Pedro Kalis is one of the best coaches in the German Basketball League and has seen a successful development with the Hamburg Towers in recent years. In an interview with Spox The 38-year-old talks about his journey from Spain to BBL and his brief stint in the NBA.
He also talks about his basketball philosophy, which has made his team so successful in recent seasons, and explains his ascetic lifestyle.
Mr. Callis, I studied sports science with a focus on basketball. How many scientists do you have today?
Pedro Calles: Not much anymore. In basketball, you have to think about different scientific aspects, but let’s not forget that basketball is a game.
Versatile game. What is most important to you?
calls: For me personally, it is important to be able to read my players. This is the most important aspect of my work. To understand who my players are. Put them in the right place and grow them so they can play the best basketball possible.
Why did you actually become a basketball coach?
calls: It also came from my father. He got me to try many different sports but he never got me into anything. He just wanted me to exercise. At the age of 18 I had the opportunity to advance my career or go to university. My father told me, “Whatever you do, focus on your studies.” So I pushed myself to my studies and I don’t play basketball much at the moment.
But then we went back to the active zone.
calls: During my studies, of course, I focused only on my studies. (laughs) No, after that I looked to see where I could improve in terms of playing and, above all, in terms of training. I played actively again, but the background was that I was better able to explore the rival coaches and their philosophies.
You don’t hear that every day either.
calls: I no longer have the passion to reach a really high professional level. So I managed to stay close to the topic. And I also coached the kids at the club, so I was able to try things and make mistakes. In hindsight, I sometimes feel sorry for the kids. (He laughs)
Do you know how the children are today?
calls: When I was at home two years ago, these kids visited me at a game. When you are able to make your mark and see that your work has changed the lives of these young people for the better: that is one of the most amazing aspects of my work.
I came to Germany in 2012 from the third Spanish league as a sports coach. You had a one-year contract in your pocket, but your wife didn’t come with you (yet). risky move?
calls: At that time I was the head coach of the Spanish third division. In my home country, of course, I was advised to stay there and work my way up. But I had a completely different picture in my head. I wanted to keep learning – as a person, too. I felt that Germany was the right move for that. In a new league, a different playing system, a different mindset.
How did you get to know the German mentality?
calls: It was easy for me to get here, many Germans speak English. I also agree well with social order and tradition. After the first year, my family moved to Germany, so I didn’t have to travel much anymore.
It’s the well-known story: in your first season as head coach, you led the newly promoted Vechta to the semi-finals, and two years later you went straight to the playoffs with newcomer BBL Hamburg. Will we see you with the Rostock Sea Wolves in the summer?
calls: I haven’t thought of that yet. (laughs) I was very fortunate that we took off with a flying start in Vechta and Hamburg. We had good results, but for me the most important thing was the growth of the structures of the two teams. I always hope my Khalifi finds a better team than I did before I started.
How would you describe German basketball culture?
calls: increase. People are very excited. The teams themselves also create a very professional mix of business and basketball. A lot is also developing in terms of training. Perhaps more tradition here and there, more initiative. To help small towns and small clubs invest in youth programs and get more kids involved in basketball. The level of professionalism in Germany is good, also in terms of budget, but I still see a lot of room for improvement in youth basketball. Not only financially, but also qualitatively.
In Germany, football has somewhat overshadowed some sports. Your home country Spain is also a football enthusiast, but basketball is more popular there.
calls: Our basketball legacy is even greater. When Spain won Olympic silver over Michael Jordan & Company in Los Angeles in 1984, basketball in Spain started to roll. I remember from my childhood how basketball was all over the radio and news back then. Such big successes usually drive such developments. Similar to Germany’s victory in 1993 in their own country.
What did you take with you from your childhood?
calls: As a person, I like team sports more than individual sports. I want to fight for something with other people. As a kid, I never wanted to be part of the best team, but I always wanted to play with the underdog to surprise people. That’s why I prefer seeing it today when we get a good result as a team.