If Oleksiy Yefimov were a sports journalist again, he would have written a story about the only place where miracles were still happening.

Mike James

Mike  James
Mike  James
MIN: 29.98
PTS: 11 (35.29%)
REB: 6
As: 4
ST: 2
BL: 0
TO: 0
GM: 1

He couldn't find another word to describe what the AS Monaco club went through in the last seven years to reach the EuroLeague from the French fourth division. 

"Honestly speaking, I couldn't even dream about this," AS Monaco GM Yefimov told on the Urbonus podcast.

A 35-year-old Ukrainian could say the same thing about his path.

Yefimov went from working as a sports journalist to a media officer in BC Kyiv. When the club's management made some cuts, a 21-year-old youngster was promoted as a sports director to finish the season. The board was so happy with his job that the club decided to keep him in this position.

Former Kyiv head coach Sasha Obradovic (2008-2009) enjoyed his time with Yefimov. When he worked in the ambitious Ukrainian club BC Donetsk, the Serbian coach recommended bringing Yefimov too.

Later Yefimov's journey in Donetsk included head coaching experience at the age of 26 and his team's home arena being set on fire by an armed group of men in the Donbas war. 

Sounds like a joke, right?

But Yefimov reflects on AS Monaco results. Nine years ago, this team played in the French fourth division. In 2014, they were promoted to the second division. In 2015, they finally reached the highest tier.

Since that day, AS Monaco won three French Basketball League Cups and EuroCup as well. The last achievement opened the door to the highest stage of European basketball.

It also sounded like a joke when Mike James was on Mindaugas Kuzminskas' podcast more than one year ago and randomly picked AS Monaco as the team where he would play at the late stage of his career. By that time, he was under a three-year contract with CSKA Moscow. 

Mike James

Mike  James
Team: Monaco Basket
Position: PG, SG
Age: 31
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Birth place: Oregon, United States of America

On September 17th, 2021, AS Monaco signed one of the best players in Europe, Mike James, to start their historical EuroLeague campaign.

"Our president Mr. Serhiy Diadetchko and our shareholder Mr. Alexey Fedorychev were discussing between each other that we need to improve the roster," Yefimov said on the Urbonus podcast.

"The market was really small on the guard position, and it was hard to find an experienced player. Suddenly I said: 'ok, last year it sounded like a joke when Mike was talking to Mindaugas, but let's try.' We reached out to his agent and started talking. We tried to present all the benefits and good points of potential coming to Monaco."

In Yefimov's words, that was casual negotiations. Mike James also had at least two other EuroLeague offers. China could have offered the best paycheck, but they were uncertain if foreigners would be allowed to come. At the end of the day, Mike chose Monaco.

"I think that he was at the moment when he needed a new challenge. I think it's a real challenge to come to a newcomer team, underdog, and try to put it on a new level. I think this is something which also made him ready to come," Yefimov said.

Mike James joined Roca Team two weeks before the start of the season. But he didn't need much time to get back to his rhythm. He went for five straight points on a historical night for AS Monaco club to start the game vs. Panathinaikos Athens.

Yefimov perfectly remembers the way Mike James dunked the ball after a beautiful pass of Donatas Motiejunas to score the first AS Monaco basket in the EuroLeague.

A 31-year old guard sparked his team with 8 first-quarter points on AS Monaco's first-ever win 75-63.

Until last week, AS Monaco's front office wasn't sure if they would be allowed to play their EuroLeague home games in their home arena, Salle Gaston Medecin.

A different scenario would have complicated things for AS Monaco. But on September 30th, Yefimov and his colleagues enjoyed their EuroLeague debut at their home.

"There was certainly a pressure," Yefimov recalls. "Short time, a lot of things to be improved to reach the EuroLeague standards. But once you hear the (EuroLeague) anthem, you forget about everything. And then you realize that EuroLeague is in Monaco... That's the most important."

BasketNews invites you to watch the entire conversation with Oleksiy Yefimov, where he talks about running a EuroLeague club in one of the wealthiest and most expensive places in the world.

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