A new era has officially begun for Paris Basketball. Just a few hours ago, the French club announced Will Weaver as the club’s new head coach, thus starting a new phase of the project.
For Paris Basketball, this will be the first season in EuroCup and the second in LNB Pro A. After a turbulent first season in the French first division, where Paris almost avoided relegation, the club wants to turn the page.
The man chosen for the job has extensive experience as an NBA assistant coach, working for the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets. Moreover, he already has a taste of international basketball, working as an assistant coach for the Australian national team and as the head coach of the Sydney Kings in the NBL.
In an exclusive interview with BasketNews, Weaver expressed his enthusiasm for this new opportunity and the main motivations that led him to accept the role of head coach in Paris.
“Coaching in France, Betclic Elite and EuroCup, at this level, as a head coach represents the richest learning opportunity of my career,” Coach Weaver told BasketNews.
Paris Basketball has grown impressively in just a few years. The team officially started its activities in the 2018-2019 season after acquiring the name of the Hyères-Toulon team which participated in the second division.
In their third season in the Second Division, they were promoted to LNB Pro A after finishing in second place.
“The challenge is obvious,” Weaver added. “They built this thing from the ground up, and in just a few years they’ve grown to an impressive level. I’m grateful, humbled, and thrilled to be a part of this project, and I’m here to complete my own brick and build something special.”
But despite the ambition to become a stable presence in the middle of the EuroLeague and one of the major forces of the French championship, the main objective of Paris Basketball is to try to build a culture around the team and a strong identity that can be a symbol for Paris and the entire surrounding region.
“In the conversations I had with the front office, the focus was not on a specific level they were trying to achieve or a win-loss record,” Weaver told BasketNews. “Their goals, as they explained to me, are focused on building the kind of place that Paris and France at large can respect, love, support and feel part of.”
“Of course we will strive to be competitive in both LNB Pro A and EuroCup,” added Weaver. “But this group doesn’t skip steps; this group understands that there’s a process you need to follow in order to grow and be sustainable in the long run.”
Building patiently and focusing on developing young players is something Weaver knows better than almost anyone. During his time in the NBA, he participated in many rebuilding projects which led to these franchises becoming elite teams in the league.
Weaver worked for the Philadelphia 76ers during the “process era,” when general manager Sam Hinkie stockpiled draft picks and focused on developing young players. Also, for the Brooklyn Nets, just before the team could sign superstars like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
Despite the differences between the NBA and European basketball, Weaver is pretty sure he won’t change his approach.
“I am very touched by all the ways I need to grow, learn and calibrate for France, but my approach will not be different. My approach is always to know what people are trying to do at the bottom of themselves, what they are trying to accomplish and I am doing my best to help create an environment where that can happen,” the Paris Basketball head coach told BasketNews.
“The players deserve all the credit,” Weaver continued. “My job is to facilitate their growth and make sure they feel supported, and part of that support is telling them the truth.
A holistic, player-centered mental approach is what our players can expect from me. That’s what I learn working with the best at the highest level, not only in American basketball but also in rugby in Australia or football in England.”
This will be Weaver’s first European experience, but it won’t be his first time in international basketball. The former Houston Rockets assistant coach had few doubts when asked what prompted him to test his abilities in international waters.
“I’ve coached at pretty much every level,” Weaver told BasketNews. “College basketball, G League, NBA. For me, part of the appeal is always the curiosity to understand what drives and motivates players at all levels.”
“I personally wasn’t a very good player, so I was always curious and eager to learn the best ways to put players in the best possible position to achieve their goals and ambitions,” he said. added.
Before accepting the job in Paris, Coach Weaver asked many people for ideas and suggestions that could provide a very clear picture of what life in European basketball would be like.
“Oh absolutely, I have texted Trajan Langdon (currently New Orleans Pelicans General Manager), David Andersen, Ryan Broekhoff, Brock Motum and countless University of Texas alumni who have played in Europe .
Dante Exum and I are quite close, and obviously his experience, coming to Europe for the first time and now continuing there. Ultimately, it’s something I’ve dreamed of doing, and the chance to come here and do it is as exciting as it gets.”
The story between Paris and basketball has always been complicated. For many years there was no established team, and even teams that tried for a while struggled to make a mark in the city.
The lack of structure in one of the biggest cities in the world was also another problem. But now that Paris Basketball has quickly established itself as an ambitious team and that a new arena is about to be ready for the 2024 Olympic Games, it’s hard not to feel a certain excitement around the city of Paris.
“Everybody wants to play where the lights are brightest,” Weaver told BasketNews. “I’ve coached in New York, Sydney, Philadelphia with some of the best and craziest fans you can find, now in Paris.”
“These are the environments in which real success can be achieved. It’s hard to achieve real success anywhere else. I can’t imagine a basketball player or coach who wouldn’t be excited about competing in Paris,” Weaver said. continued.
With teams like Virtus Bologna, Valencia and Partizan Belgrade no longer in the EuroCup, many in Europe believe the average level of the competition will drop this season. But Weaver has a different opinion on this issue.
“Jeff Van Gundy always talks about how hard it is to win at all levels. There are so many great teams in basketball. I think, especially looking at how long our franchise has been around and how young our team is, those will be challenges for us, especially in EuroCup,” Weaver told BasketNews.
“But those difficulties are also what makes this competition so special. Seeing teams like Ljubljana or Gran Canaria come to our city and really bring some of the continent’s best players to the heart of Paris is a hugely exciting environment to compete in.”
Regarding the roster, the new head coach of Paris Basketball believes that most of the work has already been done and that the front office will be able to seize other opportunities that may arise in the weeks to come.
“Of course I came into the team a bit late, so I don’t want to screw up the plans that were already in place,” Weaver said. “The team is basically finished, but I know there will be opportunities to watch other players.”
“I tried to help sign the last two players, but I trust our competent front office to manage. Ultimately, my job is to take all the pieces and form a great image by the end. end of the year,” he added.
Deciding to leave the assistant coaching job in Houston to pursue the opportunity in France with Paris Basketball is something Coach Weaver had very little doubt about, as he explained during our interview.
“Stability is definitely not a virtue of professional basketball training as a career,” the Paris Basketball head coach told BasketNews. “You spend two years there, three years elsewhere. Most of the time you are on the go.
As a professional who wants to be the best at what he does, I don’t think there’s any doubt that I’ll progress further as head coach of Paris Basketball next year than I did. would have done as an assistant coach in Houston.”
“I am grateful and lucky that circumstances have made this move possible. And I feel the same for my family. My son is three and a half years old, and this will be the third continent he will live on.
Being able to shrink the world for my family, especially in Paris, one of the biggest cities in the world, those are exciting things for us, as much as basketball,” Weaver continued.
It’s an exciting time for Paris and France. In 2024, Paris will host the Olympic Games.
The French national team is among the best in the world, and they have just added another superstar in Joel Embiid, who has received a French passport and will now be able to play for ‘Les Blues’. By 2024, Paris Basketball will also play in a new venue more suited to its project.
But despite all these aspects, Coach Weaver remains focused on his main task, coaching.
“As you said, when you watch everything that’s going on in Paris right now, it’s hard not to be excited. But at the same time, I’m a pretty simple guy. I’m excited about the idea to watch Ismael Kamagate’s pick-and-roll defense later in the day for about an hour and a half,” Coach Weaver told BasketNews.
“That’s where I’ll be focusing most of my attention. But I’m glad as an American that we were able to beat France before Joel got there because for every team that has to now playing against them…I mean, it was tough before, but now they’re going to be just great,” concluded Coach Weaver.
A new phase of the Paris Basketball project is about to begin. There is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement around this team, and it would be almost impossible not to feel it since we are talking about Paris.
But as Coach Weaver said, there will be no “skipping steps” because, despite the hype, this project needs time to fully develop.
Borrowing the words of a person very dear to Coach Weaver, Sam Hinkie, the former general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, “you don’t get to the moon by climbing a tree”.