USA Basketball Men’s National Team Head Coach Gregg Popovich Visits AmeriCup Team Practice
In the middle of the grind of an intense training camp, the USA Basketball Men’s AmericCup Team had a special guest at their practice on Sunday.
USA Basketball Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Popovich popped in on the team to check on their progress in their weeklong camp at the University of Houston’s Guy V. Lewis Development Facility. At the beginning of practice, Popovich delivered a special message to the players and staff.
“Some of it was kind of personal, but I basically just wanted to thank them for taking the time and taking on the responsibility that they have,” Popovich said. “This is a grind and they’ve got a tough task ahead of them. I just wanted to make sure they understood that they’re important and we really appreciate them.”
AmeriCup Team head coach Jeff Van Gundy expressed his gratitude and admiration for Popovich and called the longtime Spurs coach, “the best basketball coach of our generation.”
“It’s so kind of him to come and see us practice,” Van Gundy said. “I think it gives a boost to the players that he would take the time and come to watch them. It speaks to his humility and class, and I have such great respect for him as a coach, as a leader and also as someone who does it the right way. He has incredible humility, even with all of his accomplishments, and that’s very much appreciated.”
Popovich was also highly complimentary of Van Gundy, who is coaching for the first time in more than a decade and is tasked with guiding the team that will represent the United States at the FIBA AmeriCup 2017
“This is a difficult situation where somebody’s got to be able to whip a group of guys who has never played together into shape very quickly and build a camaraderie and ability to go win,” Popovich said. “There’s nobody more qualified -- in our opinion -- to do that than Jeff Van Gundy. He’s a teacher, he’s focused and he knows what it takes.”
For the past few months, Van Gundy has researched the international game relentlessly, trying to play catchup to make sure his inexperience outside of the U.S. doesn’t jeopardize the team’s chances of being successful.
So which coach has a tougher challenge ahead?
Is it Van Gundy, who is tasked with preparing a team of mostly NBA G League players for an international tournament? Or is it Popovich, who will later be responsible for guiding a star-loaded roster of some of the best players in the world with the highest of expectations?
When asked the question, Popovich belted out a hearty laugh.
“We both have that same hole in our belly of being anxious,” Popovich said. “We talk about never losing an appropriate fear and having that appropriate fear allows to you respect your opponent and know that nothing is going to be easy. This is a very difficult situation for Jeff, but he’s taking it on, and he’s taking it on 24/7 because it’s always on his mind. We got the right guy for sure.”