One Day At A Time For France, Halin

26 July 2008
If all coaches could clearly and concisely express what their intentions, hopes and expectations are as well as Gregory Halin does, basketball would be far simpler for a lot of players.

The French head coach, who last year led the national team to the U16 title in Latvia, has a credo he abides by.

"I don't concern myself about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow - I only worry about
Allison Vernerey (France)
Allison Vernerey will be key to France's run at gold this weekend.
getting through day by day and one game at a time," he says.

And to him, this holds as true ahead of his team's semi-final clash against unbeaten Lithuania on Saturday as it did prior to France's opening game of this tournament against Sweden a week ago.

Halin does have high hopes for his side and, when asked how he would view the result if France lost their semi-final and had to settle for third or fourth place, he makes sure to pick his words carefully.

"Winning a (bronze) medal is a good result but...," he trails off, leaving it open to interpretation that a bronze medal or a fourth place would be less than what he might have expected for his players.

"We have had a good run to reach the semi-finals. It's not an easy thing to do (to get this far) but we have to remain ambitious and play to the best of our abilities. We want to get as far as we can."

He does concede however that there are elements beyond his - or his players' - control.

"If our opponents are better than we are on the day, then so be it. We have to play not to have any regrets. If we win, then that's great. But if we lose, at least let's make sure we gave it all we've got and can leave without having any regrets."

So Halin doesn't care much for regrets, but he does look for his players to learn from their mistakes and make adjustments, quickly.

"Looking back at the game against Russia, we didn't have our usual level on defense. We made some mistakes and simple ones too. You can't get away with those mistakes against a team like Russia," he admits.

"Offensively, our timing was off. We weren't making our cuts at the right time. We need to figure out our priorities, know when to pass the ball. We have to get back to basics."

That's exactly what he made sure his team worked on as they trained ahead of their game against Lithuania. He has meticulously studied their games and is aware of the tough task ahead.

"Lithuania are the favourites and the only team still to be unbeaten.  So until proven otherwise, they're the team to beat," Halin outlines.

"They have good offensive execution and defend well too. I think for our part, we need to make sure our defense limits the play of their big players and also close in on their perimeter shooters."

Experience is likely to play a big part over the course of the weekend. Lithuania's core group of Aurime Rinkeviciute, Giedre Paugaite, Marna Solopova and Lina Pikciute have all played at last year's U18 tournament where they finished 10th. In comparison, France can only count two holdover players from  Novi Sad in Diandra Tchatchouang and Laurie Datchy.

"It may help the Lithuanians that they have had a core group of players at this tournament for the last two years but the majority of our players have come through the National Sports Institute where they played together. So we have experience of playing together too. I think the impact of how beneficent that familiarity can be is hard to gauge," Hanin offers.

With players such as Allison Vernerey, Tchatchouang, Isabelle Strung, Margaux Okou Zouzouo and Chloe Westelynck, France offers a different kind of experience than what Lithuania may throw at them - that of going all the way to win a competition.

Those five were all part of the French team - coached by Halin - that loosened Spain's tight grip on women's junior competitions by beating them 63-50 in the U16 final in 2007 to end the Spaniards' three-year reign.

Whether or not they can regain the kind frame of mind they had back then to beat the odds and pass it on to the least experienced may turn out to be the most decisive factor for France.

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