U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team Quotes (8/5/16)
August 5, 2016 / Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
On his the leadership among the players:
I don’t know if you ever have a team of leaders. They are the best players on their teams. That doesn’t mean everyone is a leader. It’s more the best players on a team and how you get them to acclimate themselves to limited roles, limited minutes, limited shots. The role of each guy is so much different than it is on his individual team, but you don’t want that to limit their ego. That’s the balance. So, we spend a lot of time talking to them about that. They’re all good guys, so they do want it to work. They’re not selfish, and so that helps. Then it’s just a matter of playing and playing. The main area that they can all throw themselves into with their egos is defensively, so that’s one of the reasons, along with the athletic ability that we have, that our primary focus is on defense, because we have a great chance of reaching our potential defensively – much more than offensively.
What are you looking for in a leader?
First of all, a leader has to lead by example. And a leader always has to have courage, and whatever the leader says, he has to back up, and by doing that he is trustworthy. So, those things help a really good player become better, because that means you have to be on all the time. And I’ve always said if your best player is a leader, he’ll be a better best player. There is no question about it.
About playing China:
Well, it will be a real game this time, and they’ll have all their players. They’ve advanced as far as technically what they do offensively and defensively. They play really hard. Their offensive schemes are well conceived, and they put great pressure on the ball. So, we have a lot of respect for them. We played well against them in the two exhibitions, and hopefully we’ll play well again.
China has a lot of young players, though:
Yeah, but they are young and good developing players. They play together. They play as one. I think they are really well coached. I’m always impressed with teams that play hard and play together, and I think that’s what China does.
On playing China in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games:
That was a great event. At the start of the game, there were more cameras flashing than I’ve ever seen in my life. It was an honor to be a part of that game, and I thought both teams played at a very, very high level, and we were fortunate to win.
What is a surefire way to get guys who don’t know each other all that well to work together?
Well, common cause, and the fact that they want to work together. So, in other words, you have attitude and cause, and the cause is to win a gold medal for their country and play for their country, and they have great attitudes. So, they want to do it, and so they keep coming together, and they are coming together even more defensively than offensively, because they can throw themselves completely into it defensively. They don’t have to compensate for anything on the defensive end.
Are you soaking this one in a little differently knowing it is your last Olympics?
No. I don’t do that. I never do that. If I’m at Duke, my team is not playing for a sixth National Championship. We’re playing for that team’s first National Championship – same thing with here. You have to be in the moment with your team. You can’t be selfish. Like, Carmelo can’t think of it as his third gold medal. It’s got to be right now. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so that’s not a hard thing to do.
Everyone talks about how easy the USA wins, what is your next obstacle?
Well, our next opponent. We don’t think anything is easy. If the result seems easy, that’s probably because we didn’t think it was going to be easy. In other words, we are going to put the effort, the preparation and the passion to win every time we step out on the court, no matter who the opponent is and no matter what has been done before. I call it seeking excellence each time. And, that’s what we are trying to do, and hopefully that will pay off for us.
On France on Australia:
I haven’t watched them yet. All I know is, every team we play has the ability to beat us. Any coach will tell you that. It’s a 40-minute game, and if you look at it any other way, then you are not deserving of winning. So, we will respect everyone the same, and we’ll respect our performance the same against everybody. To me, that’s been a good formula for me my whole life is: every time we show up, we better show up hungry, prepared and respectful of the opponent that we play against.
What do you learn from other sports?
Well, first of all the passion of preparation, being in the moment, being excellent. And one of the beautiful things about the Olympics is you get to see it in team and individual sports. The 100-meter – the pressure and the explosion and what you need for that moment. Or, in track and field, and the marathon, which is a whole different thing. And then you watch volleyball or basketball, and you see the team aspect of it. And really, it’s a celebration of excellence and preparation on the individual and collective levels, and playing for your country in front of the whole world. So, you learn a lot about human performance because of that.
Who is someone you would like to talk to the team about that?
Well, first of all, I’d like for us to talk to ourselves and make sure that we are ready. There are so many great, great athletes over the years, like Michael Phelps has come and watched and not so much talk to our team, but be a part of it. I like when our team goes and watches different events, because they are able to capture the spirit of the games. And to me, that’s a huge part of it. So like today (Opening Ceremonies), today is the biggest day in sport in the world. It’s a celebration once every four years of what the world should be – unified, joyful, interacting, every country, female, male, everybody right there, and we are celebrating sport And sport has done more for the world than anything, and tonight is that celebration of sport. If we could keep that feeling going of being unified as a world, what a beautiful thing it is, but sport does that. The main reason for having the Olympics is that celebration, today; it’s a beautiful, beautiful night.
On the Maracana venue, which is a famous soccer stadium:
Well, I know the World Cup here, in Brazil, is huge. It’s a great day. We have six players who have never played an international game on foreign soil. And ten guys who have never been in the Olympics, so today, for us, putting on their Opening Ceremonies uniforms and walking in there, what a great day and a moment in their lives, and hopefully they can carry that forward.
Your players have said that they want to win gold, and they want to do it for you:
I would hope they want to win it for us. I don’t think you win this by winning for somebody. You win because you want to win for the United States. And then whoever those somebodies are on a team, they’ll get the recognition for it. I just want them to throw themselves completely into this and do it for us and for this moment. Not for past or future, but just live in this moment, and that’s our goal.
Carmelo Anthony said it is important to him that you go out with a bang:
I appreciate that. I have an unbelievable respect for Carmelo. I’ve been a coach for 41 years. I haven’t spent my whole life coaching for the U.S. He’s in his early 30s, he’s basically played for the United States his whole career. You talk about a commitment. He’s been in five major championships. This will be his fourth Olympics and one World Championship. There is no other (men’s) basketball player in the history of our country who has participated more than Carmelo. And God bless him, he has become our leader and has become a really good leader.
Is this one extra special for you?
No, it’s the same. I have to be in their moment. This isn’t about doing a lap because you have retirement, or anything like that. As a coach, we’re only as good as our players. And if a coach ever gets into his moment, he or she is an idiot.