Pascal Donnadieu, Nanterre basketball coach (Betclic Elite): "The psychological aspects are predominant"

Pascal Donnadieu, Nanterre basketball coach (Betclic Elite): “The psychological aspects are predominant”

How do you generally approach such a series of confrontations against the same opponent?
The essential aspect when the matches follow one another like that against the same team, it is first of all tactical. On the first game, everyone advances their pawns. From the second, we enter a game of tactical chess. Depending on the result and the physiognomy of the previous match, adjustments must necessarily be made. For the winning team, it is not enough to be satisfied with the experience of the match but to anticipate the adversary’s adjustments. And the team that lost sees clearly what went wrong and must rectify the situation. It’s not about changing everything either. It can be small defensive adjustments, small changes in the composition of the team… But here, the goal, on the tactical level, is to be one step ahead of the opponent, surprise without being surprised. You have to be pragmatic and readjust quickly to what has just happened. As in rugby, video is essential in these moments to find solutions in a very short period of time.

How important is the first game psychologically?
It is capital. The difference with the situation that will occur in rugby is that we, in basketball, are then talking about the same competition for each match. But in a series, the first game sets the tone, clearly. If you take a slap, you will obviously insist on the revenge aspect. The video makes it possible to put the players in front of their weaknesses and they don’t like it, it tickles them for the next match. Conversely, if you win, you really have to warn your players, with the idea that it is only the truth of one match and that it can be very different on the next. When we are champions with Nanterre in 2013, we lose the first match of the final in Strasbourg 89-55. Two days later, still at home, we beat them (84-79), and that completely reversed the report of this final since we won the following two matches and won the title. If we hadn’t lost the first match so heavily, I think the series wouldn’t have played out the same way.

“The stakes are such that it can quickly rise. But you don’t have to be frustrated, excited or provocative all the time.

We imagine that the tension rises between the players as the matches progress, that there may be some friction, a rivalry that is exacerbated?
Yes, of course, we are launched into a kind of soap opera and tensions can resurface at several times. On refereeing for example or on end-of-match scenarios. The stakes are such that it can quickly rise. But you have to try to make sense of things, not to be frustrated, excited or provocative all the time. You have to know how to keep a cool head despite the twists and turns. Once again, the psychological aspects are predominant in this kind of series.

Ecan series also create lasting long-term rivalries and make history between two clubs?
The best example in basketball is between Pau and Limoges, who faced each other a lot in the play-offs at one time, with some very tense matches, and the rivalry continues today.

“The common point that we can make (with rugby)is that the logistics between the matches will also be very important, you have to be even more meticulous

How do we also manage such a sequence on the physical plane?
This is an area in which the rugby staffs are more developed than us. But yes, the work with the medical team and the physiotherapists is essential in these sequences. We, our device changes when we are in play-off mode. Both because we have less time and it’s the end of the season, with high-stakes matches that are even more committed. Around the match, everything is done to prioritize recovery. It starts with the post-match where we can shorten or even skip the passages with the partners. We follow treatments, cryotherapy, recovery. We hardly train anymore. Not to mention that you can have trips to make between two matches 48 hours apart, much shorter times than in rugby, of course. The common point that we can make is that the logistics between the matches will also be very important, we have to be even more meticulous.

How, finally, to manage the post-series?
In basketball, if you lose the series, the season is over, so it’s brutal. Everything stops in a week sometimes when you have worked for it all season. Everything collapses, we stop training, the players leave quickly. Rugby knows that too with the final phase system. In your example, there will be big disappointments in the European Cup but the advantage is that there will be behind the Championship to revive. Conversely, if you win your series, you create a momentum, a total euphoria that carries you. I come back to the example of 2013 with Nanterre where it was increased tenfold by the fact that we were not expected. We had finished eighth in the regular season, we had taken out Gravelines, the first, in the quarterfinals and this euphoria had carried everyone to the title. »

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