FIBA - Baumann reflects on 20 years at FIBASports Parquet Floors
MIES (FIBA) - In 2014, FIBA Secretary General and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member Patrick Baumann is celebrating 20 years at FIBA.
To mark the occasion, Mr Baumann took time to answer questions in an in-depth two-part interview.
In this first part, he recalls his arrival at FIBA, shares the lessons learned from FIBA Secretary General Emeritus Borislav Stankovic, compares and contrasts FIBA as it is today to what it was in 1994 and talks about juggling two careers.
Be sure to check out the second part of the interview on Friday.
FIBA.com: You arrived at FIBA in April 1994. Can you think back to that time and what your first impressions were of FIBA?
Baumann: I had to walk through a very long corridor to get to my interview room and it looked more like being in a hospital. And the more you got to the end of that corridor, the more fog there was. (Former FIBA Secretary General and current Secretary General Emeritus) Borislav Stankovic was smoking a cigar that day and it was a very special feeling. I was a referee and Borislav Stankovic was for me "the name" on the first page of the rule book, which obviously you had to know by heart if you wanted to be in the game. And all stories that one had heard about Mr Stankovic and suddenly he was so close, just in the room next to the one in which I was having my interview. FIBA was like something up in the moon, not something that you could touch and could really be a part of. So it was sort of a little bit of a dream walk in that long corridor to get to that room, I think I felt worse than going to the exams at university. Of course I had to learn a lot in a very few weeks about FIBA. It was something unreal but also very exciting at the same time.
FIBA.com: You succeeded Borislav Stankovic as FIBA Secretary General in January 2003. Can you talk about those nine years leading to that point?
Baumann: All the people at FIBA were very expert in their matters. They had an experience which was kilometres away from mine, coming from a small basketball country like Switzerland, even though I grew up most of my time in Italy and that''s where I got a little bit of my basketball culture. Nevertheless, my new colleagues were very friendly, they accepted me immediately, so I had quite a nice time learning a lot at a very fast pace. I had a chance to be very close with Mr Stankovic and to see how he worked and how he thought. Near the end of those nine years, the situation got a little more complicated. Mr Stankovic had his own family issues to sort out when, unfortunately, his wife passed away. At the same time, we faced the issue with the EuroLeague and the clubs moving away. But still, the world of basketball was so big that these moments in Europe felt like only a part of a big world. In every family, not everything always goes well, but the large part of the family was growing and hungry for more growth of basketball. It was always a very interesting experience to travel to other continents with Mr Stankovic and see how he was welcomed, and how people treated each other with friendship and respect. Those nine years really meant a lot to me.
FIBA.com: What are the essential lessons you learned from Mr Stankovic and others who dedicated the majority of their lives to FIBA and to growing basketball?
Baumann: You have to respect the history in order to prepare for the future; never deviate from the values that made FIBA and the game the way we are now. He kept the authority steadily in his hands, but was very open to delegate responsibilities, much more than many people could imagine. You can''t do everything alone. Also, every day, there would be a history lesson in his office around 5pm. Those moments were invaluable. At times you felt it wasn''t going so fast, but it was also very important to understand that you cannot do things too fast in an organisation that was 70 years old and as big as FIBA. Another important lesson was that the world moves ahead, yes, but every region at a different pace. When you are responsible for something worldwide, you have to make sure that everyone can follow you and not just the strongest and you leave behind the weakest or the lesser developed. Finally, Mr Stankovic always said it''s a team sport and there needs to be a pleasure of being together to accomplish great things.
FIBA.com: What stands out to you as the biggest improvement/difference between FIBA as it was back in 1994 when you arrived and now, 20 years later?
Baumann: Between then and now, we have reaped the benefits of the explosion of the popularity of the game after 1992. So you go around the world and basketball is a sport that everybody knows, everybody understands. Even the youngest ones have the Dream Team in mind and know that something big changed in Barcelona and they have been able to see it throughout those years. New countries became members of FIBA and wanted more help to develop basketball, and of course the NBA growing fast around the world in popularity. Today we are enjoying a great status among the Olympic sports thanks to those moments. From FIBA''s perspective, we moved a long way from how it''s been run in the past, by people who cared and were very passionate to today''s very structure that can now accompany those passionate volunteers.
FIBA.com: What do you see as the most important contributions you''ve made to FIBA?
Baumann: I''m not sure. The current times are not comparable to what was done before. The first Secretary General (Dr R William Jones) created FIBA. The second brought the NBA into the basketball family and grew basketball across the globe. I have the chance to be at the helm of the federation because of what those two gentlemen and many others have done. Those were ground-breaking decisions and we wouldn''t be here if they hadn''t done what they did back then.
I''ve been able to organise our federation in a way that we can grow in a sustainable way into the future. I think that is probably the biggest contribution that I could give and try to perpetrate the spirit and values that those gentlemen have given to the game of basketball and to FIBA. All other things might be important, whether it''s the launch of the 3x3 more recently, or building the House of Basketball, but they are consequences of the fact that we have been able to organise ourselves with more resources and means. The idea of having our headquarters dates back to 1968. Mr Stankovic never liked it and never did it. But he had a treasurer (FIBA Treasurer Manfred Stroher) who was very persistent and pursued that goal until finally we found the place. To say that that comes to me is a little too much. There is a board that takes decisions and still today, we exchange with Mr Stankovic. There is a lot discussed with him on a permanent basis and with President Yvan Mainini on where we go and I think this relationship that I enjoy with them, is more valuable than anything else. That combination of relationships that makes sure we can sit in this new building having such an impressive House of Basketball, a 3X3 that is running, a new competition system and a new governance which we just approved and that is just part of a team effort. It''s nice to be the captain, but without the team you can''t do much.
FIBA.com: As well as heading FIBA, you have also worked extensively for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since becoming a member in 2007. Can you talk about juggling those two careers?
Baumann: It''s taken quite a toll in terms of time and availability on FIBA but it has been FIBA''s decision and the wish of Mr Stankovic, who was a member of the IOC that I should be the one representing FIBA, if the IOC so chooses. I found full support by the FIBA Board members, including the President who could have had his own ambitions of being member of the IOC. I''m extremely honoured for that trust and confidence they have given me. Being an IOC member means investing time in other activities within the Olympic movement. The key is to have good relationships within the Olympic movement. We have our own ambitions like having 16 teams and to include 3x3 at the Olympics. But itís important to make sure that the Olympic Games stay up there strong, that the IOC is a strong entity because it also helps FIBA to preserve its autonomy and independence. This is work you have to do hand in hand between the Olympic movement and the international federations. From that perspective, although maybe it''s a little heavy in terms of time, it''s an extremely important one for FIBA.
FIBA.com: What are the best and worst moments you have witnessed in your time at FIBA to date?
Baumann: I would like to think more of the good moments rather than the bad times but there is no way to shake the sadness at the demise in June of last year of our friend Olafur Rafnsson. I think very often of him and of the family he left behind. On a positive note, I have witnessed very special moments over the past 20 years. I remember as if it were yesterday the moment the Central Board decided to appoint me as Secretary General of FIBA upon proposal by Mr Stankovic in 2002 in Indianapolis. If I was to think of special moments on the courts, the Final (USA-Russia) of the 1998 FIBA World Championship for Women in Germany and the Men''s Final (USA-Spain) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics have been two amazing moments of great basketball that I had the privilege to witness in person. No doubt, however, the recent Extraordinary Congress in Istanbul will also have a place in my mind for many years to come.