Radek Farský is an up-and-coming talent who passed on several domestic and international offers to stay in Brno. Photo credit: Jan Russnak.
While FC Zbrojovka was playing SK Líšeň in an exciting
rivalry game three weeks ago, many fans were also closely following another
game that was being played halfway around the world. The Czech national
basketball team was playing Serbia in the fifth-and-sixth-place game in the 2019
FIBA World Cup in China — and the first-half highlights were being celebrated
right along with the football game celebrations.
Even now, above DRFG Arena, the home of HC Kometa and
rabid hockey fans, there is a huge Home Credit billboard that celebrates the
Czech national basketball team, which finished a respectable sixth in that
In other words, this may be the year that basketball
really takes off in the Czech Republic.
* * *
Brno has a long history of basketball success. The two
women’s teams have reached the league finals in the past two seasons, BK Žabiny
Brno last year and KP Brno the year before.
Now, mmcité1 Basket Brno, the top men’s team in the city,
looks to have a strong team that may be able to combine the local men’s team’s
long-ago success and the current national team performance to put people in the
stands and stories of victories into the newspapers.
“Basketball is not football or hockey. We have to fight
for every fan,” said Lubomír Růžička, the team’s new head coach. “I want to
attract the largest possible number of fans, and especially bring kids to the
This year’s team definitely looks like it would be worth
a look. Your first chance is tonight at 7 p.m. when mmcité1 Basket Brno hosts Sluneta
Ústí nad Labem. Home games are near Campus Square at Kamenice 5 in Bohunice.
Růžička is well known in Czech basketball and respected
as a head coach. Most recently he led Svitavy in the postseason.
“First of all, we want to stay healthy,” Růžička said at
a press conference on Wednesday. “And we want to get into Group A1 and then bring
some playoff games to Brno.”
The three Americans from last year’s team — Davell Roby,
Reggie Keely and Deremy Geiger — are gone. So are Radek Pumprla and Viktor
The players who will strive to reach Růžička’s goals are
a mix of new and old. Růžička brought in Bryan Smithson, Richard Körner, Filip
Novotný and Petr Heřman. They join Radek Farský, a 20-year-old guard who is a
constant threat from 3-point range; Lukáš Stegbauer, a solid scorer; and Jan
Kozina, who is a team leader at point guard.
Bryan Smithson is an American point guard with a lot of
experience. He is 34 years old and his skills have been honed over many
seasons, most recently in Germany.
Richard Körner comes from the top league in Slovakia,
where he has represented the country. “He is a star from Slovakia,” Růžička
said. “He is the type of player that people will want to see. He plays a great
style of basketball.”
Novotný is on loan from the top program in the country, ERA
Basketball Nymburk. He is a 20-year-old forward.
Heřman is just over two meters tall and a force under the
basket. “I have known him from when he was 19,” Růžička said about Heřman. “He
loves basketball. He is very hungry. Unfortunately, he had a lot of injuries.
He still has a lot of potential. “
Růžička is especially driven to develop young talent and
upstanding members of the community. He boasts of the fact that eight players
are currently attending school and two have degrees.
One reason he took the coaching job in Brno — passing on
several enticing offers — was because of the overall, long-term prospects of
“This organization and the structure of the program is at
a high level,” he said.
Basketball has long been played at a high level in Brno. Basket
Brno, however, was only founded in 2012. It has excellent facilities and staff,
but not many victories to show for it. In the past three seasons, Brno has
accumulated a 40-74 record.
Dejan Jakara came on as head coach two years ago and
promptly won his first game, on national television, in the 2017-18 season
opener. Then, it went downhill with just five victories in the next 21
regular-season games. The team finished the season with eight more wins against
the weaker teams of Group A2 and ended with an 14-24 overall record.
Last season, Jakara’s team again gained some early
momentum and hit a wall. Management sent some suggestions. They weren’t well
received. Things fell apart. Assistant coach Martin Vaněk took the helm for two
games, then Christianos Chougkaz, the former coach of the Prague team, was
named as the replacement head coach. The team powered through the distractions
and did something that it had never done: advanced into Group A1 for the second
phase of the season. The tougher competition may well pay off as game
experience this season, but the team won just four more games and got swept out
of the postseason, by Prague, in two games. The tougher competition resulted in
an 11-27 record.
Now there is another season and a new start.
On Tuesday, the team played in the first round of the
Alpe Adria Cup and, though they led in almost every statistical category, lost to
Swans Gmunden of Austria by five points, 79-84. (The difference was in free
throws: Brno was 9 of 14; Gmunden went the line more than twice as much and was
23 of 32.)
There are 12 teams in the Kooperativa NBL. The first
phase of the season has 22 rounds, where each team plays every other team once
at home and once away through the end of January.
The top eight teams will move into Group A1, play each other home and away, and establish positions for the postseason. The bottom four teams will play in Group A2 and try to stave of relegation from the league.
I hope that this column will provide thought-provoking observations of local life that will be interesting for a Saturday-morning read. If you have any suggestions or comments, please pass them along to email@example.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. The publishing of this article does not constitute an endorsement of or any other expression of opinion by the management of Brno Daily.