17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
Laurent Vila (CHOL)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
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Tactics Board: Coach of the Month for January

CHOLET (France) - We have a new vibes team in the Basketball Champions League: Cholet Basket.

Every now and then in the BCL,  you see a team whose chemistry, fun factor and connection with the fans combine to become the vibes team that everyone wants to watch. This season, coach Laurent Vila's Cholet is one of those teams. 

When Cholet started their BCL campaign in the Qualifying Rounds, reaching the Round of 16 for the first time probably seemed a distant possibility, almost an impossibility.

Flash forward to February though and Vila has not only steered his talented team through the Regular Season, out of the Play-Ins and into the Round of 16, but they have already won a key match-up against domestic rivals SIG Strasbourg.


It hasn't all been plain sailing and vibes for Cholet, and if we did have an actual award for Coach of the Month, Vila would have absolutely earned it for January.

After a mauling from Banco di Sardegna Sassari in Game 1 of their Play-In series, Cholet lost homecourt and it was looking very much like the end of the road in the BCL.

But instead, the character of this group shone through as Vila steered his team to five wins from seven in all competitions throughout the month of January, including a three-game winning streak in the BCL where they scored 90 points or more in each game.

That may not sound huge, but it was the French club's best stretch ever in the BCL. It was no surprise to see them climb all the way up to #3 in our Power Rankings in January.

It's not just about man management and fostering of a positive environment where Vila deserves credit for his outstanding work.

Cholet are the best team in the BCL for executing from Baseline Out of Bounds (BOB) plays.

Dead ball situations are, of course, one area where we really get to see a coach's ability to impact the game and Vila has generated the best part of six points per game from dead balls on the baseline (at a rate of 1.3 points per play).

It's not just about having shot-makers either: Cholet generate a Shot Quality (per Synergy) of 1 point per play from the baseline, which means that Vila's set plays are also generating shots with a high expected value.

We dive into the film with the first of two key 4th-quarter plays from their home win over Strasbourg on January 24.

The play starts with star man Craig Randall II hiding out on the weakside, waiting for the first decoy action to unfold, before sprinting off a staggered screen to knock down the corner trey.

Notice how Vila uses Voijtech Hruban as the first screener. In the next clip, we will see why that's such a crafty play design: Just two minutes later in the game, Cholet were trying to keep the SIGmen at arm's length.

We see the same play design, but this time watch what happens with Hruban setting the first screen.

This time it's Gerald Ayayi running off the screen and SIG looked to switch. Ayayi curls over Hruban this time, leaving his man behind the action as Hruban switches roles and sprints to take the shot.

The outcome is the same, but the level of difficulty in the shot had increased slightly with Hruban needing to fade to his right to get enough separation.

There is a reason the Czech international is the leading scorer in BCL history.

It's not just from the baseline that we have seen Vila's imprint on the game either. The clip below is another example of a really creative play design.

Vila used his point guard, T.J.Campbell, to set a back screen for Neal Sako to catch a lob pass.

Sassari were reluctant to switch their own point guard onto Sako so deep in the paint and the fluency of execution caught them completely off-guard. Also, watch how young star Tidjane Salaun was also drawing any possible help-D out of the paint.

We should probably give everyone at the club some credit too. This is a club that developed the likes of Antoine Rigaudeau, Rudy Gobert, and Nando de Colo, to name just a few.

With Tidjane Salaun, it looks like they have another star in the making. They have also worked with Vila to build an exciting and talented roster.

When times are challenging, you really see the conviction required to stick to the plan with a basketball project. During the month of November, Cholet lost seven of their eight games. They stuck with Vila though, and he's paid them back.

This show of faith will have only added to the positivity in the camp of the BCL's latest vibes team.

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon is a basketball coach and analyst living in Madrid. Constantly digging in the crates of box scores and clicking through hours of game footage. Diccon is on the hunt for the stories within the stories. If you like to get a closer look at what’s going in the Basketball Champions League, you have found it.