FIBA World Championship (September 1, 2006)

USA - Greece

September 1, 2006 / Saitama, Japan


When we started this whole thing, we had to show respect for the world basketball community because we knew the gap had really shrunk. By our performances in the last world championships and the Olympics, so we didn’t have delusions coming into this championship.

We do respect these teams. The fact that four undefeated teams, the four finalists, said something about the quality of all four teams. Greece shows that they know how to play the game. They controlled the tempo of the game, they made shots. We never got anything going. I think we had four steals tonight, we had been averaging 12. Our defense was never really a factor, they picked us apart. That is something to be said for Greece and they deserve it.

From my perspective, we have a young team. We average 24 years of age. For some, this was a big game, in terms of pressure. It’s only a step. We’ll have to qualify next summer. I think we learned a great deal at this tournament. Big time.

Our goal and our objective are to try to win a gold medal in Beijing, which is ’08. So, we have a lot of work to do. We have to build on what transpired here. There were a lot of good things and there are some things that we are going to have to do better. That’s how good the competition is.

What are the things to do better?
Well, I think in the make-up of our team… from the physical stand-point. The physicality was a factor tonight. Not just the shooting, in terms of Greece shooting the ball as well as they did. Defensively, we may have to take a look at how we play, in terms of our basic format, defensively. The pick n’ roll was a killer for us tonight, it really was. They made great passes and they executed. So, I’ve been saying this all year long. The game, the rules that are played, internationally, are different than what our players are accustomed to, in the NBA. Things go on that would normally be fouls. But, they have to learn to adjust and that’s part of the learning process that I am referring to. We have to play a different game, because we are playing different rules. And, I believe we can do that.

We didn’t have as much time, as I would have liked to have had. The difference, what the Greek coach (Yannakis) just said, regarding his team being together for years and learning to play together. I’ve seen many of the Argentina players quoted, saying the same thing. Well, you can throw a lot of great players together but if they don’t have a lot of time, and I mean years of time, it comes back to bit you- potentially. So, we want to keep a lot of our players together and learn from this experience.

Quite often, before you get to the finish line, you’re going to have some knock-downs, if you will. This one hurts. We would have liked to have won this. That was my personal goal and anything short of that was going to be disappointing for me. It is.

It means we have to go back to work and get ready for next summer. For the qualifying, then hopefully we’re there in Beijing in ’08.

Will you bring in different players?
We’re going to take a little time to analyze everything. The flexibility we have on the national team, will allow us to do that. I think our guard play showed inexperience. Those players are going to be a year or two older by the time we’re competing in the Olympics. That’s a factor. It’s a great bunch of guys. I think we have a terrific head coach, in Coach K. The bottom line here tonight – is that Greece had a game plan. They executed. They shot the lights out and they beat a very good team, our own team, the USA team. The credit goes to them.

On personnel, there can’t be too many changes?
I don’t anticipate that. These players have put in a lot of time and effort and they’ve built equity, in terms of being part of this team going forward. No question about that. We also have some players who are on the national team that are not with us. They will all get together next summer. If there’s a change or two, that’s ultimately what I see, if any. That is the flexibility that we have built into the system.

No, we’re not throwing out the ‘baby with the bathwater.' We love all of our guys, they played hard and nobody quit tonight. We just lost.

On the reception of loss ‘back home?'
I don’t know. I think a lot of goodwill has been created by what we have accomplished, thus far. Ultimately, you are judged by whether you win or lose. And, obviously, we didn’t win tonight. So we can expect, whatever. But all of us are competitors. We’ll all get over this and we’ll start building and preparing for the future.

On player reaction:
Pretty somber. They’re really down in the locker room. We will need to keep their spirits up. They are young guys. You don’t want them to break their real confidence. They are as disappointed is Coach K and me. You would expect that. We are going to hurt for a while, for sure. But, we have to play a game tomorrow.

On quick turn-around to play bronze medal game:
It’s kind of interesting. I guess it’s somewhat unusual that the bronze medal game would be on a separate night than the championship game. But it was for ‘draw’ purposes, and I guess they were right. Regardless of who we play, it’s going to be quite a match-up. In some ways, it’s good for our group to have to play tomorrow (Sept 2) night. Not, have to sit on this for two days. We’re going to have to play the game, finish on a positive note and go home and look forward to the future


On the game with Greece:
The Greek team and their coaching staff did an amazing job today. It's not surprising, I've known their coach most of my basketball life and this team plays like he played and we knew that they had great heard and togetherness. I though that our kids played with great heart also. We lost to a team that played a great game. I'll take responsibility for the loss because my guys played hard, they played with all their hearts and they played against a team that played with all their hearts. Like I said when we started this whole thing for this year that if someone does that we should go over and shake their hands and I shook his hand and gave him a hug because he deserves that.

What will you be working on for the next two years?
This is the start of a process of building a program. I think coach's (Greece coach Panagiotis Yannakis) comments are well taken in that they have a program that starts from youth on up. We're starting a program that starts at a little bit different place, it starts off and hopefully we can get our whole country behind it over the years. We knew when we started this that it was going to be a journey not a short trip. We have to learn the international game better and we learned a lot today because we played against a team that played amazing basketball and plays it together. They've been together a long time. Our guys are together. We have a really good group of guys, they're trying to play as one but they haven't been one for a long time, it's been a short period of time. That's what we hope to solve over a period of time is to get continuity because I think that is essential if you want to win at the level we would like to win at.

At one point it was 33-21, what did you see that either clicked in for them or started to go bad for you?
The very first thing is that we knew they're not a team that's going to give up. We were in foul trouble in each of the first two periods and we fouled a couple of 3-point shooters. I think when you see the ball go in like that - they banked a 3-point shot in and then got those two three free throws so that's nine points there. Our defense was doing a good job and all of a sudden you see the ball go in. I thought number four (Theodoros Papaloukas) was spectacular in the first half, number seven (Vasilis Spanoulis) was spectacular in the second half and number 15 (Mihalis Kakiouzis) in the second half hit huge shots for them at the end of the clock. Their offense beat our defense, I'll take responsibility for that. My players played hard, we win or lose together but I think a coach when there is a loss should take more responsibility than anyone.

The Greeks scored 50 points in the paint tonight, was that a key?
They threaded passes. Number four (Theodoros Papaloukas) was brilliant in the first half. I mean some of the plays he made, that why he's been a top player. He plays with one of our players, Trajan Landon, and I knew him. We respect him, he was just terrific. Basically I couldn't device something to stop them. Again, congratulations to him, he played beautiful basketball. We didn't get beat by a team that didn't play great, they played great and deserve all the credit.


I want to congratulate Greece for going out there and competing the way they did, playing so hard, coming back from down 10 in the second quarter, going on a 14-0 run and never looking back. I want to take my hat off to them for playing so well and so hard down the stretch.

Why did the USA have so much trouble stopping them in second and third quarters?
We'll have to go back and look at the game on film. We can't really tell during the game. We tried to switch, we tried to put a big man on the guard and that wasn't working. It was just some adjustments we had to make during the game and by the time we made them it was a little bit to late

How much of a shock to the system it is to go out like this?
To lose any game is a shock to us. We came in with the mentality that we wanted to win this game and move on and hopefully win the gold medal. Unfortunately the Greeks came out tonight, especially in the second half and went on a 12 or 13 point run and they never looked back. At the end of the day we've got to go back and get ourselves together, we still have one more game to play. It's not like it's the end of the world for us. We came into this thing together, we win together, we lose together, so that's how we've got to go out.

Was defense the problem tonight?
Yes, we didn’t do a very good job on defense. Obviously, a lot of that had to do with Greece, because they played a very good game. But, you can’t expect us to win a world championship, allowing a team to shoot 63-percent from the floor. There guys are tough. We knew they were going to play tough. They are a tough, experienced team and they showed why they were the European champions.

On adjustments the U.S. tried to make?
We attempted to make the ball handlers change direction. Their guards did a good job of making the floor rotation. Then Schortsanitis, the big guy, did a good job of making us pay for the double team. So, from there, we tried to go small and make them switch the pick n roll, and that worked for periods of time, but not enough.

On game change in the second quarter:
The game changed when we were up by 10 and we fouled on a 3-point shot and we did not react to that call. Greece went on a run and they took the lead from us and we didn’t show very good composure from that point in the game. We were forced to go ‘small’ to try to force the tempo and to create some turnovers.

On Greece:
They play good basketball. They played like a champion plays. They had guys, like my future teammate, (Vasilis) Spanoulis, that did a great job of controlling the tempo and we knew exactly what they were going to do. We knew they would pass the ball around to try to break us down at the end of the shot clock. A lot has to do with the Greek execution.

On overall feelings:
We respect the game of basketball. We are disappointed, but we have to use this as a building block. We all signed up for a three-year commitment, so we’re going to come back tomorrow and bring back the bronze medal. After that, we’ll have to re-group, go down the Venezuela and qualify for the Olympics. Then, we’ll look to Beijing in a couple of years. It’s all a part of a process and the direction that we are going.

At the end of the day, the team that walks away from the tournament with the gold medal is the team that plays well together, makes basketball plays and play with their heart. It sounds simple, but very few people can do that. That is why being a champion is so hard to do.


Reaction to tonight’s loss:
I expected to win, but they outworked us. They just played better basketball the whole way.

What did Coach K say to you at halftime?
He talked about the one high pick and roll they were running, that’s the main thing they were hurting us with. We tried to make adjustments but they kept running the same play. Any other play they ran we guarded pretty well, but they took advantage of that play. You have to give credit to their coaches, they made some adjustments, kept running that same play and we never got used to it.

I think we helped make it easier for them. We didn’t really move the ball or move on offense like we have been. That hurt us.


About Greece's pick and roll:
We began the game just trying to show and stay attached and that kind of hurt us, because we had somewhat of a smaller lineup and they’ve got big guys rolling to hoop with someone smaller picking them up. We tried to make an adjustment to switch and that fared better.

Were you surprised by their defense at times?
Somewhat surprised, but they played a great game. They got hot when they needed to and hit some big shots. We couldn’t separate ourself in the first half when it got to nine or 10 points. They’d get fouled and knocked down their foul shots. They hit a big three off the glass. They did everything they needed to do to win the game. They hustled hard. They won.

Is it a bad day for team USA?
I’m very disappointed, but it is a three year commitment the guys made. It’s a step. Some guys have played in the Olympics. I’ve played in prior World Championships. The guys know what we have to do in order to win.

What do you think about the Greek team?
The Greek team is a great team. Not just in this tournament, if they played in the NBA or whatever they’d be a good team. They have shooters, they have guys who can defend, they have big guys who can do decent things in the paint. They should be proud of themselves. We take our hats off to them.

You have to give Greece credit, they did a great job. Obviously it wasn't our best defensive effort, we gave up a lot of points tonight and we got down and just couldn't get back. I've got to give them credit they did a good job of stretching the game out and made big plays.

We'll have to bounce back. No matter what happens in the second game, we're going to play a great team tomorrow and we're going to have to bounce back and play a lot better than we did tonight that's for sure if we're going to win and bring home the bronze. There's a big picture here, we're getting ready for the Olympics, then at the same we've got to come back tomorrow and send a message.

On tonight’s game:
It was a disappointing loss. I feel we could have played a little bit harder at both ends of the court. I tried to do whatever I could when I was in the game. But we just came up a little bit short.

Give Greece some credit. They couldn’t miss. They played well and hit some big shots. They executed very well. They played hard.


On the Greece team tonight:
They played well. They ran one play very well and we just couldn’t stop them. I don’t think we made enough adjustments to counter what they were doing. They made the right adjustments. So, good game for them. It was a disappointment for us. We just have to get better.

Was it basically the pick and roll with the big guy that was causing most of the trouble?
Yeah, because they had shooters spaced out, all the wings out on the side and they had one screen and roll and the big guy—and he is a big guy—rolling in front of our guards. It caused matchup problems for us and we just couldn’t stop it.

What do you take out of this experience?
It’s been a great experience for me and for all of us. You always want to be victorious, but at the end of the day it has been a great experience.

Even though you are disappointed now, is there anything you can build off of for the future?
We get another year of FIBA basketball. We can always build off of that because it is a different kind of basketball. We have two more summers of growth. This is the beginning. We’ve improved since 2004, we’ve improved since training camp began. This is a three-year commitment. We just have to keep getting better.


They scored 100-points (101-95). We couldn’t get a shot when we needed to. You need to compliment Greece for taking advantage of the things we couldn’t do right and for the way they played the game.

The last three or four games, the defense has been the reason we won. Tonight, to play this way, is a disappointment.

On the mood of the team:
Horrible. Our goal was to win this. We came up short. The guys are upset. We are disappointed. When we needed to play our best game, we didn’t play. We didn’t overlook this game, what-so-ever. Like I said, you have to give Greece all the credit. They came out, they played well.

We are going to have to put this behind us. Come out tomorrow and win the bronze medal.

Reaction to having to compete in Olympic qualifying tourney next summer?
It wasn’t what we had planned. It’s going to be interesting. Hopefully we can stay positive and do the things we need to do in order to be successful. We knew this was a three-year commitment no matter if we won or lost. The only difference now is that instead of being together for a week next summer, we have to go through another tournament, but that’s the price you have to play when you don’t come out and win. We just have to keep our heads up high and go out there and be ready for the next game and next summer.

Some people are saying that the level of competition before this game wasn’t all that good. Did that hurt you?
It wasn’t our fault. That’s the draw that we had. It’s the way the brackets were set up. We knew we had an easier route to get here than the other three teams, but having said that you still have to step up and come out and play well. We never overlooked Greece. We knew they were a very talented team. I thought it would be a great matchup, but that’s behind us now. You have to give them credit for coming out and executing and doing the things that they did to win. To say the way the brackets were set up didn’t provide us wth a test to prepare us isn’t right. We are all professionals here. We knew what we had to do and, unfortunately, we just came up short.

On Greece’s offense tonight:
They were doing the things they wanted to do offensively. They would run the clock down to the last 8 or 9 seconds and that’s when they would run their offense. During the third and fourth quarter they just picked us apart. Their pick and roll, I mean we just never made the adjustments. In order to win in this tournament you have to make adjustments quickly and we didn’t. They played well. Once they got their confidence and the lead, they just started playing freely, up tempo. They came out well, they executed. Their coaches did a great job as far as putting them in the right positions and making it tough on us.


They were very effective on the pick n’ roll. Or, just kicking it to the corner. They ran that play and pretty much won off that play.

We tried to make the comeback. We did as much as we could. We tried to fight the way the game was being played and the way it was being called. And, we came up short. Give a lot of the credit to Greece. They hit shots when they needed to hit them. They didn’t miss the whole third quarter and played a perfect game to beat us.

We all wanted to play. Everybody wanted to play on the team. That’s our competitive nature inside of the guys.

We wish we could’ve done something about it. You look back now, and wish you could’ve changed defenses, maybe played a little zone. But, when they needed to hit a shot, they stepped up and somebody hit a big shot. We kept coming back at them, but they continued to hit big shots.

On mood of the team:
Disappointment. It’s pretty much, that we didn’t expect to lose the game. We’re a very talented team, a confident team, and they beat us. We have to re-group tomorrow. We will have to come back and try to win tomorrow and then in 2007.

This is a first step. We’re not saying that we’re crying over losing. No. We wanted to win, and it didn’t happen. We have to try to win the next game. Then, in 2007, we’ve got a lot of guys.. some guys that didn’t play this year. We got some experience.

Get Your USA Gear Now!


Contact USA
2006 USA Basketball, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
No part of the hereby supplied images and texts may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the prior written authorization of USA Basketball, Inc.