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Collet stays in charge of buoyant national team

Vincent-Collet-24-09-2013Vincent Collet didn’t need much convincing.

The man who has led France to its finest hour in basketball, glory at this month’s EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia, has decided to remain in charge of the national team.

In fact, he already had before the French team’s fabulous finish in Ljubljana, Slovenia at the weekend.

The French stormed to an 80-66 victory over Lithuania in Sunday’s title game.

“I must cool down, drink a couple of beers and then it will be clear,” Collet said, smiling, after the victory over the Lithuanians, when asked after if he planned to continue at the helm.

On Monday, during a press conference, Collet revealed that he had already made up his mind last week to continue coaching yet decided to hold off on the announcement until after the EuroBasket.

The veteran coach, who also guides Strasbourg in the French League, has agreed to remain in charge for another three years.

Jean-Pierre Siutat, the French Basketball Federation President, said: “We agreed with Vincent to continue the work done in recent years, which has enabled France to win its first European title.

“After a silver medal in 2011 (EuroBasket), a very good run at the London Games in 2012, and a historic medal in 2013, however, I hope we can continue this great work to the 2016 Olympic Games.

“I want to thank the Club President (Martial Bellon) in Strasbourg, with whom we reached agreement.”

Collet took over in 2009 and led Les Bleus through the Additional Qualifying Round for the EuroBasket in Poland.

The French lost just once in that tournament, falling to eventual champions Spain in the Quarter-Finals, but finished fifth and qualified for the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

Collet’s squad reached the Knockout Round but lost to Turkey, and the following summer made it all the way to the Final of the EuroBasket before losing in a real battle to Spain.

At last year’s Olympics in London, France made it to the Quarter-Finals but suffered a narrow defeat to Spain.

This month, the French team peaked at the right time.

After losing to Germany in their first game of the tournament and then going down in the Second Round to Lithuania and Serbia, Collet’s squad beat hosts Slovenia in the Quarter-Finals before going to overtime in the Semi-Finals and beating nemesis Spain.

Collet, who will lead the team at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, has paid tribute on many occasions to the other coaches on his staff, and he has constantly highlighted the commitment shown by his leading players.

Two of the most important have been Boris Diaw and Florent Pietrus.

“You cannot imagine what kind of captain Boris is,” Collet said to FIBA.com.

“He’s a good player on the court but he is a fantastic person. He keeps everyone involved, he’s nice to everyone, takes care of his teammates all the time. He’s fantastic.

“I’ve always said I’d like to be his friend when basketball is over. I’m sure that will be the case.

“Flo is the heart of this team. He gets older and doesn’t have as much talent as the others, but you know when you need a fighter, he is always the first one.

“He helped us in the Semi-Finals and in the Final. If we didn’t have him against Spain, we wouldn’t have made it to the Final. That’s for sure.”

Pietrus has spent the past several years competing in the Spanish League but has decided to return to France and play for Nancy in the 2013-14 campaign.

He hasn’t turned his attention away from the national team yet, though.

“We still do not really realize what we did,” he said at Monday’s press conference.

“I’m a little surprised by all the noise. The last five days, France shook as a nation. What really struck me the most was the game against Spain. Everyone was behind us. Though it was thousands of miles away, we really felt the support.”

All of the players and coaches were on Monday invited to the Elysee Palace in Paris, which is the residence of France President Francois Hollande.

As for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Collet is on board and numerous other players will be champing at the bit to take part, too.

EuroBasket MVP Tony Parker may play at the event.

He got hurt just days before the start of the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan and withdrew from the squad and skipped the event four years later in Turkey.

“For now, it is too early to talk about it,” Parker said.

“I don’t yet know what I’ll do. We will see at the end of next season.

“But I’m eager to continue to help the French team progress and win more titles.”

 

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