Coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t forgive and forget.
A behind-the-scenes video from inside Team USA’s dressing room following their gold medal victory at the Tokyo Olympics has emerged showing the veteran San Antonio mentor dropping bombs during a celebratory speech to his players.
The 72-year-old is delighting in shutting up the vocal critics that suggested the team was in crisis after losing to France in its first game of the tournament — The United States’ first loss at the Olympics since 2004.
The team rebounded to beat France in the gold medal game — and Popovich could not be happier with his team proving the doubters wrong.
His speech left some of the biggest stars in basketball, including Portland’s Damian Lillard and Golden State’s Draymond Green, in stitches.
“I just got to tell you I feel so fortunate having the opportunity to be with you guys and the staff,” he said.
He went on to address the criticism that surrounded the roster selected for the Games.
“In the beginning, you know, people are talking about ‘Why is he on the team? He should’ve taken him. What happened to him? Why is here there?’ All the pundits, all these people that they think they know something,” Popovich said.
“And then we start out getting our a**** kicked after a couple practices and there it [criticism] comes again.”
Team United States Head Coach Gregg Popovich poses with Team Australia’s Patty Mills. Photo: Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Pop enjoyed this one.Source:Getty Images
He got emotional the end when talking about the sacrifices players made to compete at the Games.
“I’m so proud to be a part of this, it’s like the best feeling I’ve ever had in basketball,” he said.
“And I would just like to say to all those people out there: How the f*** you like us now?”
His final comment got his players jumping to their feet to howl with approval.
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Popovich also congratulated Australia on its campaign of winning its first medal in men’s basketball at the Olympics following a win over Slovenia in the bronze medal match.
The Boomers lost to Team USA in the semi-finals.
Boomers coach Brian Goorjian said Popovich praised Australia for its performances as they spoke following the medal presentations.
“Before I could get a word out, (Popovich said), ‘You’ve got the best ‘team’. Love your ‘team’,” Goorjian said.
Coach Gregg Popovich in the dressing rooms.Source:Twitter
“We played as a team, offensively and defensively.”
Before the Olympics, Popovich was involved in a snappy exchange with a reporter following the team’s loss to Australia in a pre-Olympics warm-up series in Las Vegas.
During the post-match press conference, a reporter asked star player Damian Lillard a seemingly innocuous question.
“What’s it like, having watched your colleagues go through some of these tournaments and blow these teams out, and now you are experiencing a different, closer, tougher experience?” asked The Athletic’s Joe Vardon.
Popovich cut in to give his blunt opinion.
“Let me also answer that question,” Popovich said.
“You asked the same sort of question last time, where you assume things that aren’t true. When you just mentioned blowing these teams out, that’s never happened. So I don’t know where you get that.”
The reporter attempted to explain where, in fact, he got it from. For example, Team USA just lost to Nigeria, whom they beat by 83 points at the London Olympics less than a decade ago.
Popovich spoke over him.
“Can I finish? Can I finish my statement? Are you going to let me finish my statement or not?” he said.
“So you’ll be quiet now while I talk. And then I’ll listen to you.
“When you make statements about in the past, just blowing out these other teams, number one, you give no respect to the other teams.
“I talked to you last time about the same thing. We’ve had very close games against four or five countries in all these tournaments. So the good teams do not get blown out.
“There are certain games it might happen in one of the tournaments, the World Championships or the Olympics, when 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 what’s going on. And that is incorrect.”
Popovich has had the last laugh.
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