His transition from the NBA to basketball in Paris

at 38 Will Weaver He coached in many tournaments, on many continents. He passed out of the NBA, with 76ers, the Nets, then the Rockets, and was involved in laying the foundations for young teams that had to start over. He was there, at the launch of these projects, with Joel Embiid, Dr. Angelo Russell or Galen Green. An experience that contrasts with his paragraphs in Australia, with the national team and the Sydney Kings, or even in the J-League.

Today, he sits on the bench at Paris Basketball, for the club’s second season at Betclic Elite and first at the EuroCup. Less than a month into the season, we were able to (re) chat with him about his arrival in France, his ambitions in Paris and his very diverse experience as a coach.

Basketball Tournament: In 2020, I was in Australia. The next two years, in the United States, in Houston. This year, a new continent. How did you come to take this trip around the world?
Will Weaver: I think the short answer is that I am very lucky. I am grateful that basketball brought me here. I’ve always had great respect for European basketball, even before working with the Australian national team and competing European nations in the International Basketball Federation and the coaches and players that are here. Today, I am so grateful to be a part of it.

After leaving the Rockets, what prompted you to become a coach here, in France, in basketball in Paris?
Will Weaver: They recruited me and recognized me. In a series of phone calls with David Kahn (club president and co-owner, editor’s note)We talked about basketball, we talked about life, we talked about international basketball… And getting to know Eric Schwartz (co-owner, editor’s note) and David, it seemed clear to me that what this team was trying to achieve aligns well with my own experience and ambitions.

The players are young and inexperienced, but they have tremendous talent and great ambition. These are the kind of players I’ve always enjoyed coaching. In Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Houston, there have always been a number of really young and ambitious players who have a lot of potential. I think Paris appreciates my experience with this type of player. For my part, I was excited to join such an ambitious club trying to do something unprecedented in Europe I think.

In the NBA, I coached teams for reconstruction: The Sixers, The Nets, The Rockets. Basketball Paris is also in the process of construction. He’s coming out of his first season at Betclic Elite and aiming for even higher. How do you think you can support the club in this growth?
Will Weaver: The basis of everything is the relationship with the players. You have to earn their trust and understand the purpose to which they dedicate themselves day and night. There are players here, like Axel Tuban, who have played all over the world and returned to France for this reason. His goal is, of course, different from that of Johan Bejarin, who is trying to join the NBA and is still in the prime of his career. For me, it’s about getting to know these people and creating an environment in which they can improve quickly. Their progress will determine how far our team will go.

Johan Bejarin and Ismael Kamagati just enlisted in the NBA, but they remain in basketball in Paris. Do you think you can help them achieve their goal of playing in the NBA? Are you excited to work with these promising players?
Will Weaver: It’s a unique blessing to this profession to be able to be a part of the players’ journey for a short period of time and have an impact on their future. Dream with them, sweat with them, celebrate with them when they experience the success they dreamed of, or cry with them when things don’t go the way they hoped. It’s my favorite part of my career.

On the other hand, I won’t get any credit if they play in the NBA next season or for the next 15 seasons. It is also up to them to make improvement efforts, as there are plenty of top players in and out of the NBA who are talented enough to play in the league. There are only about 500 players who can do that. So they are in competition with several million basketball players and being part of the 500 is not easy.

“That might be the best part about basketball, the places it takes you.”

In our previous interview, I insisted a lot on the human side of the sport. You are a coach who is close to his players. Among the players you’ve traded with, have you already created strong bonds?
Will Weaver: These things come naturally. Talk during travel, meals, training, photo sessions, and conversations during matches. I really enjoy all of our items. Every player was incredibly welcoming and willing to do things in a completely different way than they were used to before. It’s still early days, it’s a ten-month season, a marathon. But, as I said, I focus on the human dimension.

I have trained in the NCAA, NBA, G League, NBL and with the Australian team. You’ll discover two new tournaments this year, Betclic Élite and EuroCup. How do you deal with this new experience?
Will Weaver: It’s very different. I have a lot to learn. Not only in terms of playing style, players and styles used by the teams, but also in terms of culture. I have to understand the richness of the basketball culture in France and Europe. But my approach will always be the same: try to understand how I can help the most and focus on the essentials. Now that means getting off that bus in about an hour and a half, having a good meal as a team and getting ready to play Cholet in the evening.

How do you benefit from this diversity? Did it bring you anything special in your training?
Will Weaver: As I progress in my coaching career, I trust my instincts more and more. I’ve trained for 20 years. I am grateful to the many players and coaches for what they have taught me over the past 20 years. So I try to pass on these lessons keeping in mind that everyone goes their own way and that it is up to them to learn through their mistakes, their victories and their difficulties.

You spent most of your time in the United States and Australia. But are you still an inspiration to European coaches or coaches of European descent in your career?
Will Weaver: Perhaps the list of European coaches who inspired me, including colleagues and opponents, is too long to mention. When you play against teams in FIBA ​​competitions – the highest level you’ve played in basketball – you learn a lot by studying your opponents. I started with the Australia national team at the 2014 World Cup and was responsible for exploring our opponents. I remember very well that I played against the French side of Vincent Colette. I faced it in Strasbourg, at the Rio Olympics and at the World Cup in China. So Vincent Colette is someone I have studied a lot. I am looking forward to competing with him again in a new championship and continuing to learn from him.

Last time, we also talked about analytics, which is very present in the NBA and important to you. Do you intend to change these approaches in this new tournament, which is definitely less focused on numbers?
Will Weaver: I think we should always try to use the tools at our disposal to make the best possible decisions. And I don’t think there are many big teams or companies on the planet that don’t use data to inform their decisions. So we try to do the same.

Basketball in Paris has a very distinct French-American identity. It embraces both cultures. Do you think your experience in the United States and your profile would be helpful in strengthening this identity? Does it contribute to good compatibility?
Will Weaver: Time will tell. I appreciate the opportunity to connect not only with the French basketball culture, but also with all the cultures that our players, their families, girlfriends and agents represent. Emmanuel Mafumo (assistant coach, editor’s note) just represented Congo as head coach, for example. What I love about basketball is that it is universal. Basketball in Paris is trying to be that bridge between the NBA and France, but also to be a place that doesn’t matter if you’re coming from Guadeloupe or, in my case, from Austin in Texas. You can come here and do very difficult things. I take a brick and wear it for as long as possible to try to help keep building something special here.

With Jean-Christophe Pratt, Paris last year took 15th place in the ranking. Do you think you can make it to the playoffs with your group this year? Do you like what you see so far?
Will Weaver: The players have been great so far. As a coach, we often think about the future with just one or two steps, because it’s a job that can be overwhelming at times. So I didn’t have time to think for a minute about qualifying. I am focusing on the rotation of the upcoming matches and training sessions for the week. The great thing about my work is that the results come because of the work we do. So we are fully focused on this work.

You came here with your family, it’s a drastic change of scenery. Do you enjoy France and Paris yet?
Will Weaver: Not at all (in French). it’s great. We visited the city, the Tuileries and Galeries Lafayette, and had the opportunity to go to Disneyland last week. Basketball Paris showed up there where we were able to train some Disneyland employees. My son and wife were able to join me. Besides, my son definitely wanted to join the women we trained on in this field (laughs). But once our session was over, we explored the garden. So we really enjoyed Paris, but also France and Europe as a whole. That might be the best part about basketball, the places it takes you.

Will Weaver will coach his first match with his new team at Haley Carpenter Stadium on September 10 and 11 during the European Games in Paris against Alba Berlin and Maccabi Tel Aviv. Big challenge for his debut.

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