On this day last year August 27, American Sam Vincent led the Nigeria senior women’s national team, D’Tigress to their third title in Mali beating defending champions Senegal by 19 points and finishing with 8-0 record.
The win qualified Nigeria for the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Spain. Vincent would have doubted if he had been told he won’t be leading Nigeria to the World Cup. Sadly, his relationship with the Nigeria Basketball Federation turned sour few weeks ago and his contract terminated on August 3, 2018.
ACLSports caught up with the former D’Tigress coach for his own side of the story.
Vincent said to ACLSports.com, “Conversations with the NBBF started after we won the Afrobasket in Mali and several meetings were held on plans for the World Cup. We talked about been very aggressive and proactive and speaking as early as January or February so that we could put together a solid and comprehensive plan that could be incorporated so we could start sometime around May but latest by June.”
Vincent expressed his strong commitment to the development of the women’s team and making Nigeria one of the super powers in world basketball.
“My complete plan, focus, vision, expectation was that the NBBF and Nigeria wanted to move the women’s programme into being one of the top five in the world and that was the excitement I had been associated with the programme because the plan was to become international power which I felt the women’s programme had a chance to do and suggestions and recommendations were made on what it takes to go from 60, or 70 in the world to the top 5 where you can compete with USA, Australia and Turkey and one of the top women’s programme in the world.”
Vincent said he wrote several letters after the Afrobasket explaining the importance of early preparation. He asked in January about budget and when trainings could start to properly inform the ladies. Throughout January to May, there was no response from the NBBF, he needed to act fast considering the challenge at the World Cup.
He sent another alternative programme telling the NBBF he could still prepare the team in three weeks just like he did at the Afrobasket if there was no budget in place for the team. You will recall that the D’Tigress still went unbeaten in Mali despite the 18-day preparation. Vincent admits the World Cup is a bigger challenge with more time needed for preparation so he desperately requested for information and how his plans can be executed.
After his re-appointment on June 21, Vincent made some demands from the NBBF like returning Mfon Udoka as team manager and few others to the backroom. Despite not having all his demands granted, he admitted not having any disagreement with the NBBF.
“There was never really disagreement with NBBF on any of the plans that I submitted or if they did disagree they never responded they disagreed. So based on my suggestions there was none brought to my attention until the summer when I realised the new general manager they had appointed Mactabene Amachree, she had different plans for the programmes, the players, just a complete different vision.”
There have been reports about his insistence on having Udoka back on the team and wasn’t ready to work with Amachree but Vincent denied such reports saying it’s false.
“I never insisted that Mfon Udoka had to be there. I did believe because we had such great chemistry and we had incredible success it didn’t make any sense to change the programme so I was voicing my opinion that Mfon should be there in some capacity If they wanted to put Mactabene as general manager. But I felt to keep the chemistry same like the year before a separate role should be found for Mfon but I never demanded that she should be there,” he reiterated.
“I was still willing to work with Mactabene with the conditions as the head coach and the person who will be ultimately responsible if the team lost, then I should be able to implement the type of programme that I need to implement to guarantee what I believe will bring success and when that was being altered and I agreed with it that’s when I begin to lose confidence and ability to really take the team to where I was hoping to take it.”
Aside other plans he requested, Vincent also recommended Orlando, Florida as US Base Camp of the D’Tigress like they had before the 2017 Afrobasket in Mali which also wasn’t considered because the NBBF thought having it in Atlanta would be cheaper.
“I can agree that I was not happy the camp moved from Orlando to Atlanta primarily because I had put a lot of things in place in Orlando and I knew I would be in charge of the process. Once the camp was moved to Atlanta I was no longer in charge of the process. Mactabene was in charge of the process and to me, I felt like we had a chance to go to Spain and actually secure a medal. I wanted the controls to be very, very tight I didn’t want a very loose operation and yes I was very disappointed about the move from Orlando to Atlanta.”
Usually, coaches stick with their winning formula with few subtractions and additions to the team. Only 12 players can make the final roster to the Championship. Vincent’s plan was similar but was later revised with 26 players invited to camp by the NBBF and the camp thrown open to other uninvited players.
“The list of players I proposed where based on information I was given from the federation, coaches. I am not going to say I know every single Nigerian women player but I thought I had a very good resource base information and people who know all the top Nigerian players. My focus was to keep the original team and add may be two or three players and get stronger and have a chance to go win games. It was not my plan to completely change as many positions because I didn’t feel that was necessary.”
“Who I wanted on the team was majority of the remaining players from last year with exception of two or three players who I thought could improve and upgrade the team. The difference was that Mactabene wanted to bring several younger players that didn’t have any experience, did nothing to help us get to the world cup and I thought it was unfair to players who have played before, year before and gone through the battles in Mali and I felt they deserved the chance to be there, so philosophically, we had a very different view on the how the team needed to be organised or put together and who is going to actually represent the team”.
Vincent explained why he thinks his contract was terminated by the NBBF with 51 days to the World Cup.
“My contract was terminated because the new appointed general manager Mactabene had a different vision for the senior women’s national team. She has a vision that is less about winning games and going to the championship and being competitive and its more about creating a specific opportunity for a select group of ladies that she has relationships with and I personally believe that’s not how national teams are operated. Everybody should be based on what you bring to get a chance to win so again different philosophies, different views and I think in the end, her vision what she was trying to create was selected by Musa Kida, President of the Federation,” Vincent revealed.
Vincent wished the girls well as they begin their challenge in Spain next month but expressed disappointment over the breakdown in relationship between himself and NBBF.
“My only worries will be from day one when I first started working with Nigeria I have always worked hard. I have sacrificed my time in the summer. I am disappointed that after all of the years of working with Nigeria both on the men and women side that Musa Kida will terminate the relationship the way he did. I am 100% disappointed that the work, effort and commitment by all of the ladies and staff last summer to put that team together with the vision of getting them to the world cup and winning games and securing a medal. I am disappointed that the vision was cut short because we were 8-0 and even in the championship game we won by 19 points.
“I have been available and been very supportive and that’s how it was again this summer so I don’t have animosity, bad feelings. I love the game of basketball and the ability to share what have learnt and I enjoy working with Nigeria and of course I wish the ladies all the best.
“However I am a coach and I realise sometimes our contract ends and coaches move on so from that stand point I am fine. I still wish Nigeria basketball and the women all the best in the world cup,” he concluded.