AS Monaco Basket, La Roca Team, has become an institution in the Monaco sports scene constantly rising in the galaxy of international basketball. Its popularity keeps the name of the Principality very high, thanks to a team of true talent and with their success. All this gives emphasis to the natural sporting character of Monaco where every discipline finds its own special ground thus encouraging the creation of unique professional clubs targeting international competitions.
Monaco and Basketball: the origin of an amazing partnership
AS Monaco Basket, La Roca Team, is the result of a long promising history that came to light under the Princely Rock, in the early Twentieth century.
Monaco’s association with basketball sprang forth in 1928 when AS Monaco was created in the auspices of a new American team game conceived in the late 19th century by James Naismith, a Canadian physical education instructor based in Massachusetts. The Club progressed strategically until it reached an important goal in the 1950’s being classified Vice-Champion of France in the Nationale 1 Championship, which corresponds to the present Jeep Élite, the major basketball league on French soil.
But for Roca Boys there still remained a lengthy challenge and finally the team gained its splendour with the arrival of Sergey Dyadechko, a Ukrainian businessman who became the new president of the Team in 2014. A huge wave had just started which allowed La Roca Team to jump from the fourth division (NM2) to the first division (Pro A) in only four years as well as to win the title Champion of France in the Pro B division, in 2015. A Guinness record hardly reachable in basketball!
The Team kept catching more waves of success for the next three years staying at the top of Pro A (currently: Jeep Élite) thanks to an effective team game honed under the guidance of their experienced coach, Zvezdan Mitrović. The 2017–2018 Season resulted in a great performance at the French level, pushing Roca Boys to reach the Championnat de France Final and play some memorable matches.
In light of the above, AS Monaco Basket joined the prestigious EuroLeague Basketball in the 2018–2019 Season, entering the 7DAYS Euro Cup, making the top-16. In 2019 Saša Obradović, skilled coach raised the Team to the stars, excelling over opponents of the French challenge.La Roca Team “rocked” in the following 2019-2020 Season within the Jeep Élite Championship securing a place in the 7DAYS EuroCup quarterfinals until the forced halt caused by the pandemic. Soon after, Zvezdan Mitrovic came back in his role as official coach just in time to celebrate one of the greatest victories of all time. After a spectacular Season where the Red & White team prevailed over the strongest well-known teams, they won over the Russian UNICS Kazan in the Final, lifting the 2021 EuroCup for Monaco. This had never happened before to a French League team to reach such a remarkable success worldwide.
Great satisfaction for Monaco’s basketball was followed by very good news for the current Season. Most of 2021-2022 EuroLeague matches will be held in the Principality at the iconic Gaston Médecin Stadium. A winning combination with some new talent like the point-guard Léo Westermann, French skilled professional player acting as the new team leader, and Mike James, gifted American player, both from LNB Pro A & EuroLeague.
The current Season is going great and the return of Saša Obradović in early December resulted in a steady victorious crescendo that had its peak with four-consecutive successful outcomes at the beginning of 2022, holding second position in the French BetClic Elite. Moreover, for the first time in history, basketball players from Monaco have reached the playoffs of the prestigious Euroleague 2021-2022 competition! This was a truly historic achievement for the Roca Team and for the entire Principality of Monaco.
Aleksej Fedoricsev, new President of AS Monaco Basket, pointed out on January the 27th: “Since Sergey Dyadechko suggested to me to come onboard the La Roca Team venture, my heart has belonged to Monegasque basketball! I am very proud to keep supporting red-and-white colours and write the next chapter in the club’s history”. “The Roca Team is like my fifth child and now HE is spreading his wings and becoming an adult”, concluded Mr. Dyadechko in his words of farewell.
Exclusive interview with Oleksiy Yefimov, General Manager at AS Monaco Basket
HelloMonaco: Alexey, you’ve had a fairly long career as a basketball club director. After some brilliant results in your native Ukraine, you continued in Monaco. Are you happy with your Roca Team’s impressive success?
Oleksiy Yefimov: What we have managed to achieve is nothing short of a fairy tale! Another club that would have come up from the fourth national division to the Euroleague in such a short period of time would be hard to find. It is very complimentary to hear how much the Roca Team project complements the image of the entire Principality.
On top of a sporting success as such, I believe the atmosphere at the Gaston Médécin stadium to be another major achievement. The heartbeat at the matches against Barcelona and Real Madrid was truly vibrant thanks to our spectators’ support.
HelloMonaco: What are your team’s strong points?
OY: During the selection process, we always pay close attention to the human qualities and characters of our players. It is about personalities, not just talented basketball players. In a word, we do not want a team of stars, but a Star Team shining brightly in the basketball galaxy.
HelloMonaco: What do you think is crucial in maintaining a high performance level?
OY: In my opinion, it is vital not to be afraid to make mistakes. Not retreating from responsibility, not hiding from a problem, but acknowledging it and promptly trying to fix it. Today we can see that this strategy is paying off. Now is the time to set new goals and work hard on their achievement.
Exclusive Interview with Saša Obradović, coach of AS Monaco Basket
HelloMonaco: Mr. Obradović, what game strategy do you adopt for the remaining part of the Season?
Saša Obradović: I am trying to bring out the best talent from each member of the Team. Of course, I made some adjustments since I realized that the atmosphere should be improved to overcome some unexpected inconveniences which brought the players a bit of frustration. Moreover, I have my own idea about how the team should look. I feel then lucky to have a supportive staff allowing me to realize what I want. More than tactics, a coach has to lay the foundations for a successful outcome by choosing the best athletes who know how to win and lead. We need also to have everyone involved in the same project since the championship is a process in continuous evolution.
HelloMonaco: How do you manage the challenges of this intense schedule, with important games every few days? Does each opponent require a special game set of tactics?
SO: In order to perform at your best, you should need strategy and training for each match but it is quite impossible to do it always due to limited time. Nevertheless, we always use logic, that is the game rotation and preventing the players being injured in order to have the Team at maximum strength in the last part of the Season, which is crucial.
HelloMonaco: How much time do you devote to training and briefing?
SO: Pre-playing sessions are an integral part of the game but we have been spending time to prepare ourselves and on how to improve, even during the journeys to reach out-of-Monaco destinations or in the locker room before performing. We have really little time to organize meetings but I am constantly with the players. I spend more time with them than with my wife, lately.
HelloMonaco: Do you have specific goals or priorities in the work-in-progress EuroLeague?
SO: We have great expectations for ourselves. I am used to set ambitious targets but I never reveal what they are. I am more focused on reaching day-by-day success. It makes me more confident for the future. Playing in the EuroLeague is quite new for most players at AS Monaco Basket. This makes us have more ideas for improvement for the Club. It is essential for every basket player to always appear at his best, showing balanced feelings whether the team win or lose the game. I wish then Roca Boys to stay healthy!
HelloMonaco: Can you apply the same sports winning tactics versus the Kazan Team, this year?
SO: It is not easy to compare last Season with the present one. EuroLeague is much harder than EuroCup. Everything will also depend on the team we have to face in the last game.
Exclusive Interview with Léo Westermann, Team Leader of the AS Monaco Basket
HelloMonaco: Mr. Westermann, what does it mean being the new captain of the Team?
Léo Westermann: I am pleased to have been chosen to play this role. I am trying my best to fulfil this charge as well as to be the ‘ambassador’ between the staff & the coach and the Team. It is also very important to me to be part of such a team-oriented group. Maybe it is too early to say this is effective but I am really happy to be here.
HelloMonaco: The previous Season ended with an extraordinary result for AS Monaco Basket, do you feel more responsible in order not to disappoint teammates and supporters?
LW: Yes, definitely. The Team did an amazing job in the last Season within the EuroCup but I think that facing the present is another thing; the sport level is very high in EuroLeague. In fact, we are playing versus the best teams in Europe. We are therefore in another ‘world’. It is a process and the path promises to be long and we cannot make predictions of victory. EuroLeague is a marathon and you need to keep up an ever-lasting sprint. It is not easy but we reached the best level we can have in Europe and it makes us proud, since we all want the best for the Team.
HelloMonaco: Which match do you remember with most pleasure during the current EuroLeague? Which opposing team do you consider the strongest?
LW: For sure we will remember the winning matches we had against some of the strongest opponents (ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne and Zenit St Petersburg. — Ed.). We have been improving at every stage for some time but what we have just done is one of the best results we ever achieved. Real Madrid and Barcelona are fearsome opponents, being currently ranked on top. But you never know what can happen in EuroLeague and this makes it intriguing!
HelloMonaco: Do you have any rituals to keep your spirits up?
LW: Everyone has his own way to be ready for the match. Some players need to be more focused on every detail than others. But as soon as we enter the field we feel very close trying to stay in tune. Then we all shout: Daghe Munegu! (Go Monaco!)…to cheer us up.
HelloMonaco: What makes a basketballer a winning champion?
LW: First of all, you have to be ambitious but you have also to keep working on it and believe in what you wish to accomplish. It is something that starts from your childhood and marks your career. Some athletes have something extra.