Congratulations on the German Championship! “I didn’t play a big part in it,” says Henning Harnisch with a smile. The Vice President of Alba Berlin is of course still happy about the title, which the basketball Bundesliga club from the capital made perfect on Sunday with a 96:81 victory at FC Bayern Munich. “It was a nice train ride back,” he says the morning after in conversation with the OR.
Becoming a champion is nothing new for the 54-year-old. The 2.02 meter man has won a total of nine Bundesliga titles in his career. And he was also part of the biggest triumph of a German basketball team to date, was one of the important men on the floor when the big sensation came at the home European Championship in 1993.
They called him “Flying Henning” back then – because it seemed as if he could fly when he jumped off and hammered the ball through the trap. What can be seen again and again in the Bundesliga today was still a rarity 30 years ago. It is he who made dunking socially acceptable in Germany.
Harnisch likes to look back – on his sporting successes, but also on his youth in Marburg, on his school days at the Philippinum. There, as a fifth grader, he first came into contact with sport, which later became an important part of his life. He remembers the basketball club in which the teachers Fritz Tent and Konrad Ohlwein were involved, and later also Hans Brauer. “I figured I’d go there.” He did. Then also to the club training of VfL Marburg. He did an exchange year in the USA, of course to play basketball. Then, in 1985, he joined MTV Gießen – the start of his Bundesliga career.
His path led him to Leverkusen, then to Berlin – but also always back to his old homeland. “Marburg has always remained my anchor point,” he says. His mother lives in Cappel, as did his father, who died a few weeks ago. Some friends from before are still here, others are back home. Here he also gets to know new people, for example through the Alba project “Sport networked”, which will soon also start in Marburg and Stadtallendorf with local partners. The aim is to make exercise offers easily accessible to children who have previously had little connection to sports clubs. It is an affair of the heart for Harnisch, who in his function at the Berlin club is primarily responsible for the youth sector.
Meet friends and stroll through the weekly market
It’s one more reason for the former basketball star to come to Marburg and then to do what he likes to do in the city – for example to visit the weekly market on Saturday. “It’s a beautiful place, a beautiful thing.” He then meets up with friends, drinks a coffee, preferably in a new café on Friedrichsplatz that he has discovered for himself. He also enjoys walks along the Lahn. And he likes to be out and about in the surrounding area: “The older I get, the more I appreciate the nature around Marburg,” he says, describing it as “so beautifully unspectacular and spectacular”.
Not only he, his whole family likes the outdoor pool in Holzhausen am Hünstein. “We have to go there in the summer, that’s great.” He regrets that the outdoor pool in Marburg, the way he knew it from his youth, no longer exists. “Some things are new, other things that I know from before are unfortunately no longer there,” he feels a bit melancholy.
But one thing will definitely not disappear: the castle with the castle wall. For Harnisch it is the “classic place to find myself again”. He then meets up with friends, takes a beer with him, and runs up the mountain. “We then crouch on the wall and look out over the city. That’s just wonderful.”
Henning Harnisch made his debut in the German basketball league when he was just 17, and in three seasons for MTV Gießen he had a very good point average of 14.6 for his young age. He left the University of Washington, for whose team he actually wanted to play, after just a few days in 1988 and then joined Bayer Leverkusen. Born in Marburg, he was one of the key players in the team that won the German championship seven times in a row from 1990 onwards. The title subscription also moved from the Rhineland to Berlin with Harnisch: After two more championships, the winger, who also has five national cup wins in his CV, ended his active career in the summer of 1998. In 13 seasons in the Bundesliga he had scored a total of 6,152 points. He made 169 appearances for Germany and scored 2,079 points. High point with the national team: the 1993 European Championship title in your own country. Harnisch returned to Alba in 2004, first as team manager and later as sports director. He has been the club’s vice president since 2010.
By Stefan Weisbrod