Dickes B up on the Spree? One might assume that Alba Berlin would play Seeed’s old hit at full volume after winning the German basketball championship for the third time. But even during the fourth final on Sunday, when the Berliners were still working on their third win over Bayern Munich in this final series, on their club’s third championship in a row, including the cup win a veritable double, the two commentators on the live broadcast remembered quite humble times.
Marco Baldi, the face, the voice and the soul of the club, predicted a few years ago that Berlin would play third fiddle in the concert of the three Bs in German basketball: Berlin would be written with a small b, so to speak.
Bamberg and Bayern were the rising powers in German basketball; some were chosen by billionaire Michael Stoschek as his hobby and financed by the company Brose, others are sponsored by Bayern patron Uli Hoeneß, who goes in and out of the major sponsors Adidas and Audi, Allianz and Telekom. Back then, from 2014, Bamberg caused a sensation in the Euroleague with coach Andrea Trinchieri and sports director Daniele Baiesi and won the championship three times in a row.
Why are they playing first fiddle?
Both of them are now employed by Bayern, because Stoschek lost his fun in paying the highest salaries in the league, but always getting the feeling that the Nuremberg metropolitan region doesn’t seem particularly sexy for the basketball world. Now only Bayern and Berlin from the Bundesliga play in the Euroleague, the top address of European basketball; the Bavarians with a budget that is about twice as big as Berlin, around 20 million euros, and with an A license as a partner in the exclusive circle. As if on probation, Alba is invited with a wild card.
How do you play the first violin as a lowercase b? When Baldi was handed nothing more than a shoebox with a couple of bills on the first day of his job at DTV Charlottenburg, on May 1, 1990, the leitmotif was clear: be a challenger, a hunter. It has remained so to this day. In competition with the big Bs, this meant compensating for their opportunities. What is lacking in money is made up for in commitment in Berlin.
Alba Berlin is the largest basketball club in Germany; he moves more than 1300 members in his teams, he also cooperates with 175 schools and 25 daycare centers and is now the owner of a daycare center. Henning Harnisch, former national basketball coach, created the huge substructure. Not to systematically search for talent, but to enable young people to exercise in a self-determined manner, to become citizens of sport.
This has become practiced social policy; The model is being copied by social workers and district managers in social hotspots in a dozen cities and communities. This week they are coming together for a three-day “summit” with Alba, interested parties, partners and sponsors in Berlin. Of course there is talent in the crowd. Malte Delow and Jonas Mattisseck from Alba’s first team come from the youth program.
The fact that they also played their part in winning the championship on Sunday has to do with the fact that Baldi has been striving for continuity for 32 years, but does not shy away from critical debate and changes. Five years ago he signed the Spanish sporting director Himar Ojeda. He brought the coaching legend Aito Reneses to Berlin, then seventy years old, and turned the club into something of a youth movement. The champion team is the youngest team in the league.
“The balance between continuity and renewal is our major task,” says Baldi: “Always in context with the environment. We have never made demands on the state of Berlin. Our mentality is: what we do happens and what we don’t do doesn’t happen. We don’t wait for someone to do something for us. We take fate in our hands.”
Three years ago, Alba Berlin was the first club in the Bundesliga to stop cheerleading, the animation of the audience with scantily clad dancers. The reason: girls should play on the floor. This season, the Alba women have been promoted to the Bundesliga. It is unthinkable that Berlin coach Israel Gonzalez would hit a young player whom he angrily took off the field. Such an incident, as the Bavarians experienced with Trinchieri, would shake the credibility of what Alba Berlin lives: to follow one’s own passion with the highest standards. As Baldi puts it: “We let the city ventilate us.” The big B up on the Spree.