Nuggets assistant strength coach enjoys seeeing World Cup take place in native Brazil

Felipe Eichenberger made transition from soccer to basketball
by Aaron Lopez

Like most kids growing up in Brazil, Felipe Eichenberger gravitated toward soccer as his sport of choice.

By age 12, genetics forced him to go in a different direction.

“I was too big,” he said. “I was growing up too fast and my coordination wasn’t good enough against faster guys. I was like, ‘I’ve got to change sports.’ ”

The transition to basketball proved to be a good one for Eichenberger, who is entering his fourth season as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Nuggets. He earned a scholarship at Northwestern Oklahoma State University and enjoyed four productive years at the NAIA level.

While his career now revolves around basketball, Eichenberger remains a passionate soccer fan who is following the World Cup closely as it plays out in his native country.

Eichenberger, who grew up in Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, has watched both of Brazil’s World Cup matches with about 50 other Brazilians at Fadó Irish Pub. He will be there again Monday when Brazil completes pool play against Cameroon.

“When the World Cup is on in Brazil, everything closes,” he said. “Everybody goes to watch the game. Culturally, it’s big.”

Eichenberger was 16 years old when Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002, but he also remembers celebrating with his family as an 8-year-old when Brazil beat Italy in a shootout to win in 1994.

He is hoping to have another victory party this year.

“I think we’ve got a good chance,” Eichenberger said. “We’ve got good players. They’re young, but as a fan, I think they’re going to win it all. We’ll see.”