Gregg Popovich knew the goal was not to be the best team in the world by the first exhibition game against Nigeria in Las Vegas, it was to be the best team in the world when it was time for the gold medal game in Tokyo.
Team USA was and won its fourth straight men’s Olympic gold medal.
Popovich was the perfect coach to guide this team. Some players signed up specifically to play for him, and when the losses and criticism mounted — especially of Popovich himself — he was able to create an ‘us against the world’ mentality that seemingly every coach tries to do (it often seems forced and hollow), but was genuine in this case. He understood patience, getting the team to play more coordinated defense, and creating an offensive pecking order — with Kevin Durant at the top — could win the USA gold. That chemistry was just going to take time.
After that game, an emotional Popovich spoke to the team. Here are the highlights.
Coach Pop came with that energy after winning the gold-medal game 😤
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 16, 2021
To see the full context and comments, check out JaVale McGee’s vlog from Tokyo.
As others have noted, the line Popovich closed with grabs the headlines, but what really came across was how much this gold medal meant to the former Air Force Academy player and graduate. Popovich has a deep love of his country, and wearing that USA across his chest was a responsibility and a burden he took very seriously.
Coaches don’t get gold medals, but Popovich earned one as much as anyone on this team.