Vincent Collet is the head coach of the France national team since 2009 as well as being head coach of French team Strasburg. He led France at the European championships to the silver in Lithuania in 2011, the gold in 2013 in Slovenia and a bronze at the World Championships in Spain in 2014. German Hoops spoke to Vincent Collet in Cologne before the exhibition game against Germany.
Vincent thanks for talking to German Hoops. France will play Germany in the Laxness arena Sunday. What memories do you have of the German city Cologne as a player and head coach?
A very short memory. I remember playing Euroleague in 2006 against the Cologne team. However we didn´t play in the Laxness arena, but in another one that was in a tent
You led France to a silver medal in Lithuania in 2011, a gold in Slovenia in 2013 and a bronze last year at the world championships. Do you have a special place for all your awards as a coach at a home?
I have a special place at home for all the awards, but I must be honest that I want to continue more medals to my collection. We want to win the 2015 European championships, but our main goal is the 2016 Olympics. We want a medal there and the loss to Spain in 2012 didn´t leave a good memory for us.
France basketball in the national team has been very successful in the last years, but lets be honest you continuously have amazing rosters with much NBA talent. Does it sometimes feel like you are a head coach like Phil Jackson where you kind of sit back and let the players play?
For sure sometimes I really don´t need to say much. We have great players and most important is to always keep the players focused and together.
How much of a challenge is it being a coach and coaching so much talent? What is the most difficult thing of coaching the France national team?
The most difficult thing is getting each player on the same page and having each guy know their role well. We had problems in the past where substitutes didn´t accept the hierarchy. Something like this can always come back, but it is my job to keep harmony in the team.
Congrats on the 76-52 win against Germany on Friday in Strasburg. How high can you rank a win like this against the pesky German team so close to the start of Euro 2015?
Well it was a good win yes and no. If you see the result then it is a good win. The first six minutes were close, but we then had a 31-0 run something that usually doesn´t happen. We played excellent in this phase, but Germany missed many open shots that they usually would make. We had such a high lead then that the game was over. This game didn´t have much meaning. It is already forgotten. The game Sunday in Cologne will be a lot different.
Where do you rate the 31-0 run of France against Germany? Was that the best 13 minutes of basketball you have seen your team play or just very bad German play?
It was a little of both. We played great aggressive defense and made tough shots. Germany played very bad in this moment.
What is your impression of Germany? They have three NBA players with Dirk Nowitzki, Dennis Schroeder and Tibor Pleiss. What is still missing in their game ?
That is difficult to say as I can only comment about this game. Germany has very good and reliable shooters with Gavel, Giffey and Schaffartzik, but they weren´t hitting anything. They definitely are a better team than what they showed in Strasburg. I am still waiting for Germany to play better. They didn´t move the ball well and were static. I saw other games from the last weeks where Germany was better.
Germany is in a tough group where they most likely will battle Italy and Turkey for the third spot to advance. Do you think that Germany will be able to do this task?
I think that Germany will advance. They have a big advantage that they play at home. I believe that Germany will get better during Euro 2015 day by day. It will be an emotional return for Dirk Nowitzki who last played a big tournament in 2011. Spain and Serbia are the favorites. I think that Italy could be the surprise team in that group. They have a good team and the young guys have matured over the last years and they have had the same coach since 2011. Be ready for Italy making a surprise.
France has had a very solid pre season. How ready is France for Euro 2015?
I don´t think were quite ready now, but we will be by Friday. It will be a process from game to game and we want to reach the final
France have a very interesting group with Poland, Israel, Russia, Bosnia and Finland. What country do you see making biggest surprise?
I think that in our group the surprise could be Finland. They have a team that has been together for a while and the chemistry is good. Their big men aren´t really big men as they play more away from the basket. Finland is a special team.
France are the favorite in this group. How difficult is it keeping the team grounded and getting self confident? Is the team chemistry that the club has had for many years half the rent to winning games?
Our goal isn´t necessarily being first in the group, but advancing. We have to look from game to game to get better as the tournament goes on. We will play against better teams so we will have to increase our level. Last year Spain was very strong in the early going, but lost to us in the quarterfinals. Important for us is to always get better as we get closer to the final.
Alexis Ajinca is injured and won´t play while you have added young talent Mouhammadou Jaiteh. Is he the future of French basketball and what does he bring to the table that Ajinca doesn´t?
Jaiteh is of the players of the future for us. He isn´t the same kind of player as Ajinca as he isn´t as tall, but he has very good skills especially around the basket and has soft hands.
The France team has many veterans and not getting younger. The youngest guys on the team other than Jaiteh are Rudy Gobert and Evan Fourner. How does the future of France basketball look like in the next years?
It won´t be easy to replace the Parker/Diaw era. This era has been so special and we have been lucky to have so many special players over the last years. It will be a real challenge to find new young talents. We have good young guys coming up. However there is a difference between good young guys and stars. We have many good young players but no one like Tony Parker. It is hard to replace a guy like Parker.
You have followed the career of Joffrey Lauvergne since his days with Chalon. He played last season for Denver and had a good 2015 NBA Summer League with the Denver Nuggets averaging 11,0ppg and 8,0rpg. Do you see him having a long career in the NBA?
Why not. Lauvergne is a young player that is physical and has a good mid range shot. He always plays with a lot of energy and I believe that he can keep a spot in the NBA for a long time.
Strasburg has been a finalist the last three years in the France Pro A. Do you sometimes wish some of the France national team success would carry over to the Strasburg team?
For sure that would be very nice. I like how much we have improved since I came in in 2011. The clock was at 12 when I came in as head coach and everything has been going well except for winning that league title. The final isn´t enough, but we want more. The last step is always the most difficult. We will keep going and try again this season.
You have coached many players in your life, but have you ever seen a better player at age 36 than Lou Campbell?
Now I need to think a minute. I have not coached a player at 36 that is in the same shape as Lou Campbell. He is in great shape and looks so young. He is very professional and a family guy. He doesn´t go out, but just takes care of himself. It also helps that he is a solid athlete still at 36.
You signed German Kostja Mushidi. Too what player does his game remind you of and what do you like most about his game?
He visited us in May for a try-out. His father in law is French which helps. He made a great effort when he was in Strasburg. He is a very interesting player for us. He has many fine qualities like being physical, quick and explosive. Of course he is still a young player and needs to learn, but we believe in him. He reminds me of ex NBA player Jamal Mashburn.
What was the last movie that you saw?
I don´t remember. I have had much basketball the last 2-3 months.
Thanks Vincent for the chat.