Op de valreep nog een oudje. Het afscheidsinterview met Vincent Krieger!
I caught up with former Dutch NT player, Vincent Krieger, for an in-depth interview, after his decision to end his player career after the playoffs games against Amsterdam. It will be a kind of a ‘farewell’ interview. Vincent was able to match up with all the experienced guards in Europe and a good open court player who gets his team- mates involved. He also played 88 games for the Dutch National Team.
Not counting your injury out, why has Leiden been so inconsistent this season?
Well for starters, we had a coach change at a certain point which is always a difficult situation for a team that had been losing games. Getting used to new things, different plays and philosophies. Players having different roles than before. And of course there’s the pressure, because playing bad and losing games is not only the coaches fault, even though he’s the one fired most of the times.
When Toon van Helfteren joined the team as the head coach, however, we picked all these things up very quickly. But of course we had a relatively young team so after winning a couple of games in a row, I think we started to take things for granted. And coming of that bad start of the season, we sometimes lacked the confidence and experience in close game situations.
Has frustration crept in a little bit?
I don’t think we were frustrated, because even though we were a little inconsistent, we realized that we were a serious team now. And we were able to beat any other team by playing hard defense. And of course we lost some games that we really should have won, but we also won a couple that were unexpected in the eyes of many.
For me personally frustration was a factor, because I was always used to being faster than other players (that’s that Surinam blood in me!!! hahaha), being athletic and now all of a sudden I couldn’t even run full speed because of my hamstring. So not being able to help the team was very frustrating for me.
Injuries ruined your aspirations, and you decided to stop playing at the end of the season. At what point did you decide to end your career?
After doing a million things to get my hamstring to feel better, including shockwave therapy, and active release therapy which all really helped me, I came to realize that even though I could play again, I didn’t feel the same way as before, physically. I would have a good day and run and jump all over the place, or a bad day where just walking would hurt me already.
So I told myself that if I couldn’t go a week of practice and games without pain before the season is over it would probably be better for me to stop playing. And seconds before the end of our final game I decided in my head that I wouldn’t be back next season. (Maybe Ill make a come-back in 10 or 20 years from now, my hamstring should be fine then…)
Who has been the biggest influence on your basketball career?
My dad, Ramon, who taught me and my brother Cliff the game, has been the biggest influence. He was always the critical one, because he was such a good player himself. In Surinam, South America, he’s a real legend, having played for the National team there for so long. Been in the Pan-American games etc. So he knows what he’s talking about. He is 73 now and still plays ball every Sunday. I never really learned to shoot the ball the way he can.
My mom Marion, has always been the sweet mom saying nice things to me, even if I played a terrible game. Great game Vince, wow, that ONE pass was amazing! And don’t worry about those 30 turnovers, they just need to learn how to catch your passes hahahaha that’s why I love them so much.
What made you decide to leave Holland to play college basketball at NC-Asheville?
Of course growing up in a basketball family you watch a lot of basketball games. In real life and on TV. My dad used to take me to games in Delft, Leiden, Amsterdam etc. and I was so little but already very impressed. With some great Dutch players, but especially with some American players like Dave Downey, Wilson Washington, Owen Wells, Tony Parker sr. and of course Dutch-American Mitchell Plaat, And we watched a lot of college and NBA basketball videos that we got from Ed Zaal, my dads great friend who had connections with the Celtics. From that point I wanted to go to the States to learn as much as possible and just experience the whole atmosphere there.
When I found out the head coach at Asheville was Randy Wiel it was an easy decision. I had seen him play in Leiden when I was little, and he knew my dad. So with the help of a lot of people, such as Rob Meurs, I got in contact with different schools, but in my mind Asheville was my first choice. I even remember family and friends putting money together so I could buy some decent clothes! Haha! Thanks everyone!
What were your nicest memories on the basketball court there?
Wow, so many memories. Well for someone like me things that don’t seem important, are very, very important. Like the band playing certain songs before and during the game. And me recognizing them from the videos I watched when I was little.
A great memory was winning the regular season conference with Asheville. Or beating South Carolina at their place when they were almost unbeatable that season. Playing against Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Michael Dickerson at Arizona. Playing against Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Jeff McGinnis at NC and the season after that against Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison. I can go on for a while and most basketball players might think these things are normal when you compete at a certain level, which is true, but to me they mean a lot more, because I got to live my childhood dreams.
From 1998 till 2004, you’ve played in France, Belgium, Greece and Spain. What were your nicest memories on that period?
My time in Belgium was great. Especially my first season with Houthalen BC. Met a lot of good people and had a lot of fun playing. In Greece winning the championship with Apollon Patras with coach Darko Russo in the second division and moving up to the first league. In Spain living in Melilla, a small part of Spain on the coast of Africa (under Morocco), so every away game having to fly and cross the sea. You know good times.
Was it important for you to come home after that period abroad and play in Holland again?
Yes, I needed to make that decision and I’m glad I did. Coach Erik Braal was one of the biggest reasons I decided to play for Rotterdam. I wanted to play good team basketball and we really accomplished that in three seasons. I also wanted to be close to my family and friends again.
You played in Holland for Rotterdam and Leiden. Looking back, what were the hights and depths of those years?
In Rotterdam reaching the cup final was one of the highlights. But losing that same final was one of the depths hahaha… Yeah, I can laugh about it now, not back then though haha… And also finishing tied for 3rd/4th place in the regular season, something that nobody ever would have thought but we always believed was possible.
Your thoughts about the time you were member of the Dutch National team?
This should be a whole different interview because I can write a book about this! In general I am so very thankful that I was part of the National team for so long. Seen so many places and represented the country. Every time I heard the National Anthem I felt proud. I would always think the same things: look at me, a guy from The Hague, with Surinam roots, standing here playing for the country, because I’m chosen to do so. And I would feel strong and ready to play.
I was really lucky that when I first joined the team as a youngster there were some really good and experienced players that picked me up right away. Players who teach the game. Players we need more. A player I naturally learned to become. Players that still echo in my head telling me something specific I would never forget, even when writing the answers to an interview at the end of my career.
You ever heard of Cees van Rootselaar? Chris van Dinten? Marco de Waard? Okke te Velde? Richard van Poelgeest? Marcel Huybens? Rolf Franke? Erwin Hageman? Milko Lieverts? Virgil Ormskerk? Mike Nahar? Geert Hammink? Wierd Goedee? Guys that help you out when you’re the young guy.
I’ve had good times with the team, and of course later some periods where we couldn’t win a game which was frustrating. But Ill enjoy watching the team grow now, with vets Van Paassen and Elson and younger talents like Slagter, Akerboom, Norel, Janssen and Wessels.
I know it’s hard to single out particular moments, but are there two or three in your career that stand out as the most exciting or thrilling?
I give you one… And that was my first college game on the road at North Carolina. The first time I had seen so many people coming to see a basketball game. Tip off I’m a freshman, on the bench, hype, standing up talking to my teammates on the court: Let’s go! Be ready from the start! Let’s go dogs! The ref throws the ball up. Rasheed Wallace tips it back to Jeff McGinnis. McGinnis passes it to Dante Calabria, He throws it long. Jerry Stackhouse catches the ball and shows me probably one of the best dunks I would ever see in my life. 3 seconds played and were down 2-0. And I’m in awe… Looking back, sometimes it’s not only about the things you did at a certain time and your own personal highlights, but it’s about the whole experience and enjoying and appreciating those things.
Passion is a word that’s used a lot when people talk about your career. Is that something that’s a current through your whole life, or is it something basketball brings out of you?
Basketball taught me HOW to be passionate. But it’s in me now. So whatever I decide to do, I’m going to give it my all and enjoy the moments.
What has basketball meant to you?
My life. Everything and it will always be a big part of me. I’ve learned a lot because of it.
What’s the next chapter for Vincent Krieger away from basketball?
I’m not really sure. Ill probably keep doing something in basketball, but I’m not sure what exactly. I’m still going to be teaching and working with young unemployed people part-time.
And I’m also starting an entertainment company focused on music and video productions. I finally have some time for my other passion.