Gregg Popovich wants to make very clear, apparently, that Team USA does not have a history of just bushwhacking every opposing team in international play.
That was the subject of a heated back-and-forth between the USA Basketball Men’s National Team coach following yet another embarrassing exhibition loss — this time to Australia.
Here was the question, which was directed to Damian Lillard.
“I know that coach has been preaching this about how much better the rest of the world has gotten over the years,” the reporter said. “But in this being your first Team USA experience in the Olympics and that sort of thing, what’s it like for you to have watched your colleagues go through some of these tournaments and blow these teams out, and now you are kind of experiencing a much different, much closer, tougher experience?”
After Lillard responded, Popovich jumped in.
“Let me also answer that question — you’ve asked the same sort of question, the same family of question last time where you assume things that are not true,” Popovich said. “You mention blowing these teams out. That’s never happened, so I don’t know where you get that.”
The reporter then tried to either clarify or defend himself, which led to this exchange, with the reporter’s role in it being inaudible.
“Can I finish? Can I finish? Can I finish my statement? Can I finish my statement? Are you going to let me finish my statement or not? So you’ll be quiet now when I talk, and then I’ll listen to you.”
Popovich then delivered his answer.
“When you make statements about in the past, blowing out these other teams. No. 1, you give no respect to the other teams,” he said. “I talked to you last time about the same thing — we’ve had very close games against four or five countries in all of these tournaments. So, the good teams do not get blown out. There are certain games that might happen in one of the tournaments, the world championship or the Olympics where somebody gets blown out. But in general, nobody is blowing anybody out for the good teams, so when you make a statement like that it’s like you assume that’s what’s going on, and that’s incorrect.”
In their most recent international tournament, the 2019 FIBA World Cup, the Americans finished seventh. That alone should be an indication the U.S. doesn’t just wax anyone with ease anymore. Times have changed.
That said, losses like the one to Nigeria on Saturday are definitely out of character, and certainly validate the point it seems the reporter seemed to be making.
Ultimately, it was a flawed but not outright incorrect question from the reporter, but also an unsurprisingly testy response from a coach who minutes earlier just lost a game.