World Cup: Coach Gordon Herbert on the triumph of the German basketball players – and his collapse afterwards

A hotel on Bahnhofstrasse in Hagen, Westphalia.

World Cup: Coach Gordon Herbert on the triumph of the German basketball players – and his collapse afterwards

A hotel on Bahnhofstrasse in Hagen, Westphalia. Gordon Herbert, 64, receives an interview in the “Sylvester Stallone Suite”. He looks tired; the day before he watched a game of the Vancouver Canucks, an ice hockey club from his native Canada, until late into the night. Herbert is a commuter between worlds: He comes to Hagen, the headquarters of the German Basketball Federation (DBB), every week. He is often near Helsinki, where he was married to a Finnish woman for more than 20 years and owns a summer home.

In September, Herbert led the German basketball players to the World Cup title as coach. It was the sports sensation of the year. Herbert likes to talk about the final in Manila, but not in German. “Unfortunately, I still haven’t mastered it,” says Herbert, who has already worked for clubs like Berlin, Frankfurt and Würzburg. "The language of basketball is English, even in Germany. It's made too easy for me here."

Mr. Herbert, do you know who Franz Beckenbauer is? I almost only follow basketball and ice hockey, but the name means something to me. Football, right?

Beckenbauer became world champion not only as a player, but also as a coach. There is a famous photo of him walking alone across the lawn in Rome after winning the 1990 World Cup final. You now have a similarly iconic picture. You mean this scene where I'm sitting on the floor after the final against Serbia. This image haunts me. I am asked about it all over the world, at airports, in hotels, on the street. It's always about this one picture.

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