Do you remember Nicolas Batum’s counterattack in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics in August 2021? We very well. It’s even the last time that we knocked out our voices in front of French basketball. And we were feverishly awaiting the Euro, at the beginning of September, to get back to pushing behind Vincent Collet and his flock. Except that, in the meantime, we were taken by the collar by Monaco, which had an incredible second part of the Euroleague, to the point of qualifying for the Top 8 and even tickling Olympiakos for a place in the Final Four.
Game 5 in Greece, at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, which was misnamed that evening, even made us, in vain, take off from our sofa, to vibrate behind Alpha Diallo, Mike James and company. And we are not the only ones to have taken our foot. “It’s the first time in a long time [Villeurbanne en 1997] that we hoped to have a team in the Final Four, ”comments Vincent Collet, coach of Boulogne-Levallois, elected coach of the year in Betclic Elite, the new name of the French championship this season.
“It pulls everyone up”
The coach of the France team is also delighted to have these two “locomotives”, with Asvel, in the French championship to bring everyone to the top: “The quality of the championship is up, it there is a clear development. It is the fact of the two big ones, which are formatted Euroleague. This allows you to have behind other clubs who have built competitive teams. Less complete and a little less strong than these two, but it pulls everyone up. This year, we had ten, a dozen competitive teams. And we weren’t always in that format. »
Proof of this is the fight for the play-offs, which begin on Tuesday, was fierce until the last day. Cholet had the last jump seat, to the detriment of Le Mans and Nanterre. Even at the bottom of the rankings, the fight was tough, and the ambitious Paris Basket project almost made the elevator directly before fleeing there too on the last day. In short, suspense everywhere and crazy scenarios: “The championship has taken on another dimension, with the emergence of Monaco and the ambitious project of Asvel, confirms Pascal Donnadieu, the coach of Nanterre. There is a high density. But the biggest budgets remain at the top. »
Still progress to make
Boulogne-Levallois, long at the head of the regular season, is thus the 4th budget of the late Pro A. The 3rd, behind Monaco and Asvel, therefore, is Pau-Orthez. Passed under the American flag last summer, the Bearnais club won the Coupe de France, its first trophy since 2007. “It’s a championship that has become very dense, with a lot of talent, youth, recognizes Chris Singleton, l one of the basketball voices of BeIN Sports, which will broadcast all the play-offs. I was very impressed by the level of foreigners, like Will Cummings, MVP of the season, and French players too. There is, for example, an impressive quality in the leaders. »
Still, the championship, even if it has progressed in many aspects, is still far from the best European nation, Spain. And there are many points for improvement: “For example, we coaches are concerned. Our progress will help our teams to improve”, explains Vincent Collet, who knows what he is talking about. After being fired from Strasbourg, he took a year off and took the opportunity to get up to speed to come back even better with the Mets 92:
I worked a lot on all the elements of coaching, I did a watch job by watching a lot of matches. It’s part of the coach’s life, but you don’t always have time to study the game, see what’s being done elsewhere, when you’re in the washing machine. »
The exposure problem
“We are an atypical championship, with exceptional physical and athletic qualities, continues Pascal Donnadieu. We should improve, we should mix that with players with more intelligence, basketball IQ. The actors still need to be improved so that the show is of the best possible quality. And how to improve all that? With more money, of course. If the budgets of French clubs are growing sharply, it is still difficult for them to attract the best European players and it is sometimes even difficult for them to keep the nuggets, dreaming of the NBA or the Euroleague, out of the cradle.
So where to look for the money? Pascal Donnadieu has a very specific idea: “For a sport of public notoriety, with a French team that shines, and a championship club at the gates of the Final Four, we have a TV contract at 0 €. This is where the shoe pinches. The progress made on the ground is not highlighted much. Rugby has made incredible progress in this area. We are light years away. We have to sell our product well. »
However, since December, a poster of the championship has been broadcast every week on beIN Sports. “They brought great credibility, recognizes Nicolas Lang, rear of Limoges. Since they broadcast the championship, I have a lot of messages from people who have never written to me after a match. The quality of the images, of the retransmission, of the comments, is something very important for French basketball. »
Especially since the returns are good, according to Chris Singleton: “We don’t mix things up: when we play a Betclic Elite game, we don’t talk about the NBA. We shed light on the championship, the individuals. Audiences are high [les chiffres ne nous ont pas été communiqués]. If all goes well, we cross our fingers, it’s an adventure that the channel wants to continue, because we have really good feedback. “All that remains is to blow up the wallet so that all of French basketball benefits from it. That’s the runoff.