Emmanuel Mavomo never played basketball professionally, nor did he coach until 2013, but he now finds himself working as an assistant coach for the Austin Spurs, the G League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs.
Mavomo, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, played amateur basketball in Cape Town while studying there for college, and started his coaching journey at high school level in Johannesburg – purely to make ends meet, he says.
It’s a far cry from coaching Espoir Fukash in the NBA-affiliated Basketball Africa League in 2022, and going on to developing players for a team coached by five-time NBA champion Gregg Popovich, and working with coach Will Voigt.
Having been appointed in late October, he has already been left awestruck by his brief interactions with the legendary Popovich, telling ESPN: “I got to meet him at BWB Africa once. I got to speak to him at BWB Belgrade for the second time and this is the third time.
“It’s actually very impressive that a guy like Coach Pop will come to guys like us – G League coaches standing on the side, looking at how he’s preparing his team, and ask us: ‘Guys, what do you see?’
“That’s very humbling, because he is one of the best coaches in the world today, coming to young coaches on the side, asking you for your input on his team. That says a lot about the man.
“As a coach, you always want to learn, always want to study the game, and a different set of eyes can help and that’s how he is. It’s very humbling to see that.”
Mavomo isn’t entirely new to high level basketball though, having worked in the Angola national team system for many years before joining the BAL. Angola is an African basketball powerhouse, with top side Petro de Luanda routinely reaching the pointy end of the African tournaments.
Mavomo, who initially studied coaching online and by watching YouTube videos, moved to Angola in 2015 and decided to take a leap into professional coaching.
“The first professional job that I had was in Angola [in 2015] and I coached Petro de Luanda [as an assistant] at the time with [head coach] Lazare Adingono,” he recounted.
“I had a stint before I left Angola with a team called Progresso Associação do Sambizanga… with a smaller budget [than Petro]. We had a very famous coach in Angola called Alberto de Carvalho – they call him Ginguba. He coached Angola in the Olympics and World Cup.
“Then, I moved to France to move to different teams, but then at the time I moved to France, that’s when the Angola national team called me back.”
Mavomo’s three years as an assistant coach for the Angola national team – from 2017 to 2020 – proved to be hugely important in his development. It was there that he first worked under Will Voigt, a coach who worked under Popovich as a video co-ordinator at the Spurs from 1999-2001 and is now back at the organization as Austin Spurs head coach.
Mavomo confirmed that Voigt was influential in his hiring at the Spurs: “I worked for him for three years for the national team of Angola, so when he got the job [at Austin], he asked me to join his staff, so he’s a big part of it.”
Voigt is not the only important connection Mavomo made in Africa. Another was Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Brown, who he served as an assistant under for the Nigeria national team.
As he began earning the respect of key international colleagues, Mavomo was able to build a reputation in France, which he backed up with solid work as an assistant coach for Aix Maurienne Savoie before his stint with the Angola national team and a head coach of Levallois Sporting Club thereafter.
After Mavomo served as the head coach for DR Congo’s Espoir Fukash in BAL Season 2, coming close to pulling off a major upset against Voigt’s Zamalek in a game Fukash ultimately lost 101-92, he worked as an assistant coach with Paris Basketball Club in LNB Pro A while doubling up as the head coach of the DR Congo national team.
“France doesn’t recognise any of the FIBA qualifications. If you want to coach in France, you have to go through their system and study a whole new system and a whole new diploma that takes you three to four years,” Mavomo explained.
“Being an African coming there, it’s also like: ‘Who are you? What are you doing here? You want to coach our kids. You don’t have the diploma,’ so it was very tough, but again… the sky is the limit. If I want something, I go get it, whether it’s in France, the US or wherever.”
After Paris, Mavomo earned an opportunity in the NBA Summer League as a guest coach with the Utah Jazz via the BAL’s partnership with the league. He was rewarded for his two seasons of work in the BAL, having served as an assistant with Rwandan club Patriots in 2021 before taking the Espoir Fukash job for the 2022 season.
Then, after the Summer League, came the Spurs opportunity in the G League. There is no guarantee that Mavomo will be retained beyond the end of this season, but his aim is to remain in the United States for at least five years.
“I hope I’ll come back [to Africa], because that’s the purpose. You want to come back and give back,” he said.
“But if I can stay here for more than just one year, two years, three years, [that would be ideal]. My expectation is to be here for at least five years to learn… and bring it back to Africa, bring it back to Europe. The goal is always to give back.”