March 4, PARIS - France have appointed ASVEL Basket boss Vincent Collet as their new national team coach.
Collet, 45, an assistant on the coaching staff in 2002-03, takes the reins ahead of this summer's Additional Qualifying Round for EuroBasket 2009 with France set to take on Italy and Finland in Group B.
Should Les Bleus win that pool, they will take on the winner of Group A (Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Portugal) for the right to advance to the Final Round in Poland.
Collet has long been recognised as one of the top coaches in his country's top flight.
While at Le Mans from the 2000-2008, he was voted French Coach of the Year three times (2001, '04 and '06).
Collet will take over a French team that has underachieved in recent years in the eyes of many.
At EuroBasket 2005 in Belgrade under Claude Bergeaud, the team stunned hosts Serbia & Montenegro and made it to the Semi-Finals where they blew a huge lead against Greece in the final minute.
France ultimately defeated Spain to capture the bronze medal.
At the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan under Bergeaud, France overcame the loss of star point guard Tony Parker shortly before the start of the tournament and managed to finish fifth.
At EuroBasket 2007 in Spain, France were just seconds away from advancing to the Semi-Finals but missed crucial free throws against Russia and lost.
They eventually came in eighth place, which prevented the team from taking part in the 2008 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens and also forced them to go into qualifying for EuroBasket 2009.
Last summer under Michel Gomez, France came in second place in their Division A group behind Turkey and missed out on earning a direct ticket to the Final Round in Poland.
With Parker and other talented players, however, France will be the favorites to win the Additional Qualifying Round.
One of those who could enter the national team is Portland Trail Blazers rookie Nicolas Batum, a former player under Collet at Le Mans.
Batum, a player for France at junior level, has been solid this season in his North American debut.
France also announced that Rouen coach Michel Veyronnet and Jacky Commères, the former women’s team boss and assistant to both Bergeaud and Gomez, will be on the coaching staff.
Crawford Palmer, a member of France’s silver-medal winning side at the 2000 Olympics, has been given a role to handle relations with the NBA with many of the country’s leading players competing in the league.