Credit: Patrick Albertini/EuroLeague Basketball via GettyImages
Credit Patrick Albertini/EuroLeague Basketball via GettyImages

It was the first few days in Munich when Marko Pesic got hired here as a sports director of Bayern basketball club in 2011.

Vladimir Lucic

Vladimir  Lucic
Vladimir  Lucic
MIN: 30.07
PTS: 12.09 (57.25%)
REB: 4.19
As: 1.47
ST: 0.69
BL: 0.16
TO: 1.13
GM: 32

As the son of one of the most famous basketball coaches in Europe and a professional basketball player later, Marko Pesic traveled quite a few times.

Munich wasn't a basketball destination, so his path never crossed this city other than catching up a connecting flight at the airport. 

Bayern gave Pesic a tiny apartment close to a soccer club just to stay there until he found something for his family. One afternoon, somebody was ringing at his door. That was Steffen Hamann, a famous former German point guard.

Hamann played for Bayern back then. He came to Marko with his friend. Guys thought about showing the city to this new Bayern executive.

Marko went out and saw a big Audi on the street.

"Why don't you sit in front," Hamann suggested.

When Pesic got inside, FC Bayern soccer star Bastian Schweinsteiger was behind the wheel.

"Steffen told me you were looking for an apartment and school for your kids," one of the most famous German football players greeted him.

Schweinsteiger and Hamann decided to pick up Marko from his apartment to show him around. Schweinsteiger drove for three hours. He guided Pesic where he lived. He showed a bit noisier or more quiet Munich places. He also offered an excellent school where his best friend let his kids go.

Then he took him to a restaurant, where they stayed until midnight.

"This is my friend Marko. Please, whenever he comes in the future, he should always have a table," Schweinsteiger told the restaurant owner.

Bayern's superstar drove Pesic back home later.

Points this season

45%
74,8
Points made: 74,8
Accuracy: 45,0%
Place in standings: 11
Record max: 97
Record min: 59
Best scorer: Darrun Hilliard

"Was there a hidden camera?" was the first thing Pesic thought about what just happened.

But when a former player and a rookie basketball manager thought about it, he understood something he kept as one of his biggest rules for the upcoming 10+ years.

In the 50s, around 40,000 fans came to watch the Bayern basketball team in an open-air exhibition game. But this popularity was gone in the history books a few decades later before Bayern decided to reorganize the basketball department.

In 2010, Bayern president Uli Hoeness called 300k Bayern club members for the voting to approve the reorganization of a basketball club. More than 70% of voters said yes.

However, one of the main conditions was that this basketball team wouldn't get a single euro from the Bayern football organization.

In 2011, Bayern won the second division and were promoted to the first German basketball league. Marko Pesic, who studied sports marketing and communication at the University of Venice and later completed his sports manager studies at IST Dusseldorf, got hired by the club to shift it to a higher level.

The BasketNews interview with Pesic took place in Bayern's hospitality area, where more than 500 people regularly come to enjoy basketball games and conversations that might lead to new business ideas. 

When Pesic got the job, this area couldn't accept any guests. The Audi Dome was built for the 1972 Olympics and wasn’t touched since then. Now it's a modernly built zone with food and beverage services, Bayern players' pictures on the walls, basketball-related decorations, and other small details that make this place so cozy.

Bayern even had to stop the memberships to this Audi Dome Lounge because they didn’t have any more space to accommodate all those people.

Since Bayern returned to the top German division, they have won the Bundesliga three times, including two German cups. They also became EuroLeague shareholders and made a consecutive playoff appearance.

Now it’s one of the best-organized basketball organizations in the EuroLeague.

Although their financial capabilities put them closer to the bottom of the league, Bayern found a way to compete against the rich market players. And now they're here, forcing the Game 5 against the EuroLeague regular-season winners.

They even found a way to keep their stars in Munich despite running the financial resources that sometimes were 2-3 times lower than the ones their rivals operate.

And that goes back to Bastian Schweinsteiger and this ride that took Marko Pesic to a different route than the most EuroLeague clubs are managed.

BasketNews presents you a conversation with the general manager of Bayern Munich. Marko Pesic tells stories from the inspiring project that will take the club to new heights to Andrea Trinchieri’s future in the team and interesting ideas for the EuroLeague development.

We're sitting now in this cozy hospitality area. What was there in Audi Dome 11 years ago when you entered the club?
Audi Dome was built for the 1972 Olympics. After the Olympics, it was not really used.

After qualifying for the first German division in 2011, we needed a new arena to meet the Bundesliga regulations. The only option we had in Munich was Audi Dome. Basically, the infrastructure of Audi Dome was from 1972, so with the help of Audi, we invested a lot of money to get the arena ready for the needs of professional basketball.

Over the years, we have invested more than €10M. Now we really feel at home here in the Audi Dome home because it’s like when you have your own house built and improved one room at a time by improving the roof or changing the electricity system. We all have huge empathy for this building, but obviously, we also had to invest.

In this area where we are sitting now, there was nothing. With time the Audi Dome was under the protection of Munich's monument institutions. We couldn’t touch many things, but we did with those we could, like slightly moving the walls to build a VIP area.

In the beginning, we had a room for 300 people. With time, we developed it to more than 500. With time it changed, but in the beginning, it was not equipped for a professional basketball team.

Credit Imago-Images - Scanpix

And now, this is the place where your fans and business partners, and sponsors meet. In a huge city with a rich football tradition, what does it take to convince people to come here to watch basketball? Or do you still not feel like you managed to persuade them to do it regularly?
No, for sure. Like in all big cities where you have a big offer on the market for events, you have to do something special, and usually, it goes with high quality. Not only a high-quality event, but also everything that goes together around a court event, which is a basketball, and the event you have to build around.

Before the pandemic started, we were on the way to having 85-90% capacity sold on average. Now, I don't want to say I'm surprised, but it gives us a good feeling that the last 3-4 games were basically sold out.

I think the atmosphere was charming. That's not what you will get in Tel Aviv, Kaunas, or Belgrade, but it's slightly different. Maybe more family-oriented, maybe more calm, but still very loud and supportive.

I'm sure that when SAP Garden is finished, we will have the potential to attract more fans and sell out that arena because you need to understand that people are always looking for some technology, comfort, and something new.

This person who constantly looks for technologies, comfort, and new things fits the average Munich fan, or does it fit a basketball fan's picture in general? 
I think in general. When you look at all the arenas that people used to come to for an extended time, at one point, you need to offer them something new.

We’re in the 11th year in Audi Dome, and we feel great here. We are constantly trying to adapt and develop it to modern standards, but at one point, we will have to offer something new, maybe more fresh and modern.

A lot of GMs measure their success by titles. How do you measure your success at Bayern Munich?
That’s a very tricky question. But for me, as a former athlete, who is still very competitive, I want to win. If I shoot now mid-court shots against Paul (Zipser) or free throws with (Darrun) Hilliard or (Deshaun) Thomas, I obviously always want to win.

In a traditional way, you’re measured by the titles and wins. This is okay, and this is something you won’t change. But I don’t really look at this point only from that perspective.

I always believed that the final result, like the title, is always a result of a particular process. Developing a team or a business model, I always concentrate on the process first. There are so many things that influence it that you won’t be able to control all the things that are necessary to win.

The better the players are, the bigger the chance. But our philosophy here is that we are really focused on the process. We are possessed by the idea of developing a sustainable business model that doesn’t depend on winning today.

Winning a title or an important game will always be very important for this organization, but without a sustainable business, it won't last long; otherwise, we would have to go to the church every morning to pray that somebody would not get hurt. Or that Lucic makes the final 3-pointer. Or Mirotic miss the open shot.

I always thought that we should not rely on this. If you’re a sports director, you might have a different approach. But if you’re running the organization, you can’t only concentrate on sports results. The focus has to be on the business side as much as possible.

People in our back office have done a tremendous job developing products that offer fans, hospitality, and sponsors more than a game from 8 to 10. This is something we’re trying to protect because players go and come, coaches are changing.

Although team chemistry is important, every person on the team or coaching staff has his own individual goals. It's a nature of things, and there's nothing wrong with it. But in my position, we have to look at where the club will be in five years, not in one week.

What were the most successful products of Bayern Munich that boosted you financially?
Let's talk about sponsoring. That's one of the examples. We have regularly sold out our hospitality area in both leagues.

The needs of the sponsors in the last 11 years have changed. At first, it was branding. Then branding and social media, reaching the target audience directly. We always look to be at the forefront of digitalization, whether with mobile ticketing or creating our own NFTs. On top of branding and social media, it changed a little bit from business to customer and business-to-business.

Business-to-business relationships and networking were something that we wanted to promote, so in 2015 we established the Business Circle. This is a networking platform for businesses in and around the Munich region, together with our sponsors. It was a platform to allow them to find contacts, exchange opinions, and develop business models with each other outside the game of basketball. In the best case, what had really happened, create companies and businesses among each other.

The Business Circle members always meet at games in a designated area. Also, Business Circle events take place outside the Audi Dome as well. We have five big annual events. We found that our sponsors and companies in Munich integrated very well. We even had to stop selling memberships at one point. Now we have a waiting list, and hopefully, the SAP Garden will help us bring this product to the next level.

Our business department did an excellent job here. Later I noticed people tried to copy it even in German soccer.

In a traditional basketball way, people go to games, and they cheer if you win and boo you if they lose. But I believe that if you want to make your product sustainable, you need to develop collateral products that will support the business. And then people will come not only to see your team winning.

We did a great job, and with a new arena, our possibilities will be even bigger.

Credit Imago images/Oryk HAIST - Scanpix

I have two suggestions that also measure your success at Bayern throughout the years. First of all, despite being one of the best small forwards in the upcoming free agency, Vladimir Lucic signed a new three-year contract with Bayern.
It's important to mention that Lucic signed a new three-year deal, but he's coming off a three-year deal. Each summer, despite Lucic not being a free agent, we were approached by many clubs that wanted to buy him on really good financial terms. But with us, it was not even a point of discussion. The player also never approached us on this. We never really talked about this topic.

Why? In Lucic's case, when you look at his development over the years, he was always very loyal to the organization he played. In Partizan or Valencia, where he stayed for three years but didn't maybe have a role he expected to have after he left Belgrade. Lucic was always a loyal member of one organization.

Lucic got married and got a second child. He found an atmosphere where he and his family feel safe and good.

What's also interesting about Lucic and one of the critical points in his decision-making is that his development as a player and person over the last five years basically mirrors the club's development. The empathy and identification he felt with this, understanding that we're not at the end and there's something to come, helped him decide that fast, although he could have waited for the summer.

It's a massive success for our club. It's a sign that high-level players understand what we're doing and where we want to be.

What you will see, over the two summers, we're trying to build a generation of players who stick with us for an extended period of time.

I also think that in today's sports, EuroLeague especially, where you play so many games, and there's not enough time to prepare and practice, the continuity is a great quality of the EuroLeague team. The following autumn, it will be a very difficult situation with the EuroBasket ending that late.

I think we're on the way to having a generation of players together for 2 or 3 years that will allow us to win... But I believe if we find a way to keep our players together, for me, it would be a huge success.

They know that we can't offer them money they might get somewhere else. But them staying here, trusting the process, and seeing the potential, is a huge success. Because you can't forget one thing. We might have maybe the same budget as Maccabi or Baskonia, for example, but our taxation system is so strict that we need to pay more than 50% taxes on top of the net salary.

Our philosophy here is not to look at what ALBA or CSKA has because it doesn't help. I can't compare, and I don't. We don't really look at it because it doesn't help.

The key to the result of Real Madrid over the last ten years was the continuity of their team. CSKA also were successful when it kept its core together. Olympiacos had a core when they won the EuroLeague in consecutive seasons. In the fast-moving world of EuroLeague basketball, continuity in your team became a great quality. If we find a way to keep those guys, it's a success for an organization like ours.

My next suggestion. When one of the top EuroLeague coaches, Sarunas Jasikevicius, comes and says: "Oh, that's a typical style of Bayern: never surrender, fighting against anybody, bouncing back from a double-digit deficit, and pulling out tough games in the end." 
It's about the culture we try to establish. First of all, it's a compliment. 

Daniele (Baiesi) and I sat down during the pandemic. We decided to establish an analytics department to get things measured. We didn't want to make our decisions based on analytics only because the human factor is still the key in decision-making. But we wanted to have as much information about players as possible.

But we also said that we have to define what the Bayern Munich DNR is now and what it should be.

Based on these factors, we need to get players ready to fulfill this and a coach who can follow this idea and strategy that we call FC Bayern basketball DNR.  

You can't compete with Barca, Real, and CSKA just showing up and competing against them. You might win one game. But over a mid-long term, you will lose because you can't match their financial potential and individual quality even with Valencia or Baskonia, for instance.

We decided to see what's our potential in that sense and develop a niche of how we want to be and play and be the best possible team in that niche. And try to drag these teams into our niche and beat them there.

Try not to look at how Barcelona, Madrid, or Olympiacos are playing, but to find a way to drag them into our court where we are good and then try to beat them.

I must say it is starting to work. Last year, it was a surprise for many people. I think we overachieved. But I also believe we are overachieving this season due to circumstances.

We're not always going to be able to keep players like Jalen Reynolds or Derrick Williams because of the financial offers they got at the end. There will come a day when we'll choose if we want to keep Reynolds and Williams or not. Last summer we couldn't do it.

The key is not to leave our concept but maybe slightly widen and advance that niche and drag teams. This is where Andrea is great. Like most coaches, he would like to have the best possible group of players available, and we don't, which is understandable. But when he comes to practice, and you give him material, he always tries to get the maximum of his potential

We sat with Andrea two summers ago, and we told him this is our concept and this is what we want to do. We know we can't win every game, neither in the BBL nor EuroLeague. But we want to try it. He signed for it, we agreed, and never looked back.

Before that, we brought in Emilio Kovacic, who has built the player development department, extending it to youth categories. It looks like it works.

You can't measure it after two seasons, but it looks like we found a way of developing culture. After beating Barcelona, my friend told me: 'Keep on fighting for that overachieving culture.' I don't think we overachieve because we do what we're expected to do. This is why players like Lucic recognize that there's a plan.

The worst thing is if you don't have a plan or concept. It's better to have a bad concept than nothing at all because the bad concept can always improve.

But I think players slowly see that they can develop. That they're fighting for something. That the club is trying to maximize its potential. And that club is also trying to improve the financial situation to make good enough money not to force them to leave the club for 50k somewhere else.

I must knock the wood, but I think it starts working out. It's really an interesting time to work for this club.

You mentioned this 'niche.' What is Bayern's DNA and the playground where you want to drag all these teams?
I'll tell you the story. We started the EuroLeague season 0-4. We had a lot of new players who were obviously disappointed because they came with much higher expectations, but suddenly you start a season, and you're 0-4.

The problem was we were 0-4, not because we were bad. We were 0-4 because we had injuries and covid.

We called for a meeting, and some of them perhaps thought that I was going to come to criticize or put pressure. But I said: 'Listen, guys, I don't care about the current result. But what I care about is how we can maximize our potential in that process. Even if you're sick, injured, or struggling on the court, we should focus on what we can do to maximize our potential because it's the only way to improve and get out of that situation. And forget what happened and where we will end up in June. Just concentrate when you come to practice, come to meetings, when Andrea talks to you when you prepare for something. We need maximum.'

Why I'm telling you this? I'm telling you this because our culture has to be about maximizing the potential. I am always looking for ways to try to hit the ceiling and push it higher with every practice, every meeting, every trip, and every medical treatment.

The medical department plays a huge role. We're trying to maximize our potential not only by Emilio (Kovacic) working on (Augustine) Rubit's shot but also by every treatment, every road trip. I believe that the players understood and did a tremendous job, as you can see. We had three waves of covid, but we never gave up!

This season I didn't see Barcelona so focused as in Game 3. There wasn't a single time when our team gave up. What more could you ask? Today, I'm 100% sure it will be all out, and let's see what happens (the interview was taken before Game 4). I believe it has to be our culture.

If we start comparing ourselves with other teams that have more or less money, we will lose our path. Invest everything you have in your team and in yourself to get better.

What comes automatically is what Saras says: it's tough to play them because they never give up, always fight until the end, and you can't let down for a second because they will come back. I think this culture is developing. It's getting where we want it to be.

Credit Photo by Christina Pahnke/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Usually, the culture starts from the people in top positions. Bayern have you as a general manager, who gives a direction for a basketball department and develops a business side. Daniele Baiesi, a very creative sports director, has excellent qualities for a club like Bayern. Andrea Trinchieri is one of the greatest basketball minds in the EuroLeague.

It kind of reminds me of an Italian family restaurant. It is a small one, but it has its style and enormous passion, which stands out among bigger restaurant chains. What was your idea of bringing all these people together? How did you start building this team from the top positions?
Let's talk about the back office first, and then we will go to sports.

90% of people in top positions in ticketing, marketing, or sponsoring basically started as interims with us.

There's one thing that is a mantra for me. Without empathy, there's no identification. And without identification, you can't carry the responsibility. To do it, you need to care. Without identifying and having empathy for it, it's just a regular job.

We invested a lot of effort in developing those young people to prepare them to carry the organization in critical positions. Maybe we don't have that high level of quality and experience that you would have if you bring experienced people from Red Bull, Audi, or Adidas. But we have a heart and a soul.

During the playoffs, our people now work in the office from 8 in the morning to 11 at night. And you don't have to ask them to do it. They do it naturally.

This was the key to this pillar. The next pillar is sports.

I believe that the key to us is that yes, we do live in Germany, and yes, Germany had development in basketball that was extraordinary in the last 20 years, especially in marketing, organization, and the seriousness of how the business is run. I think German clubs are top in Europe in that sense. But I believe that all the big basketball nations like Spain, Italy, and Greece, have developed their idea of basketball by bringing people from outside and learning from them.

For instance, I don't think that Greek basketball would be where it is if Duda Ivkovic was not there. Or the Italian basketball would be there if Aca Nikolic, Bogdan Tanjevic, or Dan Peterson weren't there. The same applies to Spain, with many foreign coaches who came there. Now Spanish coaches play a big role in European basketball.

I believe in Germany, the key to having a sustainable and good sports organization is to have people from different cultures. Obviously, we could have all German coaches. And I'm not talking about their quality. I believe that you have to connect with different cultures and get the best out of it. To find people ready to invest in the club, not only in themselves. And then build on this.

Now it is Daniele Baiesi, who I think is an excellent basketball mind. But we also have Emilio Kovacic, who is also an outstanding basketball mind. And we have Demond Greene as an assistant coach, who's maybe not so experienced, but he carries the German basketball culture with him. And then we have an athletic coach (Luka Svilar), who's excellent and was working in Spain, Russia. 

What we thought and I 100% believe in, it doesn't matter if you're in Kaunas or Athens, connecting these basketball cultures and experiences will only help you. That's why it was first Daniele Baiesi.

After Bamberg, many thought that Daniele and Andrea Trinchieri would never work together again. But this is a quality of people. This is the biggest quality of Daniele at first. Because he had his issues with Andrea like Andrea had his issues with him, but he put the club first. And he knew that at this moment in our club and what we wanted to do, Andrea was a perfect fit for us. The problems were solved in five minutes. This happens if you put the club first.

This is how we started building. You can't expect things to be perfect in two years. I think we need a couple of cornerstones on our way. But this is how we try to build sports by connecting different cultures and the back office with young people who also see a perspective to improve not only as people but also in their positions.

We don't have working hours. People can work from their homes if they wish. Obviously, there's a frame you can't get out. But nobody is controlling anybody, and we trust each other on a very high level. That's why I always come to the Audi Dome with a smile. Because even if you lose a game, you know you're coming into a positive atmosphere in the Audi Dome.

Many sharks in the EuroLeague might go for a new coach this summer. Andrea Trinchieri is under contract with Bayern until 2023, but there was a feeling that he might be bought out. Although recently I've heard that it's the most likely that he's staying, I wanted to hear if you're concerned if it will be easy to keep Andrea in Munich for the next season?
Like there was no discussion with Lucic, there won't be any discussion with Andrea. It's not going to happen.

It's out of the question that he can leave?
Yes, it's out of the question that we will let him go. I would be very surprised if he would ask to leave. But even if he asked to leave...

Credit Imago-Images - Scanpix

What if Lucic wanted to leave and approached you, saying that it was time for him to move on to a bigger club? You probably would have a different approach to it?
I would have talked to him, but I wouldn't let him go. I have a pretty clear opinion about this, and I will explain it.

For the money he was playing, Lucic was totally overachieving. There's absolutely no question that he earned a possibility to get more money.

I believe we did an excellent job with our president, Herbert Hainer, making Lucic an offer sufficient for him to stay there. It was not the biggest offer in European basketball, but it was big enough for Lucic to understand that we gave our maximum to keep him.

But if we sell Lucic in the summer, we would receive a huge buyout.

Tell me, what could be the buyout that you would get for Lucic?

Based on his importance for the team and the free agents market, it can't be less than 1 million euros.
Okay, you get €1M net for Lucic, which is €2M gross. How I'm going to replace him? With who?

Ok, if we go for high-level players in that position or such type of player, how much do they cost? I get this money, but I lose Lucic. I lose his identity. He is the face of this team, and we’re also able to quantify his leadership and skills with our analytics.  I would instead try to invest time in explaining to him to be patient and wait for us to do our best as we did.

He knew that going for money and investing that money to replace him was impossible. Then you have to change your strategy because you can't replace Lucic. You must find somebody else in a different position that could replace his role in the team. But even with our money and buyout, it would be difficult to get anybody because all these players are on contracts.

The same would be with Andrea. But which coach can I get to replace Andrea? Okay, there are many excellent coaches. But right now, we need exactly what Andrea has. For that reason, they can come with whatever they want, but I won't let him go.

I had the situation with Malcolm Delaney in 2014. I remember we were in March, and we were about to play Maccabi. His agent Andrew called me and said that Houston Rockets wanted Malcolm. He said they had their salary cap open, and they were ready to pay seven figures for the buyout.

But I said: 'Andrew, forget, there's no way.' And then he called me two hours later saying they improved the offer. I said no, and they improved the offer again. It was a huge buyout which, for us, was okay... But I said no. I explained that I couldn't win the championship if I let Malcolm leave because the transfer deadline was passed. 

I said no, but I was worried because if the player has this offer in his head, how committed he will be? So I called Malcolm for a meeting. I said: 'Malcolm, listen, you know about the situation, so how do you see it?' And he says: 'Marko, I don't know what you guys want. I told them you would say no. I have a game tonight against Maccabi. I have to concentrate on the game, and I don't want to talk about it. Don't worry about me. I want to win the championship here. The first time you said no to the offer, it was clear that I was staying. Don't worry about this. I'll play in the NBA at some time.'

Which he really did.

So you have to decide what you want. Do you want to keep your players together to maximize their potential, or do you start selling players? 

We would have needed that money for sure. But you have to reinvest that money, and you invest in who? Daniele and me, Andrea, we don't talk about money. Andrea doesn't know how much money Bayern players make because he doesn't want to know. But we share the same philosophy. Although it would help us in the short term, you have to replace Lucic. With who? Because then you have to change your strategy, and right now, we don't want it.

Credit Christina Pahnke/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

But we're talking about a highly complex situation with smaller European clubs. Because usually players come to such clubs with buyout clauses, and when the time comes, and they raise their stock, there's always a buyer coming in. How does Bayern deal with these buyout clauses? 
Unfortunately, contracts in today's world don't mean too much. I understand it. For us, it's the key thing that we don't treat a player by his salary and expect him to perform for that salary. And if he doesn't deliver, we have to talk to him.

No. The player didn't sign this contract by himself. Somebody has signed it. In all the cases, it's me. And the decision to sign the player is between me, Daniele, Andrea, and the president. So it's our responsibility that if this player is here, we have to make him and his family feel here as best as possible.

The investment you make by defining a salary and paying him the money is not the only investment that the club should make. This is something that I call the traditional way of thinking: you pay, and then you expect. And then the guy you paid, delivers or not. If he doesn't deliver, then you have to change him.

No. If you take responsibility for signing the person, it doesn't matter if it's a player or somebody in the marketing department, it's your responsibility because you signed him. And then you have to invest your time to build an infrastructure and logistics around him so that he can maximize his potential because there's a reason you signed him. You don't sign a player that you think doesn't fit the system.

When the player wants to leave, you make it as difficult for him when that situation comes.

Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I've experienced it here, and I think it's possible.

My guy who runs a marketing department is an excellent person. He has a contract, but there might be a company that might come and give him a double salary. What can you do? 

The only thing you can do is identify and see your potential in this organization and how much time you invest in those people, making them difficult to leave. But he still might go. Lucic didn't leave.

This is the essence that we're trying to do. Sometimes you don't succeed. But if you succeed, it improves the motivation of everybody that you're doing the right thing.

To make clear, it's not about holding a player in the club but creating an environment that would be difficult to leave—something like creating nostalgia.
That's what I'm saying. You can call it to be nostalgic. You have to take care of families, of their children. 

I'll tell you one story. If you don't experience this yourself, you don't understand it. I came to Munich in the summer of 2011. I always tell this story because it was vital for me to understand this club.

When I came to Munich, I knew nothing except the airport. But Munich was not a basketball city, so I had no reason to go there before. I didn't know where to live, what to do, my son was supposed to go to school, and I was lost.

They gave me a tiny apartment close to a soccer club, just to stay there until I found something for my family. One afternoon my door was ringing. It was Steffen Hamann, my former player. He said that he came with a friend, and he has time now to show you the city because he's from Munich. 

I'm coming down, and it's a big Audi. Steffen comes and asks: 'Why you don't sit in front?' I sit down, and there's Bastian Schweinsteiger next to me.

I had never met him before. I had never talked to him before. And he told me that he had heard from Steffen that I was looking for an apartment and school. He had some time, so they decided to pick me up instead of hanging out in the restaurant.

For three hours, he took me around the city, showing me where he lives, where it's a little bit noisier, and where it's quiet. And he told me: 'Hey, Steffen said that your son would start school. This is an excellent school because my best friend let his kids there.' And this is where I live until now. And when he finished, he said: 'Okay, I'm taking you to the restaurant, where I always go.'

We went to the restaurant. He went to the owner and said: 'This is Marko, my friend, please, whenever he comes in the future, he should always have a table.' And then we stayed until 24:00. He drove me back home, and when I got home, the first thing I thought was: 'Is this a hidden camera?' 

I understood that he probably did this with his teammates. Probably somebody did this with him before in the club. I understood that you have to invest in people for them to feel good and give back what you invest. It has nothing to do with the salary you earn. It's important. But after you sign the contract, it goes to the shelve. And then what?

I understood that we have to find an approach that they should feel like a part of the family when they come to our club from the first to the last day. And then they will decide.

Then their wives would tell them: 'Listen, for 50K euros somewhere else, I would like to stay here because they have great kindergarten, excellent school, the club is taking care of you, they have a great medical department. Okay, you could travel by charter to be at home more often. But okay, that's your job.'

I had a really good experience with that. When people leave, it's important to treat them well because there are no better ambassadors than players leaving and going to different organizations.

I can't tell you how much Tyrese Rice has helped me. How much Malcolm Delaney has helped me contact some players. Derrick Williams. That was a huge help. When you talk to them, I assume they will say that they could have made more money, but it was a very important stage in their careers because people treated them well there. This is what we're trying to combine.

I believe now we're getting to a stage of the club where we don't have to let Rice go. Okay, Malcolm was getting three times more. But Derrick Williams, these players, I think we will get to that stage where we will be able to keep them for a longer time. But that's a development process.

Credit Imago Sportfotodienst - Scanpix

Probably the new arena will be that thing that will put you in a position to choose?
The arena we're building should be done more or less in one year. We have plans with the performance and basketball center on the FC Bayern campus. It will get better.

I was always impressed with Real Madrid. I still am when I come and see soccer players together with basketball players. Suddenly the bus stops, and 15 young men get out in suits and ties. They come from school, and they go to practice...

I believe it does make a difference. Not only the contract. I think the surrounding, infrastructure, atmosphere, attitude, and culture you have in the club are not as important as a salary, but it plays a huge role.

This new arena will bring you to new heights not only from the facilities perspective but from earning more money from ticketing also?
Obviously, more or less, you will have the double capacity and at least 2.5 times more hospitality seats. It will help us. But the key is now what we will do when the arena opens, but what we do until it happens.

We have 1.5 years remaining to build up many things to have people come here and enjoy there when it's open. We'll have many tough decisions and assignments, and we have to do a lot of work - even more than we do now to prepare for something.

We can't just wait until it opens. This has to be done now. I have to say that many people who work in the office invest a lot of time in this. They're great people. I think they will be ready.

What will be the best about this new SAP Garden arena?
We did two very important things.

Firstly, we're building two arenas in one: ice hockey and basketball arena. But the setup will be ready for basketball which means we're not going to play in the arena built for hockey. We found an innovative way to change the ice hockey setup to a basketball setup in a short amount of time.

Secondly, when Bayern gets into a new arena, it will be the Bayern Munich arena. It's going to be a clean arena every time we get in. We will have digitalization and innovative ideas that will be fun and help us understand how people perceive us.

We discussed how the club grew by itself, but there's also the EuroLeague. All shareholders are complaining that they're not making enough money to improve. How could the EuroLeague realistically help you? What kind of leadership you're seeking from the EuroLeague boss?
First of all, when you look at Bayern as an organization, it should be set up so that it wouldn't depend on the people who run an organization. But rely on the system. This system could always be adapted or changed. But it's the most natural thing that, after some time, you have to sit down, analyze and modify.

For instance, sponsors and partners cared mostly about branding ten years ago. Now they care about branding, social media, digital content, and digital overlay, not only business-to-customer relationships but also business-to-business relationships. Things change with time, and you have to be able to adapt.

The same fits the EuroLeague organization. Because the EuroLeague organization has to look independently of the people who work there. You need to understand what steps the EuroLeague has taken until now to be where it is. Analyze the status quo, where we are right now, and where we want to get.

I don't think we're there yet to understand where we want to be in 10 years. This might sound strange, but this is okay because we have the opportunity now to decide in which direction the EuroLeague should develop. And then, when you have this, you will decide where you want to be in that process and what would be the best way to monetize this.

Should Euroleague teams earn more money? Most definitely. There's no question. Most definitely. But also you must understand the more money you get it doesn't mean it should go to the players.

You're spending money on a valuable asset. But in my opinion, the money has to be also spent on infrastructure, back office, and developing club structures to make your business more lasting and sustainable. Because as more money you make in the EuroLeague, it should be a kickstart for your club to get bigger, more profitable, and more sustainable.

In my opinion, only clubs that are independent in their financing and can maximize their business potential by themselves will be sustainable over an extensive period of time. That‘s what I learned from Mr. Hoeness and Mr. Hainer.

But you should never forget that the clubs are owners of the EuroLeague. It is those clubs who must make strategic decisions about the organization's future, not someone else.

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