Head coach Gregg Popovich called it arrogant and immature for people to blame the U.S. for not winning the FIBA World Cup, speaking after the Americans won their last consolation game to finish seventh overall — their worst international tournament result ever.
“Some people want to play the blame game,” Popovich said. “There’s no blame to be placed anywhere … like we should be ashamed because we didn’t win a gold medal? That’s a ridiculous attitude. It’s immature. It’s arrogant, and it shows that whoever thinks that doesn’t respect all the other teams in the world.”
The U.S. wrapped up play by beating Poland 87-74 after losing to France in the quarterfinals and Serbia in its first consolation game. Argentina and Spain play for the championship Sunday.
“It’s not written in stone that the United States is supposed to walk to a championship,” said Popovich, whose team with no NBA superstars lost three times total in the last month, ending a 13-year win streak for U.S. rosters with NBA players. “That’s pretty old-school thinking. Even the teams that have won in the past had a lot of close calls against several teams. It’s never been a cake walk. It’s not like the Dream Team.
“I’m not sure what satisfaction there is in beating everybody by 30, as in the past, way back. I don’t see the joy or the glory or the satisfaction in any of that.”
Popovich, the San Antonio Spurs coach who succeeded Mike Krzyzewski at the helm of Team USA after five straight Olympic or world titles, said he didn’t fault any of the dozens of NBA stars who withdrew from World Cup roster consideration this spring and summer.
“Everybody’s got a life,” he said. “This group, as I said, I couldn’t have been happier with any other group.”
The group included two 2019 NBA All-Stars (Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton) and one player with Olympic experience (Harrison Barnes). It’s possible the Tokyo Olympic roster could be 12 different players.
“What does USA Basketball have to do?” Popovich said. “Keep going. We coach, and they play, and we do our best. That’s what USA Basketball does. It’s not like something has to be changed.
“Some of these guys [from other countries] have played together, running the same stuff for eight, nine, 10 years. … This [U.S.] group would just continue to improve, without a doubt. I think it’s hard to argue with having just gotten together and never having played with each other before. They came a long way.”
NBC Olympics senior researcher Rachel Thompson contributed to this report from China.
MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results
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