Additional Gold Medal Quotes: U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team 96, Serbia 66 (8/21/16)
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski
Well, the very first thing, I would like to say that from our entire staff, all the players, the personnel, we want to thank the people of Brazil for putting on an excellent Olympics, and the people of Rio de Janeiro. We were treated fabulously. Like really, I cannot think of one thing, one time that we were not treated at the highest level, and it was an honor to play in this fabulous country and this great city. We beat three outstanding teams in order to win in Argentina, Spain and Serbia, and congratulations to Serbia on the silver medal and Spain on the bronze. I’m just proud of my guys. These two guys are now the top two (Olympic) scorers in the history of United States basketball, and one of them is the top rebounder, too. So, the commitment that these guys – KD doesn’t rebound (laughing). It’s alright, he shoots it pretty well. He actually averaged nine rebounds a game (in his NBA season). Just these two guys, to have two veterans who’ve won it before to serve as the leaders for our team was fabulous.
Can you describe the journey with this team and with your journey as the national team coach?
This team kept getting better and even those three games in pool play, we had not played that type of game against that type of level. We said it was a learning experience and our guys did learn. We put it to good practice. We kept getting better even though it didn’t necessarily reflect in the differential in the score but we were getting better and more knowledgeable. That’s where I commend the leadership of our veterans for keeping us on course for that. As far as (his tenure), Carmelo’s been here as long as I’ve been here. We shared a press conference in Japan in 2006 where after our only loss, he set the tone in that press conference for what was to be one of the standards of our program and that’s collective responsibility. He didn’t make any excuses. We took responsibility for the loss and gave credit to the Greek team. We built on that. I call it character. At that moment, sometimes in a loss, you find out a deep character in someone and that’s what happened with Carmelo in then the commitment from LeBron and Kobe and all these guys, Chris, Kevin, all these guys have great character. It’s just built to where now we have a great, great culture.
What are you proudest of coaching three different types of teams to a gold medal?
I think the fact that we’ve done with five teams because to me, if Kevin doesn’t do what he did in Istanbul, he might not have done what he did in London. To me what he did in Istanbul is what he did today. The coaching staff was saying that. In fact, he took two shots further than he ever did in Istanbul today. It’s called the ultimate green light. You didn’t hear me saying don’t shoot. What I’ve loved the most about these guys and not just these two but the guys who have made these commitments, they’ve set the example for the younger generation of the United States to where now everybody is proud of USA Basketball. It’s because not just how they played but how they acted and how unselfish they were. I’m amazed at these guys. I’ve learned so much from being around them. It’s made me a better coach. This experience this summer has made me a better coach.
How much did coach Tom Thibodeau help you out on the sideline?
Tom is one of the great coaches on this planet. Obviously defense, a lot of people have said that’s what we need. He and Monty (Williams) are amazing. I think having him for these four years, he and Monty have been a blessing to me. To be quite frank, he talks to the team more than I do. Then when I need to interpret something, I’ll interpret some things, I’ll interject something or today’s meeting I cut short a little bit, but it was a good move. It was a good move today (laughs).
Having Tom’s voice there, it’s one reason, I always sit down during the ball game. I’m not a coach who stands a lot, because I got good guys around me. The best guy around me is Jim Boeheim. For 11 years, he and I have been co-coaches for this team. But to have Tibs next to me, yelling, I’ve learned a lot. I think the people in Minnesota are very lucky. His players are going to have … they’re going to be taught the game well. One thing about Tibs, he’s got a great voice, he’s got an unbelievable voice. I said, “If you weren’t a basketball coach, you should have a radio show from midnight to 4 in the morning and you could be saying, ‘This is Tom Thibodeau from Minneapolis.’” That’s what I feel about him.
How does today’s victory rank among your USA Basketball victories?
This ranks just like the others. I’ve been really a lucky guy, collegiately and internationally to be a part of championship teams. I’m just proud of the fact that Jerry Colangelo, when he took over he gave me an opportunity. The way these players have felt, they’ve been given an opportunity to play for their country and you make the most of it. I love the fact that almost a year ago, well, probably seven, eight months ago, we already named Gregg Popovich to take over. So, you have the best guy in the world coach the team now. That says a lot about the program that’s been developed.
With three gold medals, yet you don’t have any gold medals. What do you take home from this?
The main thing is all the memories and for me, seven of my grandchildren were here, out of my nine. A few of them have been to all three Olympics, what a blessing. The night before the last three games, I had a chance to eat with my grandchildren, my daughters, my wife. For them to share this, a lot of the guys their families have shared this. That’s what I take from this. It’s been a joy. I’ve been so lucky to be given this opportunity.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo
What does this mean to the program?
It’s a justification of all the work we put in in terms of infrastructure and developing the national team concept. Having the depth that we’ve established, it’s the fruit of our efforts. The fruit of our efforts is what we’ve witnessed. I’m very pleased about that. We just want to continue to enhance our infrastructure and get more continuity going forward with our players. So, it’s just an exciting day for our program.
On what USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski has done for the program:
We don’t have enough time to talk about how much he has meant to this program. The partnership that he and I have had since we joined up together and to see what’s been accomplished is an amazing story in itself. The great relationship we have between the two of us was established is there for the rest of our lives. I can’t thank him enough.
On Carmelo Anthony’s commitment to USA Basketball:
The fact that he came back this time, he was a question mark earlier. I think he’s happy he came back for a lot of reasons. It gave us an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to Melo for the job he’s done and the commitment to USA Basketball and I couldn’t be happier for him also.
Opening statement:For me, it was more about kind of just the journey that it took to get to this point for me as an individual. But as a team, coming together a couple of weeks ago last month in (Las) Vegas and really decide to commit our time, sacrifice ourselves, our families, our games for one another, knowing who we were playing alongside, realizing what was at stake, what we wanted to accomplish. But, most importantly for me to be here since, I mean, ’04, and then ’06 when they really started to have a culture, USA Basketball started to have a culture. And, to be alongside Coach K – he’s sacrificed so much of his time, his family, coming from a collegiate level, instilling his trust into NBA players and being the face of USA Basketball. I just want to say thanks to that. I appreciate that.
Was there a time you were worried this gold wasn’t going to happen?
Nothing was ever guaranteed but I never second guessed the work we put in to get to this point. I believed so much in the guy that is alongside me (Durant), the coaching staff, the guys that were with us day in and day out, putting us in a position to win another gold medal. I never doubted that. Of course, it wasn’t as easy as we would have liked. This journey that we had here in Rio, starting in Vegas, you can’t ask for nothing more than that.
Can you put into words what it means to have the greatest career in Olympic history? And did you have to point out where the flag was?
No, I just told them that we was looking to the right. I didn’t really have to point it out. I told them to look at the highest flag and that’s what we did. To answer your first question, it’s really hard to understand and have a feeling about it when you’re going through it. Not until you kind of sit back and have some time to yourself and give you a chance to reflect back on this whole journey starting back in 2004 up until right now. I don’t think I can explain how I feel right at this very moment. When I see you back in training camp, I’ll have an answer for you during that time because I’ll have some time off to really kind of reflect on it.
How important was it for you to go undefeated?
Just to win. I know there was a lot of buzz around us not playing well in a couple games, two or three games in the early rounds. But the way that we locked in, the way that we focused in to be able to have this gold medal around our necks was special. I know that you guys didn’t see it, you guys wasn’t around it, but behind closed doors we focused in. We locked in each game. Each game in the medal rounds was another focus level that we took ourselves to. At the end of the day when you’re playing around guys who are playing in big game situations and big moments, you can trust them, you can rely on them to know that when that time comes, everybody will perform at a higher level. From that standpoint, going undefeated wasn’t something that I ever doubted, it was just a matter of us putting that focus level getting to where we needed to be at each game, getting better and better, to be sitting here, 8-0 again in the Olympics, it’s a special moment.
Would you consider coming back for the 2020 Olympics?
No. No, I think I’ve given enough to Team USA Basketball. As much as I’m going to miss it, it’s time to pass it along to some of the guys who was on our team this year, but also to the younger guys coming along and give them an opportunity to be a part of something great. So, for me I’m hanging these (shoes) up, USA Basketball-wise. It’s been a fun journey for me. It’s been a great ride. I’ve seen both sides of it. I’ve seen the losing side and I’ve seen what it feels like to win three gold medals and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.
What was it like to go through the medal ceremony?
I was just speechless. It’s kind of like the weight of the moment really hits you. When you’re playing these games, it’s kind of hard to feel what that is like. But when you hear the national anthem and you get this medal, it just speaks to this team, the sacrifices and all the work we put in.
What do you take from the Olympics?
Just being in the history books. I think this is a great opportunity. One, to be an Olympian, to be around all these great athletes from all different sports, and two, to win gold. To represent our country, to continue the gold standard legacy that Jerry Colangelo and coach K have started, and just be a part of that.
On winning gold:
This isn’t just for me. It’s for everybody, my family, my friends, our country. It’s big. This is what we came for.
Five years ago at Marquette would you have imagined this happening?
No. Not at all. Five years ago, that’s a long time. I’ve come a long way. This is incredible. It’s really big. Not just for me, but for everybody that got that gold and for our country as a whole.
What kind of adjustments did you make for this game?
Go out there and play 40 minutes, from start to finish. I think we did a great job of that. It makes it a lot easier when guys are making shots, too. But in the end we won, we’re happy, we get to celebrate.
On what Kevin Durant did in the second quarter:
That’s why he’s one of the best players in the world. I’m blessed to be able to play with him. November comes quick. I’m locking that up come November.
How does it feel to have that gold medal around your neck?
It’s an incredible feeling. It’s all worth it in the end. All the B.S., everything we went through, everybody kind of went through their own type of adversity. We all overcame it. This is the best feeling ever. Honestly, it’s the best feeling ever.
Was it a good thing that Serbia pushed you close in that first game?
It was the best thing that happened for us. It let us know that we had to take it to another level, because it’s not going to be just a walk in the park. If anything, that was the best thing for us.
Do you see yourself coming back in 2020?
I’m hoping to, absolutely. I’ll be older then, so depending on my body. But as of right now where I’m at, I’m hoping to.
On Carmelo Anthony:
As much negativity as that guy gest, he doesn’t deserve it. He’s an incredible person, he’s an incredible leader. He speaks for himself. It shows his commitment, it shows his dedication to his craft, to his organization, to this organization, he’s a great guy. Great guy.
Did you guys think it was a matter of time before you would put forth a performance like this?
We were a confident group. We had some rough patches in the beginning of the tournament. We overcame it. We corrected our mistakes. We bettered ourselves from our mistakes. We came together as a team.
How about for you? The whistle was tough for you at times.
It was tough. I think individually everybody hit some type of adversity. We found a way to overcome it. That’s what it’s about. Winning is not easy. We found a way to do it and now we can celebrate as a team.
Can you speak about doing one Olympics and how much that commitment is and think of Melo doing four?
First thing is the commitment to want to be here. This is taking away from our summers. You don’t have to do it. You’re representing our country on one of the biggest stages ever. All the credit to the guy (Melo). It’s a great thing all around.
Did you feel a bit of relief that you accomplished your goal when you heard the buzzer sound?
Yeah. It hasn’t been easy. It was great, we got challenged and we showed the world that we could redeem ourselves and come back and show why we are the best athletes in the world.
Were you glad to get a shot at Serbia again after the three-point win in the preliminary round?
Oh yeah. They deserved to be there, and I’m glad we got the opportunity to show how we really can play basketball.
What were you thinking in the first quarter when the game was close?
We understood what we had to do, just defensively. We knew that as long as we play defense the way we know how; we knew we were going to pull away with the lead.
On holding up the flag with Kyle Lowry:
It’s something that we’re going to be able to show to our kids, for them to be able to be proud of something. It’s an amazing feeling to do with your teammate.
Opening statement:It was just an amazing time. We got together July 17, and we all set our minds on wearing one of these gold medals. That was our main focus – Carmelo being our leader and me kind of following up. As one of the guys that’s been here before, I just wanted to impose my will on the team and do the best that I can, help sacrifice and be the best player I can be along the way. The coaching staff and the support staff, a lot of people that you don’t see behind the scenes made all of this possible for us, and we’re just truly grateful to have this opportunity. And to go home as gold medalist and leave Coach K off with another gold was one of our main goals as well. So, just excited that we got the chance to do this and play with such great players. I’m on cloud nine right now for sure.
What was the difference in the early games when you didn’t shoot as much but in the knockout round you did? Why did you feel the need to impose your will in the elimination games?
I wasn’t being myself. Coach sat me down and showed me some film from 2010 and he said I want to see that guy again. So, I woke up I guess. My teammates were supporting me. They were cheering me along the way and everybody just encouraged me. I just went out there and had fun with the game. When I’m smiling out there, when I’m screaming and beating my chest and showing emotion, that’s when I really get lost in the game. I got away from that a couple of games. When the knockout rounds came, when we played Argentina, the crowd was just amazing and I felt that energy from my teammates and coaches and I just tried to go out there and be who I am. I kind of fed off of that first game and was able to help the team get to the gold. I was trying too hard to sacrifice and make the extra pass and I was taking away from my game. Coach just told me to be me and I went out there and did that.
How did you manage your focus and give such a strong response after the criticism you got earlier this summer when you switched NBA teams?
I just tried to center everything around the game of basketball. I love the game so much. I started playing it because it was fun to me. I can’t let anybody steal my joy. Monty Williams used to tell me that every day: don’t let anybody steal my joy. I get joy when I’m out there playing and it went to another level just playing alongside these great players and playing under Coach K and his staff. I focused on that. All that noise around me kind of quieted down. I just don’t let anybody steal my joy and keep playing the game the way I know how to play it.
How important was it for you to win big tonight?
We just wanted to play good game. We were prepared for a grind-out game. In 2012, coach told us yesterday, we were against Spain, we were up two points with about eight minutes to go, was it? That was in 2008, we were tied at some point, so we knew the gold medal game was going to be tough, but to come out there and play against a team that had stepped their level of play as well, it showed that we came together at the right time. It was a huge win. The guys were just excited in the locker room; it was just an amazing feeling. Glad we won big, I’m just glad we won at the end of the day.
What are your thoughts right now?
We came and we did what were supposed to do. We’re going home with this gold. This is what it’s for. This is what we made this commitment for … all to come together to do this thing. It’s amazing to go home with the best hardware you can get here.
What are you feeling at this moment?
I’m just excited, happy. Regardless of what people say about this group, we did what we were supposed to do and that’s come and get this gold.
On winning gold:
It’s an amazing feeling and I’m blessed to have this opportunity.
Does it feel the way you thought it would when the medal was placed around your neck?
Absolutely. It’s even more than what you thought. It’s one of those things where you go in with such high expectations. Then you get to it and you hope it reaches the expectations I had. It completely blows it out of the water. I’m thrilled. It’s a lifelong dream. It’s one of those ones that you don’t think you’re going to get and to be here, it’s amazing.
How did you spend your off time?
Really just spending a lot of time with my teammates. Getting to experience the other events that I went and watched was incredible. The soccer game last night was amazing. I saw beach volleyball, Michael Phelps swimming, I went to see boxing, our women’s team. It’s an amazing experience.
How does it feel to have that gold medal around your neck?
It feels great. It feels amazing, it’s the pinnacle of my summer right here. Finishing off the right way, playing with an unbelievable amount of talent. We made some great bonds that will last forever and it’s just a really exciting moment.
There was a moment when you thought about playing for Australia several years ago. How happy are you to be here, winning gold with coach Mike Krzyzewski?
Absolutely. Coach K is the main reason I’m here. He had a vision and I just followed it.
How does it feel to have that gold medal around your neck?
Man, it’s crazy. I have so many emotions right now. I’m happy, I’m … I can’t even put it into words. It’s been a long journey for me. This is really pretty special.
Does it give you a little vindication for losing to Serbia in the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal game in Serbia?
Yeah. I was telling the guys that and I was telling my mom that. She was like, “I remember.” So just to be able a good team like that again and get a little revenge on them. This is just so special, I’m happy I was a part of this.
Your thoughts on winning an Olympic Gold Medal?
It’s something I’ve dreamt and watched growing up … to have an opportunity to be a part of it and now winning a gold and having it around my neck. There is no feeling like it.
What were the keys to the game today?
Play hard and stick with our game plane and no matter what, remember we have the best team out here.
Were you guys waiting for this type of game?
We put it all together. That’s what great teams do, figure a way out to get continuously better and that’s what we did.
Are you happy?
Very happy … lot of hard work … can’t take this for granted. We set out with one goal and that was to win the gold medal. We did it.
How has the whole experience?
Amazing experience … Brazil was amazing. Their fans are great. The people were great.
What does it mean to win an Olympic gold medal?
It’s extremely special. We had one mission. We sought out to get a gold and we did it. It’s worth every minute of sacrificing your summer for it. It would be an honor to do it again but it’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
What did the team do so well today in playing its best game?
Just our intensity level, I think that’s what was special. It was at an all-time high. We knew what was at stake and we wanted to play our best game possible and it was amazing.