Vincent Collet, 13 years at the head of the Blues and still the same “flame”

If charisma were only a matter of drawing, then Vincent Collet would be more flamby than Don Corleone. But it is nothing. Placed in the middle of the golgoths of the France team on the Bercy floor on the eve of the departure for Germany (where the Blues face Turkey in the 8th this Saturday), small white legs in the air in shorts too large for him , the tricolor coach imposes. Each of his words is worth the gospel and, at the slightest whistle, the players stop short to listen religiously to the professor. It must also be said that thirteen years at the head of the French basketball team makes you feel like a man. Vincent Collet is not part of the furniture, he IS the furniture.

And while he is playing his twelfth international competition, the Norman has never seemed as fulfilled as today at the head of this team. He is also currently the French coach in office for the longest time, in any sport, ahead of Didier Deschamps the little player and his ten years of reign in Blue. But what is his secret to holding on so long and resisting all the tests, and god knows he has known some since his induction in 2009, he who was then only a small Pro A coach who had trouble to be respected by his players (this is Antoine Diot who was telling it at the time, not us)?

“A passionate person like you rarely meet”

For his friend Christophe Denis, consultant for Canal + during this Euro 2022, the answer lies in two words: the flame.

Vincent’s flame grows from competition to competition, he assures us. This flame is really the first thing you feel when you discuss with him. He is a passionate person like you rarely see in this sport. That’s why he always manages to take up the challenge with the France team. He has a passion for the game. He is someone who can bluff any very high-level technician as to his understanding of the game, his ability to change the game of the France team according to the players he has on hand. Year after year, he manages to involve the guys in a collective game project by making them understand that they can live a dream. »

If he “imposes respect”, as the former coach of Bourg-en-Bresse explains, it is also because this respect is reciprocal. Vincent Collet knows as much what the French team owes him as what he owes the French team. When we questioned him before the start of the Euro, it transpired in his speech: “These thirteen years in the France team have taught me a lot of things. I am someone who likes to learn, all the time. And so I took advantage of the different opportunities that were offered to me to move forward, to progress. I had this chance to be confronted at the highest world level over a long period, it is a privilege and necessarily an opportunity for me in my job. It allowed me to progress, we play against the best, we also have the best players, all that means that normally we make two or three small improvements. Normally (laughs). »

The Fed maintains its confidence in him after the failure of 2017

However, all was not rosy. Despite his three consecutive medals won in 2013, 2014 and 2015 at the European and World Championships, the current Metropolitans 92 coach has sometimes had to go through areas of great turbulence, as after the slap received in 2017 with a pitiful elimination of the Euro from the round of 16. At the time, the haters were numerous, torches and lanterns in their hands, to demand the guillotine from the president of the Federation. But Jean-Pierre Siutat is a loyal man who walks on trust. “If we had listened to everyone in 2017, we should have fired Vincent Collet, he recalls. But he is still there today, he questioned himself, his staff and the players, and what we experienced afterwards is also because we experienced this failure. »

“We are in a country where, from time to time, those who lead are able to remain lucid, to keep a cool head and to make the right decisions, applauds Christophe Denis. We often tend after a failure to want to cut heads. But no, failure is part of the path to success”. The bronze medals in China (2019) and silver in Tokyo (2021) are the best proof of this. Because if the failure of 2017 was “traumatic for Collet”, according to Denis, he in no way extinguished his flame. On the contrary: “We weren’t good, I wasn’t good, but this failure made me grow and become aware of certain things”, he analyzes with hindsight.

An extremely strong relationship with its players

By his own admission, it is in the relationship with his players that he has evolved the most over time. And if he can still swing a few very scary blowers, like the memorable one from 2010 which still whistles in the ears of TP and co ‘, Collet has calmed down. “We can talk about maturity, yes. In 2009 I was 46, I’m 59 today, that’s a long way to go, he smiles. And even if I have always been talkative, today I communicate differently with my players. I am much more into sharing and reciprocity than at the start of my mandate. »


And from what we understand, this method seems to match perfectly with the current group. Elie Okobo: “He’s an intelligent coach. He is someone who constantly wants to improve and he does not hesitate to question himself if he feels that it can help him in this direction, he detailed before the Euro. He is very open, he asks us for our opinions on certain situations, we can really talk to him, it’s great. Personally, I talk a lot with him on a daily basis about what is happening on the pitch, about what he expects of me, he gives me feedback on my matches, on my training sessions, it’s good to have this kind of discussions because it allows me to better understand what he expects of me and to progress. »

For once, this openness to others and this meticulous side are not new. In a report from Stade 2 dated 2014, when he was in charge of the SIG, we see him taking his players one by one after a match to distribute the good points and correct the small hiccups interviewed on the floor. “The speech he gives to his players is stunning, breathes Christophe Denis. He always finds the right words at the right times and that’s not given to everyone. I see him, me, at Boulogne-Levallois, he spends as much time training his team as talking to his players individually before training, after training. He can spend literally an hour with a guy one-on-one if he deems it necessary, and when he does that, he doesn’t get drunk. “The mark of the greats, no doubt about it.

Vincent Collet, 13 years at the head of the Blues and still the same “flame”