This appears on abs-cbnnews.com
|Stephane Dumas, Porfirio Fisac, me, and Diouf Dame.|
Looking at Senegal’s Porfirio Fisac
by rick olivares
One of the men who help mold the careers of basketball players such as Pau and Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jorge Garbajosa, and Rudy Fernandez among others is hoping to repeat the same with a country that is over 3,000 kilometres away.
Spanish coach Porfirio Fisac was recently contracted to lift Senegal out of the doldrums.
This West African nation known for its French colonial heritage also made a name for itself as a regional basketball power. However, this country over 14 million people has experienced a roundball drought; at least in terms of gold. They have five FIBA Africa titles but the last was won in 1997. Since that time, they’ve only experienced a silver medal finish in 2005 and a bronze in 2013.
They’ve had high profile coaches (former Boston Celtic and Chicago Bull) Sam Vincent who led Nigeria to wonderful results, and former France coach Alain Weisz, Senegal hasn’t gotten anywhere.
So they tapped this Spanish coach who looks like an older Erik Spoelstra. Porfirio Fisac made a name for himself in Spain leading small clubs to promotion to a higher level. He also coached their cadet and junior national squads for silver and bronze medal finishes.
And last February 26, Fisac finally accepted the head coaching job replacing Cheikh Sarr. "I went in the Olympic qualifiers knowing it would be difficult. But I like challenges,” said Fisac through French assistant coach and interpreter Stephane Dumas who played for the Spaniard at Valladolid. We need to be realistic. It would be nice to qualify for Rio but we have to know and understand our expectations. What is important is the team played well and we should build on this for the next AfroBasket."
Senegal bowed out after losing both group assignments; first to Canada, 58-55, then to Turkey, 68-62. In both matches, the Lions were in the match until the last minute of play; against Canada, it went down to the last shot.
“For some, it’s a loss but they cannot see the good result. That’s okay What is important is we build on that. We can be proud of the way we played but we have to improve.”
During the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Senegal crashed out winning only two matches in six games. They won by an average of 4.5 points but clobbered by an average of 23 points an outing. In the 2015 AfroBasket, Senegal won its first five matches by an average of 13.0 points but lost in the semifinals to Nigeria by nine and in the third place battle to Tunisia, also by nine points.
The coaching change was made.
Although there were fewer matches in the Manila FIBA Olympic Qualifiers, Senegal only lost by an average of 4.5 points.
During the Lions’ final match versus Turkey, after Hamady Ndiaye fouled out, Fisac gave his 6’11” center a hug. After the match, the Spaniard patiently waited for Hamady to finish his interviews then he escorted his player to some waiting Senegalese fans who brandished their nation’s flag.
“You see, what coach does that?” asked power forward Maurice NDour. “We all like coach because he cares for us. He tells us that as long as he is here for us he will die for us. So we all want to give our best.”
Canada coach Jay Triano whose team booted Senegal from the tournament could only marvel at the work Fisac has done. “We knew nothing about them; no tapes. Nothing. They still have some players from the last World Cup but they have played differently; much better. And that says something about the quality of the coach.”
When recounting NDour and Triano’s comments, Fisac smiled. “I am right behind them and it is good that they have respect."
His coaching philosophy is built around “togetherness”.
“With my players, I tell them what is wrong. You have to be honest with them. We can teach them skills and systems but if they are not together then we are not going anywhere. So one of the things I tried to bring to this team is a sense of togetherness,” said Fisac.
“It was like that with Spain. The technical know-how is there at the earliest of ages. We can add to those teachings but I believe in teaching them how to play together as a team. They are stars in their own right; talented. Some feel like they are stars. So I explain things. Some are there to rebound, some can score better. Those who score better, get more shots. If they want to do more then they should show it in practice; they do not demand things on the court. You can score 60 points but if you lose, no one will remember that. You’re a champion, everyone will remember you."
“The most beautiful thing about basketball is the pass,” further explained Senegal’s coach. “If you know how to pass, it leads to a basket. If you know how to pass, you involve everyone. If you involve everyone, everyone will do their best to win. That is the philosophy that I know. You look at Gasol, Calderon, Navarro, and what can you say about them outside them being stars — they can pass the ball.”
Marc Gasol in his eight seasons thus far in the NBA has 1,748 assists for someone who plays center. In Calderon’s 10 seasons, he has 4,829 dishes. Juan Carlos Navarro in his 303 games of Eurobasketball has 765 assists.
“The pass brings harmony to the game and the team,” summed up Fisac.
“And now with Senegal, hopefully, success."