Desagana Diop, the ambition of a lion

Appointed Senegal’s new coach on Thursday July 14 after the dismissal of Boniface Ndong, former NBA player and number 8 in the 2001 Draft Desagana Diop is having a most exciting summer. Also listed as head coach of the Westchester Knicks G-League franchise, 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. basketball in the world.

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

Desagana Diop, first assistant son and former player NBA (Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Charlotte Bobcats), was named to replace him on Thursday July 14. A rising figure in African coaching in the United States, he intends to invest himself fully in his mission, although he takes the place of a friend. “ I talked to him about it, and I had to have his “blessing”, because he is a friend, confides Desagana Diop. I told him that I was ready for this challenge, and I am now taking this mission head on, with the desire to prepare the team as well as possible for the August window, which will be ultra-intense. »

Intense, the word is adequate. Penultimate of a group dominated by South Sudan on fire and in vain, the Lions had three wins and three losses to start the second phase which will include six games… The room for maneuver is therefore small.

Keep a Senegalese staff

Only the top two from each group of six teams qualify for the 2023 edition of the intercontinental tournament, and Diop dotted the i’s to begin his commando mission. ” We are going to go all out, we are going to 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 must put all the elements on our side to be part of the qualified teams. 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 of a Senegal boat which must straighten the bar as quickly as possible.

The other important element in Diop’s philosophy is to keep a Senegalese base in his staff, likeAliou Cisse in football with the band Sadio Mane and Edouard Mendy, who won the continental title last spring and who inspires the new chief technician of the pennant basketball team. “ Senegal has a lot of talent on the field, 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 at Miami Heat and many moresays the coach. On one of quality, so it must be used and put 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 finalist with the Dallas Mavericks, the calling of a coach didn’t come until he retired at age 31.

After 12 seasons in the best league in the world, the Senegalese pivot was at a crossroads in 2013. I had knee problems and had to hang up the baskets. I told myself that I was going to be able to do things that I hadn’t had the opportunity to do before, like traveling and just having a good time. I just wanted to enjoy life. Especially since during my career, I had never thought of becoming a coach, it meant absolutely nothing to me at all! “Laughs again today Desagana Diop.

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

The influence of the current NBA president in Africa and the BAL » was paramount, a true mentor, a big brother who paved the way for all of us “, recognizes Desagana Diop. The former player then initially held the position of youth development manager, which consisted of accompanying a few players to have them carry out specific work on their game, then becoming an assistant coach for the Legends.

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

Westchester Knicks

After four years in Salt Lake City, the Lion is recruited by the Houston Rockets in a position of assistant coach in a franchise in full reconstruction. ” I really learned a lot both in Utah and in Houston, but I also wanted another challenge, to be the number one to implement my principles of play, and really to be the main person in charge of coaching a team. And the Knicks contacted me to take over their G-League team, the Westchester Knicks “recalls the coach.

Close to his compatriot 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 the Congolese Patrick Mutombo at the Raptors 905, to become head coach at this level. ” It’s a great challenge, and I’m already hard at work building the team for next season by supervising the players who play during the NBA Summer League which takes place in Las Vegas until Sunday. “, he underlines, before adding: “ I am excited and super excited about this new challenge, which I see as another step in my journey to becoming the number one coach of an NBA franchise one day. »

The superb season achieved by the Nigerian Ime Udoka at the head of the Boston Celtics gives even more hope to Diop, who confirms, once again, that Africa also has talents for the surroundings of the parquet floors. “ There are so many African technicians who can become number one, who are doing excellent work in the various NBA franchises in the role of assistant coaches for example, and I think that we are going to have new Ime Udoka in the years to come. I don’t hide it, my ambition is very big, and my goal is to do everything to become the number one coach of an NBA franchise. It would be amazing and I’m not going to let go! All the sacrifices I make pay for, and I work every day for it. I believe in my destiny, I believe in my ability to wear the number one technician suit. »

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