Greg Monroe: “Fans in Europe are great. I understand their culture, but racial assaults on players happen all the time in the NBA as well”

Photo Credit: Sampics/AK

In July 2019, when FC Bayern Munich announced the signing of NBA veteran Greg Monroe, the main question was: How would he fare in the Euroleague game? His strengths and weaknesses were readily apparent to those who had watched any of his 632 games in the league, where he averaged 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds.

In an article for TalkBasket, Alexandros Tsakos predicted that “Bayern found a player that can change the balance of their offensive plan and improve their hopes of entering the playoffs in a very competitive season in the EuroLeague”. While the first part of the sentence was true, as Monroe was one of the most dominant big men in the competition, the latter turned out problematic.

Over 28 Euroleague caps, the former Georgetown standout registered 12.9 points on 52.3% FG and 74.7% free-throws, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals for a Performance Index Rating of 16.8. Not bad at all, especially taking his consistency into consideration. Monroe had double-digit PIR in each of his 12 last appearances, while also scoring in double digits in nine out of those twelve games.

The downside of his performances, however, was Bayern Munich’s terrible balance of 8 wins and 20 losses that crossed out the German hopes for a play-off ticket early in the season. A season which probably will never resume due to the pandemic, but in any case -even if Bayern win all their six games left to play- game’s already over for them. After a promising 3-2 start, Monroe and his teammates suffered a 1-7 losing streak, from which they never recovered.

TalkBasket.net met Greg Monroe in Athens in mid-January, long before any coronavirus incident was registered in Europe. The 30-year-old center talked about the background of changing continent after nine NBA years, in which his game shares were becoming smaller and smaller, the possibility of getting a foreign passport and his views on fan culture in Europe, including some racist incidents.

Q: What did you know about the Euroleague before coming to Europe?

A: I had played with players that played in the Euroleague; with teammates I had in college and I also grew up with some people. There’s guys in Europe who I keep up with their play here, like Bo McCalebb, Mike James, who I’ve played with in the past and is with CSKA right now.

Q: Not Derrick Williams, though.

A: I didn’t talk to Derrick Williams. I competed against him, but I don’t know him personally. However, I did talk to some other players that had played in Bayern Munich before. So, when I did start to make the decision to come here, they would definitely give me as much information as they could.

Q: Bayern Munich GM Daniele Baiesi said that there were no real negotiations with your side and that it was more of a “take it or leave it” situation. Was it so?

A: (laughs). I mean, yeah. When me and my agent started exploring options here, I was already familiar with the GM Daniele and from there it was more about being the right situation: good club, good players. Munich is a great city. So, that was really it. We explored some other options in the Euroleague, but once talking and feeling comfortable with them, I felt it was the right situation.

Greg Monroe Bayern ALBA
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

Q: Do you think post play is not in fashion anymore, especially in the NBA?

A: I think it all depends on the situation. There’s guys that still play the post and post up, but it’s more about how the team will set you and what else they want from you. In the Euroleague, obviously it’s more post up, more traditional basketball. NBA is a different game, but there are roles for post up over there as well. It’s just not at a high frequency.

Q: Growing up, which player did you look up to?

A: I was huge fan of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and also of the big guys that went to Georgetown, like Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo. The lineage that all those guys had at Georgetown, definitely played a part in me going there. I definitely felt comfortable with (Georgetown) coach John Thompson, seeing how he coached the game and how the system was run. When I went on a visit there, it was a no-brainer for me. I felt comfortable with the city of DC, the campus was great and it was an easy decision to go there.

Q: Did you regret signing with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2015? You had to sacrifice a bigger role and more playing time compared to Detroit.

A: No, I don’t regret it at all. When I went there, I knew where I had based my decision on. I thought about it clearly and going there was no regret. The fans and my teammates are great. That’s a wonderful organisation. The owners are among the best in the league, I believe. With all that, I definitely didn’t regret it.

Associated Press
Photo: Associated Press

Q: Some ex-NBAers, like Shane Larkin and Derrick Williams, are willing to apply for or have already obtained a European passport in order to be able to play in the Olympic Games. Would you do the same?

A: (laughs). Yeah, I would consider it for sure. If I had the opportunity, that’s something that you dream of as a player. You want to compete at the Olympics, the World Cup, represent a country. But I don’t know if I’m eligible for that. I guess that if I get a passport, I will be. That’s something I would consider, for sure. I wouldn’t mind it. Obviously, anybody would love to compete in the Olympics.

Q: Did you actually take legal action against an Alba Berlin fan for insulting you racially last December?

A: No. I didn’t realise it at the moment. It was brought to me after the game, but obviously it’s something that I believe shouldn’t be tolerated and that’s what people in Alba Berlin did. I appreciate the team and the Berlin police department for not tolerating and wanting to do process. Honestly, I was focused on the game and I tried to block out fans as much as possible.

Q: Was it the first time that something similar occured to you?

A: Nah, it wasn’t the first time. It happens in the NBA, for sure. Racial assaults on players happen all the time. You have fans that heckle you. I don’t think that the place for that is sports or anywhere in the world, period. But it’s a game in the end of the day. We’re here competing, trying to have fun. I don’t think it’s that deep, especially from the fans’ perspective. Fans are great here in Europe. I can face the culture and understand that you want to support your team. Going on the road and then Munich it’s fun to see the fans in action, but that part of it is just unnecessary. You know, I’m just playing basketball. That’s all.