His atypical career, his participation at the NBA Summer League, the growth of basketball on the African continent… Emmanuel Mavomo, assistant coach at Paris Basketball and coach of the Democratic Republic of Congo, spoke to Sportiw in a fascinating interview!
Hello, could you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
Hello, my name is Emmanuel Mavomo, I was born in Kinshasa, Congo. I did my studies and my professional reconversion in South Africa to become a coach. The NBA office has been located there for a few years, and “BWB” (Basketball Without Borders) camps were held, hence my choice to go there for my career transition. Afterwards, I went to Angola, where I did my first professional year. This has propelled my career as we finished African Champion. Then, I came back to France in 2017 where I played with Aix-Maurienne, then Levallois in National 3. In parallel, I coached the national team of Angola that I led to the African Championship, and to the qualification for the World Cup 2019. During my career in the African Championship, I created relationships with other teams, including Nigeria.
One thing leading to another, the latter offered me to work with them for the preparation of the Olympic Games of the women’s team and then the men’s team as well. Then thanks to my network, I was able to discover the BAL (African Basketball League) and coached the Patriots of Rwanda and then the BC Espoir Fukash. And I am currently an assistant at Paris Basketball in Betclic Elite and coach of the Democratic Republic of Congo!
What brought you to the basketball world?
Simply… passion! I started playing basketball at the age of 12, during the “Dream Team” era. Linking business to pleasure, working in what you love is never going to work. It’s a gift, you have to take it like that.
What motivates you to invest yourself as a coach?
As I said, passion mainly. When you are in high level sport, you want to win, to push your limits. I am originally from Congo, so it makes sense to go back to my roots and contribute with the national team. Finally, it is the development of players, we have our share of responsibility. I give back what I took from other coaches, cultures…
What are your respective goals with Paris and the DRC national team?
With Paris, this year we will try to get the playoffs or at least one of the top 10 places in the championship and be in the top 8 of the group in EuroCup. Beyond basketball, the club also has the ambition to bring something different to French basketball. A basketball where the entertainment and business dimension is important: with the will to export the basketball and to make it discover to the greatest number!
Regarding the national team, I want to establish the Congo as a true basketball nation. We have a lot of potential, we can be a bit higher ranked! Today our chances to participate in the next World Cup have diminished, but we will return with a new Olympic cycle. After 2024, the objective will be to qualify and participate in the Olympic Games! Otherwise, personally my role is to develop players and win games with them!
This summer you participated in the NBA Summer League, what did you learn from it?
Indeed, we were two French coaches with TJ Parker to attend! For me, it was a great honour, pride and humility to be invited. When you come out of 2 weeks of Summer League, there are many things to remember.
There is a lot to learn from the American continent, and this was “just” the Summer League. We talk a lot about entertainment in the NBA, but it’s not just that. It’s a broad business model/product, based on basketball.
People buy tickets for the experience, the atmosphere. It’s a family show as well as a sport… Without forsaking the tactical aspects which are taken very seriously. You can see 12 coaches dissecting offensive, defensive segments, there is scouting, analysis, science, lots of things we don’t have! Mainly due to the fact that we don’t even have the budget here in France. It’s a question of will, it’s not impossible to do that here!
What are the differences with France?
Things are done differently in the US. If we could copy what they do, I think we’d do pretty well! Everything is X25 over there, it’s a different sport! And I think that there are more opportunities on the other side of the Atlantic than here for sports, a lot of people live from it, etc… In France, sports are associative, in the United States, they are gas factories! Technically and tactically, the athletes and rules are not the same in Europe as in the United States, so it is difficult to compare.
Another point of divergence between the US and France is the sports culture, right?
Yes. Unlike the United States, sports are not promoted in the French national education program. We don’t have scholarships dedicated to high level athletes. We are often referred to as a “training center”, however, it remains very limited, there are only 12 young players whereas in the United States it is 20 times more!
What did your experience in the African Basketball League teach you?
Pride, again it’s a team from the Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s good to see that African basketball is progressing. So to be part of this process is great! The BAL championship was created with the idea of further developing African basketball. Basketball is a business, profitable for everyone and also a real tool for development, and behind it, it attracts sponsors and gives birth to vocations on the African continent.
What are the reasons for the growing success of African basketball?
It’s the investment. The NBA has had offices for over 15 years “Basketball Without Borders”. There are NBA players who have gone through all these camps like: Kuminga, Koloko, Embiid. Today we “harvest” the fruit of the investment, it is really a program created a long time ago and which bears its fruits! And this is only the beginning, this is only the second season of the BAL!
How do you manage recruitment?
It depends, but at the national team level, I’ll follow the players I have names for during the season, then I’ll pick based on the videos and numbers I’ll see.
Regarding the NM2, NM3 in France, it was more at the end of the season where we look at who is available on the market. Then, today with the professionals, it depends on the needs, the budgets, the objectives… And that can be changed during the season if there is an injury or other.
As a coach, how did you develop your image?
I try to make friends, to learn from the people in front of me, and there is a part of luck, obviously. I’m a student of the game, I’m not a rocket scientist, I learn every day!