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“The Prodigal Sons”: Tale of Finland’s U18 Team

August 14th, 2010 · No Comments

Some eyebrows were raised in May 2010, when Finnish Basketball Federation announced that Gordon Herbert, a coach with one of the most impressive résumé in Finnish basketball history, was about to accept the head coaching duty of Finland’s u18 team.

The 1992/93 born Finnish basketball team became a success story this summer playing gritty, defensive-minded basketball under coach Herbert and earning a promotion to Division A. “The Prodigal Sons”, as the players like to call their team, hasn’t been labeled as one of the most talented Finnish basketball age groups, but they got the job done while Finnish u20 and u16 teams are still waiting for their Division A spot.

Here’s some quotes by Gordon Herbert, courtesy of a week-old interview by Finnish Basketball Federation website

About coaching juniors

Coaching a junior national team was a fresh and exciting possibility to me. I had permission to get back to basics and make basketball as simple as possible. Working with kids is rewarding, because they do everything to learn and become better.

About coaching his own son (Mikael Herbert)

To be honest, Mikael didn’t want me to coach his team (laughs). Mikael was right when he thought that if I coached the team, I would demand even more from him than anyone else. I tried to teach my players how important it is to act professionally. Occasionally I had to be stricter than usually.

About team play

We played man to man defense all the time and we probably had 2-3 set plays. You don’t need more than that. I wanted to help guys understand, that as long as they do all the basics well, they don’t need to know how to play zone or trap defenses or master dozens of set plays.
Probably the area we worked the most with was 1-on-1 defense and playing offense against different defenses. Me and my assistant coaches wanted to give kids tools to improve themselves and create basketball culture for years to come.

About team performance

Our first game against Netherlands was shaky, but after that we came better every day. Of course I hoped we would have played better in the final against Czech Republic, but after the Division A spot clinching game against Israel, we were mentally done. Half of my players were crying in the locker room and the next morning I only saw blank stares and tired faces.

About team spirit

Guys worked their butts off throughout the summer and after our first loss, our team spirit was exceptional. After every single game, our confidence grew and before the Israel game started, I was sure that if we kept the game close, we would win in the end because Israel couldn’t handle the pressure. My players were fearless, I saw it in their eyes.

About summer 2011

Everything depends on the 2010/11 Bundesliga season and my team’s (Deutsche Bank Skyliners) performance. If I had to say right away, I’d say I would like to come back and coach either the u20 or u18 team next summer. I believe that for the 1993/94 generation, the next season will be something to remember, because a year from now they have the chance to play against best basketball players of their age group.

About Finnish national team system

Coach Henrik Dettmann’s job as Finland’s men’s head coach has been tremendous, but I believe he has done even a better job creating an internationally competitive, professional junior national team system. It was very easy for me to step into the system as a head coach because everything worked just as planned, including the details.

written by Hippo

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