By David Hein
Romania may have bowed out of the 2007 EuroBasket Women after three straight defeats in Group B in Lanciano, but their third showing on Europe's biggest stage in the past 20 years was definitely a learning experience.
Few of the Romanian players had much big-game experience from the club level and it showed.
Having the likes of Frenchman Marc Silvert as coach helped immensely.
Especially considering his credentials, which include coaching US Orchies Nomain (the fore-runner of USVO Valenciennes) from France's 10th division to the top flight in nine seasons.
He then led Valenciennes to the 1994 French league title before leaving in 1999 after 25 years with the club.
The 53-year-old also coached the men's teams at BCM Gravelines and Beauvais and the women at Belgian EuroLeague side Dexia Namur and French club Villeneuve-d'Ascq.
FIBA Europe's David Hein sat down with the Romanian coach to discuss his successful coaching past in French basketball, his coaching mentors, some basketball strategy, the differences of coaching the men's and women's game and a perceived rivalry with Belgium's French coach Laurent Buffard.
FIBA Europe: Coach Silvert, you've been in coaching for more than 30 years. How did you develop your coaching style?
Silvert: When I was young - like 20 to 30 - I was crazy about the States. I was there a lot of times for coaching clinics. There were many guys I watched, but one in particular was Tex Winter at Long Beach State. I've been in Asia as well as 350 games in EuroLeague and EuroCup. And you learn every day in this job. Of course after 10-15 years you have your own philosophy. The philosophy you get is a mixture of everything you've learned over all those years. What I try to tell my players is if they do it my way things are going to be okay. If they try it a different way, it's not going to be positive because I like to have everybody in the same spirit.
|Annemarie Parau plays for Silvert at club level and helped convince him to come to Romania.|
FIBA Europe: So let's talk some game strategy. The game is tied with 10 seconds left and your opponent has the ball. Do you foul and take the ball into your hands or play defense?
Silvert: I always foul. This is like a person about to be hanged. You put them on the table and you know some time the table is going to fall down and they'll be hanged. When you're on defense and down in your stance and you just wait and you know that you can be killed like this. I don't like it. I want to be the killer - not the one to wait to be killed. There's a lot of room for experimenting and understanding that have to learn. Like in the last four seconds of the shot clock. A lot of teams rush to get a shot. We don't look for a shot. We're looking for a foul and get a new ball with 24 seconds. There's a lot of things like that that players in Romania don't have any idea about.
FIBA Europe: You've played and coached the men's game and coached the women's game as well. What's the difference?
Silvert: First of all, if women want something they will probably be stronger in the will than the men. The problem with the women is that there's always something in the relationship with the other women. It's always up and down. You have to deal with their ups and down and try to make it a stragiht line. It takes a magician to do that. The men's teams are much easier. It's easier because if you have something to say to the guys, you say it face-to-face and it's over. One of the main problems for the men is when the women of these guys are in the stands and they talk to each other and two days later you get back the story about the women in the men's heads. That's the only real problem with the men. The women sometimes are more work psychologically. You have to try to let them go and try to motivate them. This is a lot of work with the women. It's much more difficult to coach women, but it's also much more interesting.
FIBA Europe: Your Romanian starting point guard Annemarie Parau was also your playmaker at Dexia Namur in Belgium. What impact did she have on your coming to coach in Romania?
Silvert: I had some money last year to find a player for my team to guard the point. I had heard about Parau so I decided to come to Romania and see her last year. I decided to contact her and she came to me. During the whole season she told me about her team in Romania and she was saying that the team was improving and why don't I come and coach the team - that it would be good experience for the girls to have coaching like we have here. So that was a part of my decision.
FIBA Europe: And what kind of team did you find?
Silvert: I arrived in July and, first of all, I was disappointed with the physical level of the girls. Ninety percent of them had three months vacation and I asked about their goal and right away they were talking about the Olympic Games. I told them, come on, this is incredible. You tell me about the goal you want and you don't do anything for it. So they have been suffering a lot for the past two months. But I told them, you knew what you were going to get when I came here. We were a little bit off for sure here in Italy. But the main thing we were missing was the experience at the high level. You can give them tactical help and physical help. But you can't help them with experience in big games. They have to learn that on their own.
FIBA Europe: You coached USVO for 25 years, bringing them from the 10th division of the French system in 1974 to the top flight in 1985. You stayed until 1999 and along the way you won one French championship and four French cups. How was it leaving after all those years?
Silvert: When you build something like I did, it's like your child. We only won one title in 1994. But we started from the bottom. In 1994 we had four or five teams who were richer than us but we had a great team. And from 1995 to 1999 we finished second to the great teams of Bourges. They were a dominating team and European Champion two times. And we finished runners-up for four years. People in France were calling me the "Poulidor" (Raymond Poulidor was a French cyclist who finished second at the Tour de France five times). But being the "Poulidor" behind the team that was European champion twice in a row is not a shame, especially since we had half the budget of them.
FIBA Europe: And Valenciennes finally decided to put more money into the club and had some great success, including two EuroLeague titles. How disappointed were you with that situation?
Silvert: Very much disappointed, especially when you put a lot of your life into it. But I
never had any problem with Laurent Buffard, who replaced me as coach. He said he's not going to be the "Poulidor" behind Bourges. And that was okay. But I was proud to be "Poulidor" behind Bourges.
|The media has made much of Silvert's purported rivalry with Belgium coach Laurent Buffard.|
FIBA Europe: With Bufffard replacing you and having more success, do you have any rivalry with him?
Silvert: The journalists in France did a lot of things about this. Of course I was disappointed when I heard him say he's not gonig to be the "Polidor" in French basketball. Now we have a good relationship. We just talk about the game and everything else. I have nothing against Laurent. In L'Equipe, they had an article about our game (Romania vs Belgium) and the politics are still there even though Laurent didn't talk to the guy for the past year.
FIBA Europe: And now Herve Coudray is the new coach at Valenciennes - just the third in the club's history after you (25 years) and Buffard (eight years). How much pressure will he be under?
Silvert: I know he's going to have a major load on his shoulders. Especially because the bosses don't understand how their team can lose. So believe me, he's going to be under a lot of pressure. They won't accept defeats.
FIBA Europe: So, let's return to the Romanian national team one more time. After all the success you've had in your career, how does it feel to watch your team lose three times in three games?
Silvert: I decided to come to Romania for another experience, but that's probably my first loss. Wherever I've been we were always pretty successful. This time, I have to say that the result is closer than it looks - three points in last game (against Belgium). The two months were a lot of work for the girls and I'm sure they're happy that they worked with me. But it's a bit of negativity for the first time for me. But I will get another chance.
FIBA Europe: And what did you tell your players after the final game?
Silvert: I just tell my players here that when I leave them they will be richer for what we've done here together for two months. I've had some great feedback and a desire to understand from some of the palyers and that was great.