qualification tournament. Additionally, our team was very young and - except two players (Jan-Hendrik Jagla and Heiko Schaffartzik) - was rather inexperienced on the international level. To me, the experience from this past summer together with the successful way of playing is a very good basis for the players and their next challenges.
FIBA.com: What important lesson did the players learn, or did you learn as an assistant, from a great like Pesic?
Menz: Due to the changes we had to face within the team and with the competition format, the team was very young. I think the players learned a lot from their offensive freedom. Players like Lucca Staiger, for instance, who struggled during their club season gained a lot of confidence from this.
FIBA.com: Do you think European basketball is more competitive now than when you began working as a coach, and also, how crucial is it for Germany to have good youth national teams?
Menz: I think that European basketball has become more competitive and that the teams have moved closer together. At the 2011 U20 European Championship, former top nations suddenly had to play in the relegation round. This shows how strong and how unpredictable European basketball has become. In this regard, it is crucial to have good youth teams and to assure playing experience on the highest level possible - for all players.
FIBA.com: Should Germany make a commitment to youth and not rely on the veterans anymore, or must the national team have a balance of old and young players?
Menz: It is always important to have a solid mix within the teams. Experienced players are able to help the young guys in certain situations - on and off the court.
FIBA.com: Are you facing the biggest challenge of your coaching career now that Germany have put the national team reins in your hands?
Menz: Coaching the men’s national team certainly is a huge challenge but I am ready for it and eager to start. It does not really change my daily life a whole lot as I know all the players and I have worked with them before (youth teams and A2 senior team).