With the first French championship for Roca Team, it has become clear that Monaco’s most beloved sports team is now really the basketball team, which regularly plays its home games in front of a sold-out Salle Gaston Medecin. In a few years, it has surpassed the football branch of Monaco in terms of performance and enthusiasm. That is quite a remarkable development for a club that until a few years ago competed anonymously in the lower divisions of French basketball.

Since its takeover in 2014 by Ukrainian businessman Sergey Dyadechko with general manager Oleksiy Yefimov at the helm, the club has made huge strides and eventually reached the top of European basketball, with a third-place finish in this year’s EuroLeague as the provisional highlight. This season’s French trophies, both Coupe de France and the French league title, follow this season’s unforgettable victory in the EuroCup two years ago, when Roca Team beat UNICS Kazan in the final. 

That success also meant entering the EuroLeague and at that time Dyadechko transfered the club to Alexei Fedorychev. In the first years of the club’s rise, Roca Team won the Leaders Cup three times (2016, 2017 and 2018) under the leadership of manager Zvezdan Mitrovic, who also ensured the victory in the EuroCup. He was succeeded by Sasa Obradovic who also worked in Monaco for a year in 2019.

Under the leadership of this Serbian manager, the team has grown further into a top European club. Last year, the team missed the Final Four of the EuroLeague and the national championship on the basis of a loss of a fifth match in a best-of-five series. The manager and his players have clearly learned from those missteps and are now reaping the rewards. 

In addition, smart purchasing has been made in recent years to create a strong and attractive team. Americans Mike James, John Brown III, Jaron Blossomgame and Jordan Loyd have played a leading role in this season. Certainly Loyd’s performance on the Roland Garros court (in front of 15,000 spectators) is already legendary, with two three-pointers making the difference in the final minute. Mike James was the team’s animator in the EuroLeague and a joy to watch. The experienced French players Elie Okobo and Billy Ouattara plus the Lithuanian Donatas Motiejunas and the Nigerian Chima Moneke have given the team extra qualities, in which young talents such as Matthew Strazel and Yoan Makoundou can also develop well. 

The rise of Roca Team is in stark contrast to the performance of the football team in recent years, which since the Covid outbreak has repeatedly failed to achieve every set goal but then pretends that there is progress. The arrival of Paul Mitchell ultimately yielded little more than one Coupe Gambardella. Participation in the Champions League was not possible, due to two attempts in the preliminary round in which the team was eliminated. Three coaches were sacked, with the departure of Robert Moreno in particular being the most dubious as the Spanish coach has not been given a real chance. 

Subsequently, Niko Kovac and Philippe Clement did not provide a structural improvement either. The game was mediocre and that also translated into the choice of the Monegasque public for basketball because the club culture of the football team came under increasing pressure. There is only one wish for the real fans of AS Monaco FC: to attract former player Marcelo Gallardo as a manager. But the club management seems deaf to this wish. The management of the football club is taking a big risk if it does not quickly change course compared to the past three seasons. If that does not happen, Roca Team will remain the most popular sports side in the Principality for the time being. 

FILE PHOTO: Mike James, one of Roca Team’s stars