Former French professional basketball player
Bronze medal at the European championship in
Assisting coach in Paris Levallois
In the 90’s, project kids were only crazy about football. Tell us how you discovered basketball.
I had a lot of friends in Sarcelles, Garges, and the area. I played football. My icons were Roger Milla, Yannick Noah, etc. Than in my preteen years came along a friend who was often tra- velling to the United States. He would show us video tapes of basketball players and I loved it right away. I wanted to be like one of the Chicago Bulls stars, like Jordan, and make amazing performances. I became a “gym rat”: I would hang out at the gym every day and trained until it closed.
How did you join the Levallois club?
It happened when I was about 15, during a discovery training course. I was curious and fearless. Moustapha Sankho was ri- sing and he was an example for kids like me. Pretty soon, from “Cadet” I became “Espoir”. Like Joakim Noah and Tony Par- ker, I had the opportunity to be coached by a successful Ameri- can basketball player who meant a great deal to my career: Ron Stewart. This man inspired important values to the kids we were: the sense of effort, observation, the rage to win, personal and collective work. All of us who followed his teachings had beautiful careers. We would stop at nothing. As long as the final whistle hadn’t been blown, you could expect anything from us. That is why they called us the “Cardiaques Kids”.
The last medal for the French team was at the European Basketball Championship in 1959. But you won the bronze medal in 2005. What do you think was the key to success?
Of course, there is always a lot of work behind a victory. But our state of mind meant a lot. I believe that our brotherly and respectful spirit has marked us for life. We did everything together: emulation, support, and lots and lots of talking. When you watch Tony Parker or Boris Diaw, to name the most famous ones, you see this spirit of generosity. We have all developed this spirit inside us.
How did you become a coach?
First there was a major injury in 2005. I learned to walk again, then run and jump. Simultaneously, a new American management method based on statistics and such completely changed the framework I was working in. It felt like we were focusing on humans again. I played in the clubs of Pau, Strasbourg, Fos, Chalon, then Denain. There, I found frameworks that really fit me.
When I turned 40, I did a coach training because I still really needed to share. So when the Levallois Sporting Club contacted me to become an assisting coach I was so glad to come back to the club where it all began for me. I got encouragement calls from my colleagues who had been there.
Tell us how you see basketball today.
In basketball in general, we are constantly helped: with the statistics tools, the body specialist who prevent players from working, while back in the days, we would play despite our minor injuries, and the omnipresent video tools. Everything is made to supervise players with outside elements. My role is to make a connection between the game and these elements that shouldn’t break your will. In terms of relations between players, in my generation, we would all go out together after practice. Newbies often go their own way, they are super-connected, they analyze Facebook, Snap, Instagram… You can feel it in the field. In my club, we are all about people first. We are doing quite good and our boys are doing great: 60% changes and two players in the French national team (Vincent Poirier and Louis Labeyrie). Finally, if you want to win, you need to work on your spirit and be generous!
By Médina KONÉ