There are special coach-player relationships that have formed over the years. And then there is the connection between Laurent Legname and Axel Jullien.
Legname-Julien bond is long in the making
The Mincidelice JL Bourg en Bresse head coach and point guard have a bond that many married couples would probably envy.
Legname and Julien are trying to lead Bourg to victories this season thanks to a link that dates back more than a decade. In 2011, Legname was 34 years old and playing his last season as a professional with Hyeres-Toulon, where a then 19-year-old Julien was getting his first taste of the Hyeres-Toulon pro team.
“He was younger than he is now,” Legname said with a laugh thinking back to his one season with Julien as a teammate. “He was more shy than he is now, and you could already tell he had the potential and talent for a professional career.”
A native of Hyeres, Legname played nearly his entire 17-year career with Hyeres-Toulon - save for one season with Maritime Boulogne. He retired during the 2011-12 season and took over as coach in the Toulon youth ranks and coached Julien for the first time after the youngster had been with the club since 2009.
It was the next step of a long journey that took the coach-playmaker duo around the country - and crisscrossing Europe as well.
Legname would remain at Hyeres-Toulon and advance to the pro team head coach in 2013-14 with the team in the second division. Julien was starting to make a name for himself too - having already helped France take the silver medal at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2012 - with Legname as an assistant coach.
In 2015, Legname was hired at first division club JDA Dijon and he decided it was time for Julien to play at the highest level in France for the first time and he took his point guard with him.
“We had just had two big seasons in Pro B, both collectively and individually. Axel had proven his worth at that level, and he had to see the upper level,” Legname remembered. “Dijon was looking for a new beginning so it was quite natural that I offered him this challenge to try to measure himself at a higher level. We didn't need to talk much before he accepted the challenge.”
Legname and Julien helped build Dijon into a force in France - and Europe. Dijon made the playoffs for the first time in 2017-18 and lost in the first round. The next season they finished third in the league and reached the semifinals of the playoffs. Dijon also debuted that season in the Basketball Champions League.
In 2019-20, Dijon were only a half-game behind AS Monaco in second place in the French League standings when COVID-19 ended the season prematurely. Internationally, Dijon would end up finishing third in the BCL after reaching the Final 8 tournament.
The success continued last season as Dijon won the French regular-season title and knocked off Monaco in the semifinals before losing to LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne in the final.
After five seasons with Dijon, it was time for a move for Legname, who signed with Bourg this past off-season. He told Julien about the deal before it was announced and also asked if the guard wanted to continue their journey together in eastern France.
“I really thought about everything. I had a lot of opportunities to go to other teams, but after weighing everything I decided to go play for him in Bourg,” Julien said.
The connection between the two is definitely a major help for Bourg players.
“For me, it’s better to help other teammates to help them understand what he is asking. Sometimes it’s hard for a new player to understand everything, so I will try to act between him and the players,” Julien said.
Legname values what he has in his bond with his floor general: “It's a relationship that doesn't take place too often in the professional world, but it's a relationship that brings positivity in every sense of the word,” the coach said.
Now, Legname and Julien are trying to take Bourg to the next level - with a connection almost unheard of in basketball.