Desagana Diop, a lion’s ambition

Appointed Senegal’s new coach on Thursday 14 July following the dismissal of Boniface Ndong, a former NBA player and number 8 in the 2001 Draft. Desagana Diop has a very exciting summer. Also recruited as the head coach of the Westchester Knicks G-League series, affiliated with the famous New York Knicks, the former pivot is one of the African technicians who is slowly but surely making a place for himself in the sun in the best league of basketball in the world. .

The trip to Alexandria in early July was not easy for the Teranga Lions. Transport problems, truncated preparations … In the qualifying phase for the next World Cup 2023, the players recorded two losses in three matches, against Egypt (76-43) and The Democratic Republic of Kongo (70-62). The ax fell, and the report is without appeal: Boniface Ndong, named last year, takes the door.

Desagana Diop, his first assistant and former player NBA (Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Charlotte Bobcats), was named to replace him on Thursday, July 14th. A rising figure in African coaching in the United States, he intends to invest fully in his mission, even if he takes a friend’s place. “I talked about it with him, and I had to get his ‘blessing’, because he is a friend, entrusts Desagana Diop. I told him I was ready for this challenge, and I am now taking this assignment to the top. , with a desire to prepare the team as well as possible for the August window, which will be extremely intense. “

Intense, the word is enough. The penultimate in a group dominated by a burning and undefeated South Sudan, the Lions have three wins and three losses to start the second phase which will include six matches … The room for maneuver is therefore small.

Retaining a Senegalese staff Only the top two from each group of six teams qualify for the 2023 edition of the intercontinental tournament, and Diop ticked off one to begin his command post. “We will go all out, we will go there with all our ambition, because we want to qualify for the World Cup. We have been present at a large number of World Cups and we have to put all the elements on our side to be a part of it will start with a game philosophy based on a very solid defensive base, and play our all-out at 110% “, insists the new helmsman on a Senegalese boat that must raise the bar as quickly as possible.

The other important element in Diop’s philosophy is to retain a Senegalese base in his staff, whichAliou Cissein football with the bandSadio Maneand Edward Mendy, who won the continental title this spring and who inspires the new chief engineer for the pennant basketball team. “Senegal have a lot of talent on the pitch, but we also have a lot of guys who are very good technicians, super-specific coaches throughout the NBA, like Amadou Mbodji, from the Chicago Bulls, Remy N’Diaye who is in the Miami Heat and many more,” said the coach. We have quality, so we have to use it and put it at the service of the national team as soon as possible. “

Amadou Gallo Fall as a mentor and in the footsteps of Ime Udoka For the 2006 NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks, the call to become a coach came only when he retired at the age of 31.

After 12 seasons in the best league in the world, the Senegalese pivot stood at a crossroads in 2013. “I had knee problems and I had to hang on to my sneakers. I told myself I could do things I had not had the chance to do. “I just wanted to enjoy life. I just wanted to enjoy life. Especially since I had never thought about becoming a coach during my career, it meant absolutely nothing to me!”, laughs Desagana Diop again today.

But after a few months of inactivity, Diop, based in Dallas, goes to see his friend Amadou Gallo Fall, then Donnie Nelson, who leads Texas Legends, the G-League series affiliated with the Mavericks. “He asked me if I wanted to try my hand at a position in the club’s management, assistant to the sports director or such a role, but I gave it a shot on the floor to help the youngsters. Neither one nor two, I quickly fell in love with a technician’s work ! ” he remembers.

The influence of the current president of the NBA in Africa and BAL “has been overwhelming, a true mentor, a big brother who has paved the way for all of us”, admits DesaganaDiop. The former player then initially had the position of youth development manager, which consisted of supporting some players to get them to do specific work with their game, and then become assistant coaches for Legends.

In 2016, he was recruited by the Utah Jazz as an assistant coach and worked with star Donovan Mitchell and French pivot Rudy Gobert, among others. He gets more and more responsibility, and he takes a place in one of the very best teams in the league.

Westchester Knicks After four years in Salt Lake City, Lion was recruited by the Houston Rockets as an assistant coach in a franchise under reconstruction. “I really learned a lot both in Utah and in Houston, but I also wanted another challenge, to be number one in implementing my playing principles, and really be the one in charge of coaching a team. And the Knicks contacted me to take over their G-League team, the Westchester Knicks, the coach remembers.

Close to his countryman Makhtar N’Diaye, who has worked for the franchise based in the Big Apple as a scout for four years, Diop thus becomes the second French-speaking African, after Congolese Patrick Mutombo at Raptors 905, to become head coach at this level. “It’s a big challenge, and I’m already working on building the team for next season by monitoring the players that develop during the NBA Summer League that takes place in Las Vegas until Sunday,” he emphasizes before adding: “I am excited and very enthusiastic about this new challenge, which I see as a further step in my process of becoming the top coach of an NBA series one day. “

The great season that Nigerian Ime Udoka achieved at the head of the Boston Celtics gives even more hope to Diop, who once again confirms that Africa also has talents for the surroundings around the parquet floors. “There are so many African technicians who could become number one, who do an excellent job in the various NBA franchises in the roles of assistant coaches for example, and I think we will have a new Ime Udoka in the coming years. I do not hide it, my ambition is very big and my goal is to do everything to become the top coach for an NBA series. It would be fantastic and I do not intend to let go! All the sacrifices I make pay off, and I work hard “Every day for that. I believe in my destiny, I believe in my ability to wear the number one technician suit.”

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