For six years Sebastian Wild was the only European head coach in NCAA basketball. The 33-year-old ended his tenure at the helm of the women's basketball team at Lees-McRae College this year and returned to his German home, the city of Rostock. Earlier this summer he accepted the job as a head coach of EBC Rostock and plans to take his team and the entire organization to new heights. In an interview with Eurobasket.com Coach Wild talked about the up and coming season in the 1. Regionalliga North, the EBC organization and his journey from Rostock to North Carolina and back.
Moving up to the 2. Bundesliga Pro B has been set as a midterm goal of EBC Rostock. Can you talk about how and when that goal should be achieved and why EBC Rostock would be a good organization to join the Pro B? Sebastian Wild: At this point that is the goal we as an organization have set for ourselves. With that being said; we are a long ways away from achieving that. I've always been convinced that you have to set lofty goals and construct a plan to reach them. For us here in Rostock that goal is to join the Pro B league within the next 5 years. A lot of positive things have happened here over the course of the past 8 years since I left. We are playing in a state-of-the art arena, there is tremendous support from our fans, and most importantly we have started developing a youth league network in the region that designed to develop talented youngsters to support our team. It's really an exciting time here in Rostock, but with that being said, we will have to move step by step without overexerting ourselves - which means everything will take a few more years.
The summer signings that have been made by the RLN teams so far, including numerous imports from the US and Eastern Europe, bode well for an exciting season in the 1. Regionalliga North, but also for an intense fight for the top spots in the league. Will EBC be in the mix for that? Wild: I'm obviously not very familiar with the make up of the RLN, but peeking over to some of the other squads in the league, it is obvious that we are up against some fierce competition. Unfortunately we are not even close to competing with those teams in terms of our resources just yet. The quality of our team, as far as I can evaluate it right now, is nowhere close to where it needs to be for us to compete this year. We have lots of work to do. All of our players are working tremendously hard and every single one of our practice sessions thus far has been very spirited - we are getting better no doubt. This year it is all about 'survival' for us. Our only goal is to hopefully collect enough Ws to stay in the RLN. We have lost some key contributors for last year's sixth place team, and up to this point we have not been able to replace them. I do expect us to complete our roster and add some quality within the next few weeks though. All I know is: We will not be outworked! Not in the front office and not on the court.
You kicked off pre season practice some weeks ago: How has team practice been thus far? Wild: We started practice about 4 weeks ago. However we have only worked in an Individual Skill-work type environment up to this point. That gave me a great opportunity to get to know all the of our personnel much better. In addition our players received a lot of one on one attention and we could spend a great deal on fundamental skill work. I couldn't be happier with how our guys have responded to the 'new intensity' that is demanded of them. They are really embracing the challenge and compete on a daily basis. You can see them improving by the minute. So I really enjoy this 'small group setting' in those workouts. It's what I'm used to since you have about 7 weeks for individual work in the NCAA before you start team sessions. I strongly believe that it is a critical stage of the season, since you lay the foundation and everyone gets so many more repetitions. In the mean time we are still working on our roster for the coming season and hope to be able to start our intense team sessions within the next two weeks.
Many of the players who shaped the face of the EBC Rostock team over the years have crossed or are approaching the 30 years mark: How much of your job includes adding fresh blood to the roster? Wild: That is absolutely critical. We will need to add some younger pieces in the coming years. Rostock is a beautiful city right at the shore of the Baltic Sea with a highly respected University. We hope we can use that to attract some talented, young players that really want to develop and get a quality education. Some of our key players are at the peak of their basketball careers right now. Many of them have a few more years left, performing at an exceptional level. We want to use those years to build around them and the leadership they bring, with younger contributors to ensure a solid foundation here at the EBC for years to come.
As mentioned most of the ambitious RLN teams have signed one or more import players. Will EBC Rostock do the same or do you think it's possible to be successful in the league playing without the help from outside? Wild: Great Question. As far as I can tell after only a few weeks, it will definitely be difficult to compete without 'outside help'... Especially with the new regulations in place in the higher leagues. Even teams in the Bundesliga and Pro-A will have to play with more German talent now. I'm convinced that this will drain some of the young, promising 'home grown' talent out of the lower leagues like the RLN. Some of those kids that would have played in our league are getting called up to play a league or two up. This obviously leaves teams at our level with a void. The 'quick fix' would be to bring in Foreign players for a year and go from there. I'm not a big believer in that strategy. We will have to be very creative in our quest to ensure long term success, especially with our slim budget. However, I do have a ton of contacts to high level NCAA coaches all over the U.S. that have become valued friends of mine over the past 8 years and I'm in touch with a ton of proven U.S. talent that were absolute key players on NCAA Tournament-teams and are beyond hungry for an opportunity to play over here, just in case we feel like we want to go into that direction.
Can you talk about your journey as a basketball coach. How you ended up being appointed the head coach of Lees-McRae College and how all these years with the Bobcats have affected your style of coaching and your way of developing players? And what made you return to Rostock? Wild: I'm not sure how to answer all of that without writing a book. Let's just say I've been very very fortunate over the past 12-13 years. I've been able to establish myself as a young coach here in Germany in the early 2000s, while spending a lot of time in the U.S. back then. I worked a ton of summer top 100 camps on the East Coast and made a lot of connections in the process. I never thought it could lead to a position as a coach at the NCAA level, but I was presented with an opportunity to join a coaching staff in for the 2004 season, which was an absolute dream come true. Two years later I was named the only European Head Coach in all of NCAA basketball. I guess I can say I was very lucky, having been able to live my dream for the past 8 years. On the other hand: Luck is when Opportunity meets preparation. I did work very hard to get to that point and I still do now. It's my passion. The time in North Carolina did mold me a lot; as a person and as a coach. Being able to learn from and compete with some of the top college programs in Nation is a Luxury. I spent countless hours at places like Duke, UNC, Wake Forest, Clemson, NC State, Tennessee, Davidson, the Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Bobcats and so on watching practices and meeting with coaches. I loved that time. As you can imagine, you do learn a lot if you approach every day with an open mind. Why EBC Rostock? My Visa was close to running out and I knew that Rostock was probably the only place I would return to, since my family and a ton of friends are still here. There were plenty of inquiries from high level clubs, but I still felt connected to the EBC here, since they opened a lot of doors for me early in my career. I believe the coming years here will be a great challenge for us. There is always tremendous reward in building something special from the ground up - that's what I will try to be a part of here. It won't be easy, that's for sure, but I love challenges.
Obviously there is a huge difference between coaching at the college level and working for a Regionalliga team in Germany. But what can you carry over from your tenure at Lees-McRae to your daily work at EBC Rostock? Wild: As you probably know there is a huge difference... I'm still having trouble adjusting to it. I guess I am a little spoiled. I do feel like I can instill a different level of professionalism and bring a whole new level of intensity and drive to our program here in Rostock. And at the end, it is just basketball. Many of the on-court aspects will carry over in a way. As coaches you always adjust to personnel and situation anyway... always... so you have to be flexible. I'm still convinced a lot of my unique experiences from the past 8 years will help me a great deal in the process.
How has EBC Rostock developed and grown as an organization throughout the years that you spent in North Carolina? Wild: Everything here has become a lot more solid. There is tremendous support here now; great crowds. It is a ton of fun to be part of it now. People in leading positions here have done a phenomenal job creating a concept that is very sustainable. We want to continue to grow in a healthy way. Step by Step. The foundation has been created, now it is our job to continue to build. The main thing we do need here is financial support. Literally everything else is in place. We are hoping to find more partners that want to be part of our journey and grow with us.
EBC Rostock is pretty much the one and only basketball club in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that is commonly known and the only ambitious program in the region, regarding men's, women's and youth basketball. Does that help or hurt EBC Rostock's cause? Wild: It is not ideal. Competition is always good and I'm convinced the lack thereof has slowed our development in recent years quite a bit. If you look closely though, there a number of clubs in the regions now that have started quality youth programs. It'll take a while to develop, but it's the right approach. We are looking forward to partner with those clubs and help take basketball in our region, not just our city to another level.