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“I would have hated that basketball”

Ludwigsburg. The passion for the sport is definitely still there, says Markus Jochum. The former coach of the MHP giants Ludwigsburg no longer wants to work only as a trainer. “It’s nice to see it from afar,” says Jochum. However, the upcoming game of the giants is a very special one for the 57-year-old: Today (7 p.m. / Magentasport) the Ludwigsburg team meet the MLP Academics Heidelberg in the Bundesliga. For both clubs, Jochum was both a player on the floor and a coach on the sidelines. Today he is a high school teacher in Bammental near Heidelberg.

Heidelberg and Ludwigsburg: great history, new names

From 1987 to 1996, Jochum played for BG Ludwigsburg in the Bundesliga, then moved on to USC Heidelberg, where he moved to the coaching bench in 2000. A lot has happened in both clubs since then, which is shown not least by the name changes of both Bundesliga clubs. Both teams have also moved from the circular sports hall and the Olympic base to the MHP Arena and the SNP Dome. “I’m pleased that both have played so successfully in recent years. Heidelberg in the Bundesliga is a minor sensation,” says Jochum.

At his time in Heidelberg, that was hardly imaginable. From 2000 to 2007 he was the coach of the USC in the 2nd Bundesliga, while also teaching mathematics and physical education at the Helmholtz Gymnasium in Heidelberg. “It was clear that if we were promoted, I wouldn’t stay as a coach. But of course we still wanted to get the maximum out of it. We were never far behind,” he looks back.

In 2012, the name was changed to MLP Academics, and in the same year Matthias Lautenschläger was appointed managing partner. His father Manfred founded the MLP financial sales company in 1971 and became a millionaire. “That way the money is secured,” says Jochum. In his time it was different. “The budget for the first division was never there.”

First leg win for the MLP Academics

After a strong start to the season, the Heidelbergers confidently secured their place in the class. In the first leg in the SNP Dome, Heidelberg beat the then harmless giants 73:67. At this point in the season, there was no telling how stable the giants would be as the game progressed.

Already five games before the end of the main round, Ludwigsburg secured their place in the play-offs and won bronze in the Champions League Final Four last weekend. Successes that the giants also owe to their coach John Patrick. “He has insane turnover in his squad year after year. He always has to put together a new team,” says Jochum. “But he has a knack for bringing in big talent. That’s why he’s always up front.” The dark side of this, however, is the lack of consistency in development. Top teams with much higher budgets such as Bayern Munich or Alba Berlin can hardly be caught. “The way things are at the moment, the semifinals are the maximum that can be achieved,” says Jochum.

The Saarland native describes his one and a half seasons as a coach in Ludwigsburg as a “great adventure”. However, they were not characterized by the same success as the recent seasons under Patrick. Jochum was released in December 2011, returned to Heidelberg as a teacher and in the meantime coached the women’s team at TG Sandhausen.

Different coach philosophies

He and Patrick have very different philosophies. “He’s playing a basketball that’s out for panic. He changes a lot, gives the players short playing times, attacks quickly and forces the opponent to do things they really don’t want to do,” says Jochum and laughs: “I would have hated this basketball as a player.” As a coach, he himself has the controlled game with lots of passes and more rhythm preferred.

Nevertheless: Jochum is keeping his fingers crossed for the giants this season, especially since the Heidelbergers in today’s game against Ludwigsburg are neither against relegation nor about play-off placements. With a win, Ludwigsburg would secure fourth place and thus home rights in the first play-off round against Ulm. Jochum then considers it realistic to reach the semifinals. “And maybe more. Then I’ll come and watch the finale,” he announces.

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