Chris fleming is a "big name" in german basketball. Between 1994 and 2000, the 47-year-old u.S. Citizen played basketball for the regional league team TSV quakenbruck (now the artland dragons) and then took over his first coaching position there. In 2008 he moved to the league giant brose baskets bamberg, with whom he celebrated numerous successes until 2014. This was followed by engagements as german national coach (2014 to september 2017) as well as assistant coach with the denver nuggets (2015/2016) and until today brooklyn nets (since 2016/2017).
Mr. Fleming, an eventful and exciting year 2017 has come to an end. How would you sum up your personal sporting experience over the past twelve months??
Chris fleming: well, after moving to brooklyn with my family completely, it was a pretty rough adjustment at first. Especially for
my wife, who is from the small town of quakenbruck and has lived there up to now. After a certain start-up time, we got along better and better. As far as my work with the brookyln nets was concerned, you could clearly see that the process we had started was moving forward. That was and is very observable. As far as the national team is concerned, it was simply a wonderful farewell! I had the opportunity to play a rough tournament with these guys again. These are simply memories that I will always carry with me. I also have to say in all honesty that my work as the german national coach has been the best thing i’ve done in basketball so far. I will definitely miss this.
Since this season, five germans have been playing in the NBA: dirk nowitzki, maxi kleber (both dallas mavericks), dennis schroder (atlanta hawks), paul zipser (chicago bulls) and daniel theis (boston celtics). As a former national coach, does it make you proud that there are currently so many germans in the strongest league in the world as never before??
Yes, definitely! On the one hand, i’m glad to see that more and more german guys are coming up. But also how well they sell themselves on their teams. They just needed the chance to show themselves in the nba. I think that each of them has now found his way to play a good role in the teams. Daniel was always known to be a very good "rough" player is. With maxi, too, I had been convinced for a couple of years that he could actually make the leap here – despite his serious injury in the meantime. So much the better that these two guys have also made it and have already shown that they belong in the NBA.
To stay with daniel theis and maxi kleber: were you still a little surprised that the two rookies made the jump to the NBA so quickly??
Well, daniel’s position in boston was clear from the start. They knew exactly what was in store for him there – and in the end that’s exactly what happened. With his playing style he fits perfectly to the celtics. In my eyes, he’s having a really strong season there so far.
And maxi kleber?
As far as his personality is concerned, it was not so clear to me at the beginning where and how he will fit into the team of the dallas mavericks. With nerlens noel, dwight powell, salah mejri or of course dirk nowitzki there are several good guys in his position. I think that after he got over from the "rough" ones.. Is the most stable defender in germany, he first found a place and earned playing time through this track. Little by little, you can see his strong offensive qualities now. Especially for a player of his size of 2,07 meters maxi has a really good and consistent throwing ability.
Another player you had under your wing in the national team was dennis schroder. The 24-year-old has risen to the position of team leader with the atlanta hawks after numerous departures. When you look at his development process – not least at the 2017 european championships, when he also led the german team to the quarterfinals: were you convinced that he could also take on this unrestricted leadership role with the hawks??
He already had a very similar role last season in atlanta after the departure of jeff teague to indiana. There was certainly no doubt that he could do it. But of course, you have to work on such a leadership role accordingly. Dennis has certainly grown in this respect compared to the previous season. You must not forget that he is only 24 years old. With increasing experience, he will play this role even more dominantly and try everything to bring his hawks back to the top
Uber nowitzki, who made his 20. After the NBA season is over, there’s really not much left to say. Can you nevertheless put into words what influence he has had on german basketball in recent years??
That is really very, very difficult. I was lucky enough to be in germany when dirk made the jump to the NBA in the 1998/1999 season. From that point of view, I was able to follow this development very closely. Basically, this whole story is simply unique. Today i am happy that dirk still has spab and still plays in the nba. And not only that, he is still able to perform at a very, very high level. He has already proven that in several games this season. When the time comes for him to say goodbye, I hope that he will be able to enjoy it accordingly.
Do you have the impression that the "new german wave" has changed the way you play basketball? In the nba the international view of german basketball has changed?
Oh yes, definitely! I have already said that the quality of the individual players in the german bundesliga has definitely increased over the past five years. So I’m convinced that the five guys who are currently playing in the NBA will certainly not be the last german players. There is still a lot to come in the next few years. From that point of view, this speaks for a really good future of german basketball.
How intensively do you still follow this?
Since my current job with the nets is very time-consuming, I’m unfortunately not in a position to follow everything intensively. I still watch euroleague games and some BBL games on a regular basis, if possible. Apart from that, I often talk to friends and get informed about current events. My interest in basketball in germany is still there in any case.
They have mentioned their activity with the brookyln nets. Can you describe your duties as assistant coach??
Now that we are several co-coaches, each of us has two or three players to look after and take care of. Beyond that, everyone gets "their opposing teams, which he has to take under the magnifying glass and then prepare his own team for it. But also in the training itself you lead certain drills and areas. Otherwise, the whole thing is not too strictly structured with us. Everybody can, may and should also – for example in the defense or offense – contribute permanently. We work in this respect in a real training team, in which it makes a lot of fun.
When you talk to brooklyn players, officials or journalists, they all have high praise for their work. It is said that your path to becoming a head coach in the NBA is clearly mapped out. Have you set yourself this goal??
Of course i would be very happy about that, of course! But first I have to make sure that I become a good co-coach. If I made it, maybe the next step will come one day. But of course, my goal is to work as a head coach again in the future.
The interview was conducted by dirk sing.
From quakenbruck to bamberg: the basketball career of u.S. Player chris fleming in germany began in 1994. At the age of 24 he moved to quakenbruck as a player. After the end of his playing days, he took over as coach of the artland dragons in 2000 and led the second division team to the BBL three years later and to the cup victory in 2008. He then moved to brose baskets bamberg – and there he enjoyed a successful time with. Between 2010 and 2013, brose celebrated four championship titles, and three times even managed the double of championship and cup wins. Brose had matured into germany’s showcase basketball club. But then came a weak season. Bamberg was second in the main round to enter the play-offs, but was defeated in round 1 by the artland dragons. In may 2014, brose dismissed fleming – even the fans’ actions, which had campaigned for the successful coach to stay on, were of no avail. Fur fleming followed stations as national coach (from 1. December 2014) and assistant coach at NBA clubs.