|04 July 2013|
|Hosts Germany sprung a surprise by going all the way to the title at EuroBasket 1993|
By Dimitris Kontos
On 4 July 1993, Germany completed one of the biggest upsets in the history of the EuroBasket by edging out Russia 71-70 in the final and conquering their first - and only, so far - gold medal in the competition.
Twenty years later, a surprising amount of details from that day are still vivid in the memory of Michael Koch, who was then the shooting guard of the German team.
"This is something you can never forget in your life, it's a once in a lifetime experience," the former Telekom Baskets Bonn coach told fibaeurope.com.
"I can still remember the final seconds of the game, when Christian Welp had the and-one play and he made the free throw for us to go up by one point.
"They [Russia] then shot from mid-court and they missed, and Christian ran celebrating from the court straight into the locker rooms.
"We were the underdogs and we went on to win it in our own country, this is something that probably will never happen again in the history of German basketball."
Germany were the hosts of EuroBasket 1993 and played the title game in front of a capacity crowd in Munich, but no one could have predicted that a team which started the tournament with three wins in six games would go on to be crowned European champions for the first time.
"It was a total surprise for us as players, for the fans, for the experts, for the entire country," Koch recalls.
"We didn't go to the tournament thinking we would win a medal even, we said 'let's make it to the second round, that will be a success, and then we see from there.'
"Our team was a good team, we had a good bond together but we didn't have the star players that other teams had.
"Sure, Serbia was not there [because of the UN-imposed embargo] but for example Croatia was there with [Dino] Radja and so on and [Panagiotis] Giannakis was still playing for Greece.
"So we did not have the individuals that the other teams had and when we lost the first game against Estonia everybody thought we would not even make it to the second round.
"But we beat Slovenia [79-57 in the final game of the First Round] and made it through to the next phase and somehow it all clicked and we won the big games."
Germany finished in fourth place in Group 2 of the second round and had to face Spain, who had topped Group 1 with seven wins in eight encounters, in the quarter-finals.
"We were also a bit lucky to beat Spain in that great overtime game [79-77]," Koch explains.
"We then won against Greece [76-73 in the semi-final], so game by game we had got more excited and started believing more and more.
"It was the definition of a Cinderella story," the now 47-year-old German legend adds laughingly.
|Former Bonn head coach Michael Koch had hoped the gold medal would have a stronger effect on the development of basketball in Germany|
THE TRIUMPH AND THE MISSED CHANCE
Koch, who had 140 caps with the national team as a player, won numerous titles with Leverkusen and then added a Euroleague title to his trophy case during his four-year stint at Panathinaikos before becoming a coach and remaining in charge of Bonn for eight seasons.
Few are as qualified as he is to put the triumph of 1993 into perspective, and evaluate its consequences.
"To be honest, I don't think it had the effect everyone hoped and believed it should have," Koch admits.
"I mean we won a European championship in our country and I would say for a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months, there was so much excitement.
"But we didn't, as Germany or as federation or whoever take much advantage out of this big win.
"Today basketball in Germany is very popular, the gyms are full, people come to watch the BBL and everything is fine but we are still too far behind football, even other sports.
"We are not [getting exposure] enough in the media, on TV, that is our real problem.
"I think there was the big chance in 1993 to accomplish this for German basketball, but unfortunately it did not work out."