The Club Scene: FC Bayern Munich

Nov 08, 2016 by Frankie Sachs, Print
The Club Scene: FC Bayern Munich

FC Bayern Munich is now a powerhouse in both the 7DAYS EuroCup and at home in Germany. It has either won titles or come very close in each of the past three seasons in Germany, while advancing at least one stage in either the EuroLeague or EuroCup in each of those campaigns, too. Though founded more than 70 years ago and linked to one of the globe’s strongest soccer teams, Bayern spent the better part of four decades as an afterthought until its resurrection just six years ago.

FC Bayern Munich was originally formed as a football club in February 1900 and it wasn’t until 1946 that it added a basketball division. The catalyst for basketball was a former Bayern football player, Franz Kronberger, who had to give up his first sport due to a war-related injury, but then fell in love with basketball. Bayern’s basketball team rose to the top quickly. In 1954 Kronberger and Markus Bernhard guided Bayern to tis first German crown and the following year they successfully defended their title. With their success, the popularity of the game and the team grew rapidly and in 1956, some 28,000 fans gathered to see Bayern play outdoors at Grunwalder Stadium prior to a football match. Bayern bested Italian side Lancia Bolzano 56-54 in that game.

In 1966, Bayern missed a shot at a third title when it fell to eventual champions USC Heidelberg in the semifinal, but later that year was among the founding members of the new German Basketball League (DBB). Bayern claimed fourth place in the maiden season of the new league. Its next title came in 1968, when, coached by Kronberger and led by team captain, Dr. Klaus Schulz, Bayern defeated MTV Wolfenbuttel 59-55 to win the German Cup. As a result, Bayern debuted in European competition the following season. After sweeping BBC Nitia of Luxembourg in the first round of the Cup Winners’ Cup, Bayern was eliminated by Olimpija Ljubljana. Bayern ranked third in the German League in 1969, but the years that followed would be devoid of significant achievements.

Bayern’s run in the top league came to an end in 1974 and would be followed by eight seasons in the lower leagues. After narrowly missing promotion in 1981, the following season the team won its division and returned to the second level. After five more seasons there, Coach Gregor Aas guided the team back to the top league, however Bayern only lasted two season before relegation struck again. And thus began a long run of ups and downs, with the team falling anther time to the third level in 1993. Bayern won promotion to the second division in 1995, but was relegated again the following year. The same happened in 1999 and 2000 and again in 2004 and 2005. In total, Bayern won the Southern Regional League seven times between 1981 and 2008, though it was not promoted every time that happened.

With the support of the football branch of the club, Bayern petitioned the league to leapfrog the Pro B league and after winning the regional league again in 2008, began the following season in the Pro A. And the goal quickly became reaching the top flight once again. German national team coach Dirk Bauermann came in 2010 and brought with him stars Steffan Hamann and Desmond Greene. Together they dominated the league and clinched Bayern’s return to the German League with seven games to spare.

Back in the highlife, Bayern proved immediately that it belonged. First it moved into a new arena, the 6,700-seat Audi Dome, which had been known as Rudi-Sedlmayer Halle prior to the significant renovations it underwent for Bayern’s return. The club was awarded a wildcard to the EuroCup and opened with a bang by defeating Benetton Treviso 72-62 as Chevy Troutman led with a double-double. Bayern’s first season back in the top German League saw it place fifth and reach the playoffs before falling to Artland Dragons in the quarterfinals.

Early in the 2012-13 season, Bayern general manager Marko Pesic brought in his father, former EuroLeague champion Svetislav Pesic, as head coach. And the team strode forward. Led by the backcourt of Tyrese Rice and Yotam Halperin, Bayern finish the regular season in fourth place and only Brose Bamberg managed to stop Bayern in the maximum five games in semifinals. A year later, no one could stop Pesic’s men. With guard Malcolm Delaney as its star, Bayern was back in the EuroLeague and stormed into the Top 16. Then when it was time to focus on domestic action, Bayern, which finished first in the regular season, took out MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, EWE Baskets Oldenburg and ALBA Berlin in order to win the title. Delaney became the first Bayern player to be named German League MVP.

From that time onward, Bayern has been a team feared by opponents domestically and abroad. Despite terrific play from center John Bryant and a perfect 6-0 record in the EuroCup Last 32 of the 2014-15 season, Bayern was eliminated from the competition in the eighthfinals by Valencia. At home, Bayern reached the German League finals, but this time Bamberg triumphed 3-2 to reclaim the title. Last season, like the year before, Bayern started in the EuroLeague before moving to the EuroCup at the end of the regular season. Alex Renfroe and co. knocked out rival ALBA in the eighthfinals and defeated eventual champ Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul in Game 1 of the quarterfinals led by a dominant Deon Thompson, but lost by 13 in the return leg and saw its run end. After battling ALBA to the final seconds, Bayern lost in the German Cup final, too. And the season ended at Bamberg’s hands in the German League semifinals.

This season Bayern had a slightly different look, but the same lofty goals in both the EuroCup and at home. Coach Sasa Djordjevic has a splendid mix of proven talents and rising stars and looks to reach the midway point of the EuroCup Regular Season tied for first place in Group C. Like every year, Bayern is aiming high and has the tools to make history again.