|02 January 2014|
|Laurent Buffard has a difficult task ahead of him at struggling Cholet|
At the turn of the year, Cholet Basket decided to hand the reins of their team to Laurent Buffard, an old acquaintance of the club who also happens to be one of the most decorated coaches in EuroLeague Women.
Buffard takes over in the role from Jean-Manuel Sousa, whom the French EuroChallenge club dismissed from his duties on 28 December, following a home defeat to Villeurbanne which extended their losing streak in the Pro A league to seven games.
"These words might seem a bit drastic but Laurent's mission is to save the house of Cholet Basket, which is right now on shaky ground," Cholet president Patrick Chiron said at the presentation of his club's new coach.
"Patience is needed, as he does not have a magic wand," Chiron added.
"The primary aim is to secure our Pro A status is not endangered, but of course we would also like to qualify for the play-offs.
"We are not renouncing our EuroChallenge campaign, but we must first focus on the championship, which is the basis of our activities."
Cholet cruised into the EuroChallenge Last 16 with an excellent 5-1 record in Regular Season Group G, but have dropped to 13th place in the Pro A standings with a 5-9 record.
Buffard meanwhile, who signed with Cholet until the end of the end of the 2014/15 season, stated that he was 'very proud to return to this club, which is not just any club'.
The new Cholet coach placed special emphasis on 'establishing a hierarchy and developing collective values and, most importantly, creating an aggressive defence to give rhythm to our offence' when asked about impeding changes on the team's style of play.
The 50-year-old Buffard started his professional career in the 1980's as coach of Cholet's youth team and took charge of the senior side in 1991, remaining at the helm until 1995.
During that time, Buffard had under his orders a young Jim Bilba, who would later turn into a legend of the French national team and go on to conquer the Euroleague title (with Bozidar Maljkovic's Limoges); Bilba returned to Cholet to join the coaching staff after the end of his playing career, and will from now on serve as Buffard's assistant.
It was however in women's basketball where Buffard would achieve his biggest laurels as a coach.
In a move that changed his career, the experienced French coach assumed the reins of Valenciennes Olympic in 2000 and during his seven-year spell in charge he steered the historical club to two EuroLeague Women titles, in 2002 and 2004, and two further appearances in the final of the competition, in 2001 and 2003.
With Buffard at the helm, Valenciennes also dominated women's basketball within the French borders in the first decade of the 21st century, conquering six domestic league and cup doubles during the seven years of his reign.
Buffard was the head coach of Belgium's women's national team from 2006 to 2008 and also worked at EuroLeague Women powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg for two years, before returning to France in 2009 to take over Nantes Rezé.
Cholet are pitted in Group J of the EuroChallenge Last 16, together with Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia, Krka Novo Mesto and Szolnoki Olaj.