Q&A With Holger Geschwinder
Posted Aug 31 2004 3:15PM
How do you turn a 7-footer into a great shooter? Push-ups, integral calculus and jazz
COLOGNE, Germany -- Granted, there are many ways to practice 3-point shooting. Just ask Dirk Nowitzki. Ever since meeting his mentor Holger Geschwindner, the Dallas Mavericks star has probably come across some of the most unusual ways. A former German international who now runs a project management business, Holger has combined his great knowledge for the game, mathematic calculations and intuition to make Dirk a deadly shooter. In the third edition of the Opel 3-Point Report, he provides NBA.com an inside look at his sometimes-odd training methods.
Q: Whatís the best way to practice 3-point shooting?
Q: How many special push-ups does it take?
HG: Start out slowly. Begin with push-ups on your knees before doing normal push-ups. Ten or 15 after every practice should be enough.
Q: What else is important?
HG: A good arm movement. The elbow does the targeting. He needs to point to the basket for the arm to move into the direction of the shot. Then youíve eliminated the most common mistakes.
Q: How did Dirk do in the early stages - was it hard for him?
HG: Of course it was. Itís hard for anybody. The youth lack strength but want to do everything at the same time. Shooting triples. Dunks. Back-flips. All at one time, of course. You need a systematic approach and, believe me, that can be excruciating.
Q: Even with Dirk?
HG: Well, we got to know each other when he was 16 3/4. So weíve systematically started from scratch, which made it easier.
Q: How long was it until Dirk showed some early success?
HG: Five minutes after we started, that goes without saying (smiles).
Q: You have studied physics and mathematics. There is talk youíve once calculated the optimal shot curve...
HG: Itís true. Well, you need to do just that in order to find out whether there is an optimal shot or not.
HG: Of course there is one! The reflection behind it is quite simple. How do you have to throw the ball so that, despite committing as many mistakes as possible, it still finds its way through the net. Itís a question of error tolerance. But every college student should be able to make the same calculations. Take differential and integral calculus. Make some derivations and create a curve. Everybody can do it. Itís no secret. The optimal angle depends on the playerís height and the distance. Iíve calculated it for Dirk and my other players.
Q: Are you pleased with Dirkís 3-point shooting?
HG: Thereís always room to improve. He shot slightly worse last season than the years before but it relates to the many prayers he had to take with the shot clock running down. Thatís why his percentage went down. But heís doing quite well in practice.
Q: Considering Dirkís overall play, what role does his three-point shooting play?
HG: Itís one of his weapons. As a seven-footer he can draw his defender to 3-point territory, meaning a big man will be missing out on the rebound. Itís a huge advantage for your team if you have a tall guy who can shoot the three. Dirk is certainly one of the leagueís better 3-point shooters for his size.
Q: Some call you a coaching guru...
HG: Thatís rubbish.
Q: So what is it that you makes you different from other coaches?
HG: Nothing. Itís just our basic mentality that is different. We donít want to educate players. Neither do we have a special recruiting program. We just assess the players individually and try to evaluate whatís best for everyone to help him develop to his potential. Thatís the only difference. We donít tell them "You gotta do this and that" but we try to help them develop step by step.
Q: You are legendary for staging summer basketball camps during which your players practice rowing and fencing as well as basketball. Whatís up with that?
HG: The youth - especially when thinking of turning pro - need to talk to former gold medal winners. The sooner, the better. Those are athletes who have won it all. Itís good for young players to speak to them. Smell the air of competing at top level and find out about what frame of mind you need to reach elite level. Thatís why we put them together with a bunch of former gold medal winners, like from fencing and rowing. Itís a tremendous help.
Q: Whatís your basic coaching philosophy?
HG: B-ball is jazz.
Q: Why is that?
HG: Because youíve got top individuals -- who are all absolute experts in one or another part of the game -- teaming up. Everyone steps up for a short time and plays the main role - like during a solo. And the others guys remain in the background.