“We were playing like a dream”: Romain L’Hermitte, the end of a great adventure for the USO Mondeville Basket coach

Little annotated game diagrams lie on Romain L’Hermitte’s dining table. The season of his club of almost always, the USO Mondeville, however sadly ended in the first round of the Ligue 2 playoffs on April 20 against Chartres. The coach said goodbye after a decade on the bench. But there is no question of letting go of the orange ball: “I watch a lot of games, for girls, boys and in the NBA. I make little game plans to come up with concrete ideas when they call me”. For the first time, the technician will change air. The end of an era, far from the good times of USOM in the elite of French women’s basketball. “It’s a shame that it ends like this,” he says, a few weeks before the end of his contract, which was not extended by his management. It seems that it is the professional world…”

Romain L’Hermitte was 33 when the USO Mondeville entrusted his first team to him after two years of cutting his teeth as an assistant to his predecessor, Hervé Coudray. The latter, now national technical director of the Swiss federation, remembers: “I had had him in a coaching course that I supervised. Then he came to attend a few USOM sessions. I had offered to participate. I integrated him into the staff the following year. The thirty-year-old, with only a few local experiences or with youth teams, discovers the high level and even the European Cup.

In 2013, here is Romain L’Hermitte on the front of the stage, “with the smallest wage bill in the Women’s League”. The coach knows it, Mondeville does not have great means but a DNA: training. At the time, the Norman club had, for example, Marine Johannès in its ranks. “Roman helped me a lot at the start of my career, notes the back, now part of ASVEL and Les Bleues. He pushed me, when things were going badly but also when things were going well”. The method ? “A lot of exchanges, work, sharing during individual training, difficult workshops to make them realize their abilities, explains Romain L’Hermitte. As well as a “basketball style made for young people, with a lot of movement, game reading and confidence”, adds the former world player.

“I don’t want to go around in circles”

“He was a young coach with young players and also some more experienced players. Romain embodied the club’s project with his family values”, underlines Régina Dutacq, president from the end of 2013 to 2020. The transplant results in an “incredible 2016/2017 season. We were playing like in a dream. The planets had aligned,” recalls the coach with a smile. USOM finished 5th, “a feat” according to Régina Dutacq. The club composts its return ticket to the European Cup… on the floor only. The costs of participation in the continental competition make the management renounce. “It was hard to live at the time, concedes Romain L’Hermitte. But for me, it was just a delay. We were going to go back. Except that with hindsight, it was the club’s biggest mistake. He who dreamed of taking his squad of young shoots to the disillusioned continental scene. The beginning of trouble.

“Not playing the European Cup did not help him, breathes Marine Johannès. The club had fewer resources. He never gave up despite the difficulty. It’s all to his credit.” In 2019, Mondeville goes down to Ligue 2. Then the Covid goes through there. The organization of the USOM evolves. “Last year, I was told that my contract would be extended if the team came back,” said the technician. But financially, the goal was almost unplayable. Despite a good second half of the season, the road ends in the play-off. Mondeville will spend another season in the antechamber of the elite, without Romain L’Hermitte.

If the man “does not believe in good separations” and leaves his club in a palpable tension, he prefers to retain “the pride of having shared a lot with my players”. Powerful ties, as with Marine Johannès: “Sometimes we eat together. We communicate a lot and it happens that we still do some training when I return to Normandy”. The rest will be written elsewhere for this father of four children, preferably in a women’s team. “In our profession, we rarely choose,” comments Hervé Coudray. Maybe Romain will have to wait for an opportunity. But he has a great capacity for work to succeed, a thirst for learning”. “I don’t want to go around in circles” warns Romain L’Hermitte, who approached an agent. In the hope of a base with, perhaps, a new youth to shape.

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