Simply put, Vincent Collet has been one of the best coaches in European basketball over the past decade, during which he has achieved success both in France and with the French national team. Collet has won seven domestic titles with three different teams, including league championships with Le Mans Sarthe Basket in 2006 and ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne in 2009. Collet has guided the French national team during an unprecedented golden age since he joined the team in 2009. With Collet as head coach, France won three EuroBasket medals, including the title in 2013, plus a bronze medal at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He received the French Legion of Honour - the highest French order for military and civil merits at the class of Chevalier (Knight). Despite such a roll of trophies, Collet had never fully succeeded in European club competitions until this season. Strasbourg was close to becoming the first French team to reach the Euroleague Top 16 since 2007 as it registered wins against three playoffs teams - Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade, Real Madrid and Fenerbahce Istanbul. After Strasbourg joined the 2015-16 Eurocup, Collet took the team all the way to the finals, in which his team will face Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul. Collet is fully aware of Galatasaray's potential, but wants to go all the way. "It is amazing the number of congratulation messages we received when we qualified to the finals," Collet told Eurocupbasketball.com. "Everybody we meet talks about the finals, I can feel the French basketball pride and it is a good feeling to [represent] our basketball country in this situation."
Hello, Coach. Congratulations on reaching the Eurocup Finals. What sort of challenge will this be for you and your players?
"It is something amazing, especially for me. I have been working hard for many years to reach these kinds of games. It is really a great moment in my career and I think it is the same for my players; none of them has been to the Eurocup Finals and it is something they waited for. It also explains why we went down in the French League for a couple of weeks."
All nine players in your rotation scored in double digits at some point during the elimination rounds and the team has also had many different top scorers. Is that your main strength in the final: the fact that almost anybody can step up in any game?
"I think it is a strength. First of all, we want to share the ball, so that is why sometimes different players can score, but I think that, as every other team, we have some leaders. Mardy Collins made it to the All-Eurocup First Team and is one of them, but also Rodrigue Beaubois and Kyle Weems are regular scorers. But yes, for sure, it is an advantage that some other players can sometimes score."
You needed double overtime to beat Nizhny Novgorod and had to wait until the final minute to down Trento. Have you become a stronger team after that, having to survive two do-or-die situations?
"I think so, but I think it is the same for Galatasaray. The way they qualified against Gran Canaria was about the same. They needed overtime and if D.J. Seeley had made his free throws, Gran Canaria was plus-18. So it is not a real advantage, especially because Galatasaray also had it difficult to qualify against Bayern. Both teams had to fight to reach the finals."
In the finals you will face Galatasaray and Ergin Ataman, whom you have coached against in the past, most recently with your national teams. What can you expect from him and Galatasaray?
"He is a very experienced coach. He knows the game very well, even at this level; he won a Saporta Cup title with Montepaschi Siena a long time ago. He has this experience in final games and is a very smart coach. He likes to change defenses and use a lot of switches, and I think he has the team for that. We know that experience is on their side, even if it is probably their first time in the finals. They have more experienced players than us and will try to use them in these two games, because everyone knows experience is very important in finals."
Other than experience, Galatasaray and Strasbourg have very different playing styles, with your team trying to keep control while Galatasaray tries to run the floor. How important will it be to play at the right tempo?
"I believe that controlling the pace of the game is always very important in a final. Control doesn't mean going slow, but especially in Istanbul, it will be essential for us to stop them from going on a run. Like you said, they have a team that can go on runs; they did it against Bayern in the quarterfinals and against Gran Canaria in the semifinals. Both games were very tight and in two, three minutes, they got free and went on a run. Control will be very, very important for us."
Strasbourg has only lost once on the road this season and finished the elimination series with road wins. What has allowed Strasbourg to be so competitive on the road this season?
"I believe it is what we were talking about: controlling the pace of the game. We do a much better job on the road than at home in the Eurocup, but it was the contrary in the Euroleague! We got better on the road in the Eurocup, especially in the elimination series. We played really well on the road, but unfortunately we didn't do that at home; we played more freely and forgot about some important things to control the game."
How important will the days between Games 1 and 2 be to make adjustments, correct mistakes and prepare the team for a strong basketball atmosphere in Game 2?
"Making adjustments and correcting mistakes will be very important in this kind of matchup. Corrections and adjustments after Game 1 will be a big key - for me, essential. We have to get ready to play in this atmosphere. It will be on a basketball court so we have to keep our concentration on what happens there. We have to be ready to pass the right information to our players. We will practice for that, if necessary. If we won't do it, we will not be able to handle the situation."
Strasbourg would be the first French team to win the Eurocup. Do you feel that you have all of French basketball behind you, supporting Strasbourg in the finals?
"Yes. Clearly, yes. It is amazing the number of congratulation messages we received when we qualified to the finals. Everybody we meet talks about the finals, I can feel the French basketball pride and it is good feeling to [represent] our basketball country in this situation. We know that some time ago, it didn't happen for French basketball. We will try to show our best basketball."
You have won several domestic titles and also won the EuroBasket with the French national team. What would this Eurocup title mean to you?
"I means a lot to me. Like I said earlier, I didn't get a trophy in European competitions and getting to the final is the first step. People only remember those who win, so for me, as a club coach, it is probably the greatest moment of my career, even though, like you said, I won domestic championships with Le Mans, ASVEL and Strasbourg, it is not the same. Winning the Eurocup is a higher goal, I think."
The Eurocup title comes with a ticket to the Euroleague next season, when each team will play 30 games against the best teams in Europe. How important does that make this opportunity for Strasbourg?
"I think that as coaches and players, you always want to play at the highest level. The Euroleague is the best competition and there is no doubt about our will to reach this level. We also know that the only way to get there is this, so it is an extra motivation to win. I don't think we need extra motivation, because we always want to win titles, but playing with the best is always the main goal."