History of Basketball in Groningen and Donar

Lees de geschiedenis van Donar in het Nederlands

Foundation of Donar

Groninger Studentenschermvereniging (GSSV) Donar (Groningen's student fencing association Donar, GSSV Donar) was founded on January 17, 1881 by the merger of gymnastics association Wodan and fencing association Mars, both sub-associations of student association Vindicat Atque Polit. The name Donar fits with the Vindicat tradition of naming sub-associations after gods. Wodan is the main god of Germanic gods and Mars is the Roman god of war. Other Vindicat associations like Bragi and Aegir are also named after gods (Norse poetry god and the god of the ocean, respectively).

Basketball at Donar

The city of Groningen first met basketball in 1950. Wim Struik, teacher at the academy for physical education and head sports coordinator at the State university, took the initiative for a demonstration match.
After a call in the local newspaper there was enough enthusiasm to start the district Groningen of the Dutch Basketball Federation on January 20, 1951. Besides Donar there were eleven other teams involved in the foundation, including 't Noord Oosten, Exercitia and Rapiditas (part of GVAV-Rapiditas which later spawned FC Groningen).
It wasn't until the General Assembly on the 18th of May 1953 for basketball to officially be added to the statutes. Those statutes state that the club colours in that time were red, green, and white.
A half competition was started that first year which took place in the Korenbeurs (corn exchange building) on the A-Kerkhof. The Korenbeurs had one field with wrong dimensions: the field was too small and the pillars, with corn sample still hanging from them, stood dangerously close to the playing field. The wooden floor could cause splinters and it always was a bit dusty after exchange days.
The first game of the competition went between the Praedinius Gymnasium and staff of the State university which ended in the memorable score of 12 - 0. Donar played its first game on February 16 against 't Noord Oosten and lost by 29 - 9. Two weeks later, Donar got its first victory: 21 - 7 against the team of Albertus Magnus.
In the beginning, basketball was a secondary sport for most players. Most participating associations were handball, korfball and athletics associations. The student and high school associations also deserve to be mentioned.
In the much too small hall of the Korenbeurs, the basket could easily be defended with a zone defence. Noticeable teams in that era were the korfball clubs (distance shots) and the team of the military academy from Hooghalen, with famous football trainer Rinus Michels.
After some years the real basketball players got the upper hand. The first trainers from Groningen got their basketball diploma and the typical basketball techniques started to triumph.

The rise of Donar

A new era began when in 1958 G.S.S.V. Donar got a spot in the nationwide first class A competition. Although only three of the twenty games were won, this season brought a huge rise in interest in Groningen. The Korenbeurs attracted much more visitors than before. Because of the confrontation with the western playing style, there was a lot to learn from a technical and tactical perspective. Visitors could enjoy jump shots and hook shots for the first time.
Donar ended on a shared last place with Zeemacht from Den Helder and had to play a degradation match on April 25, 1959. Donar lost by 39 - 34 and degraded back to the first class of the regional competition.


When the Korenbeurs with its single field couldn't live up to the demand anymore, the competition was moved to the vegetable auction hall at the Peizerweg. It didn't matter a lot to Donar that that place wasn't optimal either. The floors - first made up of tiles and later asphalted - were slippery on more than one occasion by the presence of vegetable leftovers. It often happened that the hall was open for loading and unloading of vegetables during practices. The temperatures were also quite low during the winter, luckily there were training suits and hot air cannons. The warming-up of players could be taken literally during those days. The auction hall had the advantage of being big enough to fit three fields of the required sizes so the hegemony of the zone defence could finally be stopped.

In the following years the playing level got higher, as did the interest from the public. For a long time, the city of Groningen was the only basketball capital of the north, but after an intensive campaign, associations from Delfzijl, Stadskanaal, Musselkanaal, Veendam, Winschoten, Assen, Hoogeveen and Emmen joined the district. In 1967 the ACLO-hall on the Zernike complex (still called Paddepoel back then) (ACLO = academic central for physical education) became available which meant a new milestone for Donar. The men from G.S.S.V. Donar, still with only students (though not only from Vindicat anymore), earned a spot in the national premiership in 1970. Only one out of 22 matches that season was lost, with a difference of only three points. Players that year were Jan Loorbach, Ton Nederhoed, Jan Kamman, Hans Lesterhuis, Gerard van Groeningen, Jeroen Bordewijk and Ger Geerlings among others, in later years joined by Jacob Houwing, Wim Koning, Leo Wubbolt and with Klaas Bruin as coach. In those years, Jan Loorbach became the first player from Groningen to join the Dutch national basketball team.


Although Wim Struik said in 1966 that sport as a profession "is not sport anymore", the association broke from Vindicat in 1973 en changed from an amateur association to a professional sports organisation. From this year on, home games were no longer played at the Peizerweg but in the Evenementenhal. On top of that, some foreign players were brought to Groningen (Dragutin "Misko" Čermak as the first Eastern-European at a Dutch professional club and Fred DeVaughn as Donar's first American in the premiership-era).

Karel Bakker and others built on the success of Donar by getting Nationale Nederlanden (a major Dutch insurance company) as sponsor for a long period. Until then, most companies were reluctant to bind to a student sport for a long period. In an impressive presentation ("the sponsor brochure"), Bakker & co were able to convince Nationale Nederlanden to sponsor the club by emphasising the administration and organisation of the ambitious high level sports project.
The club would be known as Nationale Nederlanden Donar (NND in short) from then on and the club colours red, white and green were abandoned. Donar played that first year in blue and orange.
In the 1979-1980 season another club from Groningen played in the premiership: Basketbal Vereniging Groningen, or BVG in short. Some of the players from BV Groningen in that year had played for Donar earlier, such as Eddy Poelstra and Dick de Boer, or would layer play for Donar, like Cees Snitjer and Jack van der Veen. Since that season, the premier league has not had a season with two teams from the same city anymore.

At the end of the 1981-1982 season, Donar placed second in the regular season and ended up in the best-of-five finals of the playoffs, where they faced the number one of the competition, Nashua Den Bosch. The first (away) game was won, after which the second game (at home) was lost. The second away game was also won which put the score 2-1 in Donar's advantage. On April 10, Den Bosch was beaten in the Evenementenhal by one point and the first national championship of Donar was a fact.

Downfall and uprising

In February of 1982, Nationale Nederlanden announced to stop as sponsor. Because of the lower budget, the championship team could not be kept intact the year after. Still, the team placed fourth in the competition and made it to the semi-finals of the playoffs. Since no main sponsor was found on time, the club degraded to the regional competition and big names such as Frank Ardon, Albert van der Ark and Martin de Vries had no choice but to leave the club. The team, now named GBV Donar (Groninger Basketballvereniging Donar), became regional champion in their first season (1983-84). The two years after that were spent in the promotion division and home games were played in sporthal Vinkhuizen.

Due to the efforts of Grietje Pasma, Jos Timmer and Kor Kooi, amongst others, Ahrend (a Dutch office supplies manufacturer) became sponsor for three years and in 1986 Donar could once again perform on the highest level of the Dutch basketball competition. Frank Ardon, Albert van der Ark and Martin de Vries all returned to Ahrend Donar.

The nineties

After having Ahrend as sponsor, VGNN (a collection of health insurance companies) became sponsor for four seasons in 1989. In 1990, Martin de Vries stopped as player of VGNN Donar and "his" number 10 was being retired, an American tradition for players who meant a lot to their club. In February 1991, board member Grietje Pasma initiated the start of the BBC (Basketbal Businessclub).

In 1993, RZG, part of VGNN, took over as sponsor and the club was renamed to RZG Donar. RZG would eventually be sponsor for five years, only skipping the season of 1995-96 when Donar didn't have an official head sponsor. This period had the final against Den Helder in 1998 as highlight. Unfortunately this was lost by 4-, so no new championship after 13 years. At the end of the nineties, in 1999, MPC became the new sponsor and the club would now be known as MPC Donar.

Reconstruction and disappearance of Donar

From 1970 till 2001, Donar played all her home games in the Evenementenhal of the Martinihal building. This building was reconstructed in 2001 and renamed Martiniplaza with a larger sports hall that became the new home of Donar. After four years of MPC Donar, the name Donar disappeared from the club name: this was changed to MPC Capitals in 2003. That same year, top coach Ton Boot became Donar's new coach. In the following year Martin de Vries' number 10 was used again for the first time since 1990. At the end of the season the finals in the playoffs were won against Den Bosch by 4-2 and after 22 years a new championship was brought to Groningen. In 2005, still under the command of Ton Boot, Donar won the NBB cup for the first time, at the cost of Zwolle. Despite a first place in the competition, the Capitals lost in the quarter finals of the playoffs.

In 2006, MPC Capitals was renamed to Hanzevast Capitals. In the cup final the team lost by 10 points against Nijmegen, and again the quarter finals of the playoffs were the end of the season. In the following season, with feisty Catelan (Spanish) coach Josep "Pep" Clarós in command, Donar's season once again ended in the quarter finals.
In 2008, Marco van den Berg took over coaching. Marco played for GBV Donar from 1984 till 1986. The team lost in the semi-finals against Den Bosch by 3-2.

GasTerra Flames

The following season, in 2009, GasTerra (a large Dutch gas distribution company) became the new head sponsor of the club. The club would be known as GasTerra Flames for at least three seasons. With coach Marco van den Berg and assistant coach Hein Gerd Triemstra the club became champion again by beating Bergen op Zoom in the finals by 4-1.

In 2011 Donar became the first Dutch club to enter the preliminaries of the prestigious EuroLeague. The team lost twice from UNICS Kazan, which meant continuing in the lower EuroCup, which was eventually won by the previously mentioned Kazan.
With a mostly unchanged team the NBB cup was won again and Donar was placed first in the competition for a long time. However, on the last playing day, and thus the end of the competition, Leiden had one more won game and the Flames went into the playoffs placed second. After struggling through the quarter and semi-finals, the final went against the number 1 one of the competition, ZZ Leiden. It took seven games and three overtimes to beat Donar with only 1 point.

Marco van den Berg left the club at the end of that season and Hakim Salem became the new head coach the following year. He was assisted by former Donar player Harvey van Stein. With an almost new team (including, amongst others, youth player Yannick van der Ark, son of Albert) it became a restless season. Out of 28 games, 75% were won, but this didn't come easy. It took overtime against Stepco BSW in the battle for the cup. Weert proved to be stronger and Donar ended in the quarter finals. Because of the low number of teams that year (eight), the playoffs went a little different: it started with two pools with three teams. Out of four games, three were won and the Flames went through to the semi-finals relatively easy, where they faced long-time nemesis EiffelTowers Den Bosch. Although Donar had homecourt advantage, the final fifth game was lost by one point and Donar was finished in the race for the championship.

The 2012/2013 season was a boisterous year. Michael Kingma, who played for the Capitals for a while in the 2004/2005 season, was recruited as strong men under the basket. Somewhat later in the season, former Capitals player Rogier Jansen was also taken back to Groningen. In December, Maurice Miller was sent away because of disappointing performances. Just one week after, coach Hakim Salem was also fired. Between Salem leaving and getting a work permit for the new coach Ivica Skelin, U20 coach Anjo Mekel took over. We would stay on as assistant coach after that. The Flames didn't make it past the first round of the cup competition, after a very defensive game against ZZ Leiden. During the playoffs, Den Helder Kings was defeated in the quarter finals. With the same ease, Donar was defeated in the semi final, again by ZZ Leiden.

The 2013/2014 season started with the purchase of Arvin Slagter and Ross Bekkering, both coming from last years champion, ZZ Leiden. After the first two games were lost, 13 games in a row were won. The last game before the winter break was lost again, as well as the first game after the break. After that though, Donar broke a record from the 1967/1968 season: 19 matches in a row were won! Donar became first in the competition, which means home court advantage until the final of the playoffs. At the end of March the third NBB cup was won in Zwolle, against ZZ Leiden. After easily beating BC Apollo in the quarter finals of the play-offs, ZZ Leiden was the opponent in the semi final. Despite home court advantage, Donar was crushed in the first game (44 - 73). The following away game was also lost, putting Leiden on match point. Donar came back fiercely and won three games in a row, thereby advancing to the final against SPM Shoeters from Den Bosch. The home court advantage proved decisive, because all home games were won and all away games were lost. On the first of June - the first Donar game ever played in June - Donar became Dutch champion for the fourth time!

The return of Donar

After having played under different names for 11 seasons, the name Donar returned as club name in 2014! Without a main sponsor (for the first time since 1973 Donar played in the premiership without a main sponsor!) the expectation at the start of the season were low. The Supercup was unexpectedly won against Leiden which meant the first prize of the season was won even before the competition began.
Donar did well in the cup competition and after an exciting semifinal against Leiden, the team stood against arch nemesis Den Bosch in Zwolle on March 29. Donar proved to be too strong and won the second prize of the season. Against all odds at the beginning of the season, Leiden was once again beat in the semifinal of the playoffs meaning the team stood against Den Bosch in the finals again. Here, Den Bosch was much too strong for Donar and they won the championship by 4-1.

The following season was a rocky one. Often there are one or two players that come or leave during the season. In 2015/2016 however there were four players that left, of which Tommy Mason-Griffin was with the team the shortest: he only played one game for Donar! His replacement, who already played for Donar before, was Lance Jeter and he proved to be the player the team needed. In the Cup tournament Donar lost suprisingly to team from Amsterdam, BC Apollo (former Donar player and coach of Apollo Patrick Faijdherbe said after the game he had rather won in the competion than in the Cup) but after Jeter joined everything went smoothly. During the playoffs Donar won convincingly of Rotterdam, Leiden, and Zwolle respectively and with that the fifth championship became a fact on May 26, 2016!

Season 2016/2017 started, with a mostly intact team, fiercely: in late September two games in the preliminary round of the Champions League were played in 3 days. Both were lost, but Donar could go on in the lower Europe Cup. Four out of six games in the group stage were won which was enough for Donar to reach the second round, the first time in Donar's history! In the second round again 4 out of 6 games were won and although it was very close, it was not enough to advance another round.

After winning the second Supercup on the 1st of October 2016 the competition started. During the entire season only two games were lost, a new record. Donar ended the regular competition with a large gap to the number two of the Dutch Basketball League. The cup competition was another success story, all games were won and with that the fifth NBB Cup could be added to the cupboard. During the playoffs, New Heroes Den Bosch was easily swept away in the semifinal by 4-0. Zwolle was again the opponent in the final. This too was won convincingly (26 points difference on average) and after 5 games, Donar could place the sixth championship trophy in the cupboard!

Season 2017/2018 was all about Europe. Not only was it the season in which Donar played its one-hundredth European game, it was also the season in which the quarter final of the Europe Cup was first achieved. The season in which multiple records were broken: the lowest quarter score for the opponent (4 points), the lowest final score of the opponent (43 points), the highest individual score (Evan Bruinsma, 34 points), and finally the most number of threepointers in a single game (22). Thanks in part to the long European campaign Donar played the most games ever this season, 77 in total!
On top of all that, Donar also won its sixth NBB Cup and the seventh championship.