Triumph Of A System

By Johannes Baier

Göttingen, winners of the 2010 edition of EuroChallenge, put themselves on the European map in their first year of international competition.

Long before they made it to the Final Four, which they organised in great fashion and finally won in a thrilling title game against Krasnye Krylia people were already talking about the team from central Germany for several reasons.

Christopher McNaughton (BG Göttingen)
Christopher McNaughton must be comfortable with his role in BG Göttingen's guard-oriented system.
The first is their special gym, the Lokhalle (watch feature video here). The former repair shop for steam trains turns into a white and violet mad house every time the home team takes to the hardwood.

A lot has been said and written about one of the most unusual venues in European Basketball and every opposing coach has pointed out how hard it is playing Göttingen in their place.

The second unusual thing is the style of play that American coach John Patrick introduced to this team and which has been highly successful ever since his arrival to the team that was still playing in the second division a couple of years ago.

"We have very simple rules but we extend them to the full court", Patrick said when asked to explain his playing system.

"On offense we only have some basic principles but on defense my players have to be very flexible and ready to play basketball full court for 40 minutes."

Göttingen were known for playing a run and gun style in combination with full court press when they made their way out of 2nd Bundesliga in 2007.

This has changed slightly today.

Despite playing very fast and never shying away from an open shot only a few seconds into the offense the players usually rely on some quick pick and rolls and penetrate and kick to get their teammates open or get their own shot up.

Selfishness or relying solely on individual strengths cannot be found in their offense.

"My players have a lot of freedom on offense and we play a guard oriented game" explained Patrick in the post final press conference.

Around his centers Christopher McNaughton, Jason Boone and Michael Meeks, Patrick usually plays four guards.

On offense that creates mismatches his players use for penetration and on defense it allows them to develop a lot of pressure on the ball handler.

Patrick has several pressure and trapping options ready for his players to use during the game.

They can press the ball handler in a man-to-man press, trap in the backcourt or at the center line as well as in the corners of the front court.

They can switch on every screen, double on ball screens with a very quick rotation on help-side and some other variations of Patrick's rich defensive repertoire.

But what makes his defensive approach really special is how he mixes things up.

Göttingen hardly ever play the same defense twice in a row.

"Our style of play is not for everybody" Patrick said "you need the right players and I credit those guys a lot for coming to every practice ready to work hard on our tiring system"

In fact Patrick and the Göttingen management seem to have found a special combination of players who not only play well together but also form a unit off the court.

There is 38 year old veteran Michael Meeks who is enjoying some success at a late stage of his career and came up big with two three-pointers in the final.

There are the other two German's, Robert Kulawick who made his transition into a good player in Germany's top flight under Patrick and Chris McNaughton who played in the Spanish LEB Silver last year and arguably had the game of his life with 22 points and only one miss against one of the best centers in the competition in Marcus Douthit on Sunday.

And then there is a mix of first and second year players from the United States.

The EuroChallenge Final Four MVP Taylor Rochestie, sharp shooter Ben Jacobson, defensive terrier John Little, and inside force Jason Boone all seem to have made a smooth transition to Europe and coach Patrick's system.

"Playing for Coach Patrick and here in Göttingen is very different from what I was used to in college" stated Taylor Rochestie.

Nevertheless all the players are biting into the project and embrace the hard working approach.

For the management, this has a backside as well.

Coach Patrick, who identifies himself a lot with the organisation and who speaks fluent German will be a wanted man by some top clubs in Europe and so will his players.

For a club that has one of the lowest budgets of all German play-off teams this means that bringing everybody back next season will be close to impossible.

But the enthusiastic group around general manager Marc Franz have done it before when they replaced last season stand outs Charles Lee and Kyle Bailey and were even more successful this year.

Now teams in Eurocup can get ready for a special experience when they play the Violets in the 2010/2011 season.

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