Germany learned a harsh lesson in their surprise 86-84 defeat to Italy on Monday which sent them reeling out of the European Championships.
Once a side joins the elite as the Germans did by virtue of their bronze-medal winning team last summer at the World Championships, the hunters become the hunted.
"We´re devastated and disappointed,” said Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks superstar.
|Dirk Nowitzki's and Germany's title hopes were stopped by Italy|
"We can´t believe that we have to go home at this early stage. I hope the team will stay together and attack again in two years. We under-estimated the fact that other teams were out to hunt us after last summer´s bronze medal."
Coach Henrik Dettmann, whose contract expires at the end of October, said: "This is a very disappointing day for all of us. We came here with high expectations - maybe too high."
Dettmann led Germany to a fourth-place finish at Euro 2001 and the bronze medal at the World Championships, but he has been the target of criticism lately and might be out of a job soon.
Nowitzki´s mentor, Holger Geschwindner, had recently hit out at the German coaches in the media. "Nowitzki does not get any outside help," he said.
"And I don´t mean his team-mates".
German federation (DBB) vice-president Wolfgang Hilgert, addressing Dettman´s six-year-stint on Monday, said: "It´s over."
"I´m not thinking about my personal future now - all my thoughts have been with my team," Dettman said.
The early exit isn’t likely to help basketball´s popularity in Germany, which had enjoyed a steady increase over the past few years.
Another triumph with the help of charismatic Nowitzki would have meant even more media and TV attention.
German TV stations ARD and ZDF had shown all three group games live but the Monday night "shock", as DBB president Roland Geggus described the upset, wasn’t aired live on television.
All their games, had they reached the quarter-finals, would have been broadcast live.