Jurgen Klinsmann praises Dirk Nowitzki

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
9:07
PM CT
U.S. men's soccer national team coach and 1990 World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann has hailed Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki as perhaps "the best ambassador" to the United States that German sport has ever produced.

In an interview which aired Saturday on "Soccer Today" on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM, as part of his recent visit to town for FC Dallas' MLS season opener, Klinsmann revealed that he is "big fan" of the NBA in general and Nowitzki in particular, having lived in the States for much of Nowitzki's career since retiring as a player in 1998.

"What's he done here, you can't describe it from a German perspective," Klinsmann said. "He's just an absolutely outstanding athlete, he's a role model, and he's the best (sporting) ambassador that we've probably ever had. We're pretty proud of him."

Nowitzki didn't have the opportunity to visit with his countryman when Klinsmann was in Dallas because the Mavericks were flying back from Oakland that day after completing their recent grind of nine games in 12 days after the All-Star break.

As part of the interview, Klinsmann talked extensively about the national team's recent win in Italy as well as the breakout season Texas native Clint Dempsey is having at Fulham in the Barclays Premier League. Klinsmann described his first eight months in the job as Dempsey's national team boss as a "blast."

Although English bookmakers continue to list Klinsmann as a top contender to replace Harry Redknapp as manager of Tottenham Hotspur in England's Premiership -- where he starred in the mid-1990s -- Klinsmann forcefully dismissed such speculation, insisting that he's not going anywhere. Klinsmann received a three-year contract in July 2011 to replace Bob Bradley as coach of the national team.

"I know the English media," Klinsmann told Soccer Today. "... It's just normal that they throw out names.

"I have a wonderful relationship with Tottenham and with all my teams that I played (with) as a player. I know the people (there), I know the enviromnment. It's a wonderful club. But I said that already weeks ago that I'm extremely proud and privileged to be U.S. national team coach. I'm not starting a job or a project and giving it up after a couple months That's not me.

"I want to guide (U.S.) players towards a level hopefully that they will reach and hopefully we will have, after successful qualification, a great World Cup in Brazil (in 2014). Then in soccer, like in any other environment, you never know what happens. (But) when there are speculations coming from Europe, it gives you a quick smile and you move on."

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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