USA Men's National Team Minicamp - Day 1 Quotes
Gregg Popovich, USA National Team Head Coach
You have a couple of big tournaments coming up, including the Olympics in 2020. Who do you think is going to be your biggest rivalry?
We’re not concerned about Tokyo in 2020, we’re focused on the World Cup in China in 2019. And before we do that we have to qualify and that’s where Jeff Van Gundy is doing a great job of putting teams together so we can qualify and until then we’re not in the World Cup, so that’s the first step and that’s our concentration not the Olympics.
How will your program differ from Coachc K’s?
I have no ideal, we’ve been here a day. I don’t know how different it’s going to be. I’m just going to be me. We’ve got to pick a coaching staff and decide how we want to play and a lot of that depends on what players are going to be there, which players are going to play. So you can’t get the cart before the horse.
Do you enjoy the chance to talk and interact with guys you haven’t coached before?
Of course. You do that at the all-star game and everybody enjoys it but this is higher, above the NBA. This is a more lofty goal. This is creating a new team, a new country so to speak. These guys have to form that brotherhood the way the teams they compete against have because those guys have played together for a long time and we’ve got to try and mirror that comradery and love and responsibility toward each other. They’ve done a darn good job of that for 12 years so we need to keep it going.
How has Coach K prepared you for this role?
I talk to him often, he’s been great and I’d be remiss if I didn’t bug him to death and ask him millions of questions and try to learn from him.
A couple of key players are not here, LeBron (James), Steph (curry), is that a concern for you?
No, not at all. People have lives. We had a good number of people here and the people who were invited and aren’t here have reasons, whether it’s injury or personal things going on in their lives and we understand that.
What are you looking to accomplish with these two days?
Basically we wanted to create an atmosphere so we could develop comradery and relationships between the new players coming in and the players who have been through it before, the coaches and just start to get a good feel to become a family, to become a real team. Not one of the 30 NBA teams but something with loftier goals than that, to play for your country. They exhibited a real energy and taste for that today, I was very impressed.
We saw you have one-on-one calls with various players throughout the day, how much do you enjoy that interaction?
All of these guys have a different story right, just like all of you. We all have families or kids or situations in our lives and it’s fun to find out who they really are over and above basketball players because it helps me coach them and I think it makes them feel a bigger part of the program and they know we are genuinely interested in them off the court and to just for what they can do on the court. It’s part of the satisfaction for me to really get to know guys.
What was the significance of this today for you?
The thing that stood out the most to me was how competitive they were with each other. I was going to go a little lighter and they didn’t go for that. They wanted more. So we gave them more and they were competitive, very energetic and that was a great sign. They really showed that they want to be here, they want to be part of this.
From a personal standpoint how much does it mean to you to be involved in this particularly with what you’ve gone through the past few months?
It’s an honor to be here, it’s honor for anybody to be here. It’s an honor for the assistant coaches to be brought in from various teams. I think we brought in assistant from seven teams to be part of it and just to be part of such a successful program that’s been run so well is an honor and privilege, I’m going to enjoy it and try to honor that every day.
Can you talk about Jeff’s (Van Gundy) with the G League kids, can you talk about this and how difficult it must be?
He’s taken on a huge responsibility, I mean, it’s incredible. When we sat down and tried to figure out who could do that he was the first choice. I called him up and I can’t remember if he thought about for a day or two, and he called back and said I’m in. Because I can think of nobody that can put together a team faster and get across the fundamentals and what needed to be done to put a team on the floor internationally than Jeff. He’s had four different teams during this qualification and now he’s trying to put together another team and it’ going to be even more difficult because we’re getting close to the season and were not exactly sure who were going to be able to put on that team for him but he’s taken it on and we’re lucky to have him.
How did it feel to be back on the court with your USAB teammates?
It’s great to gain an understanding or build a relationship with a player you may not know. Together we can start the process and get the excitement going instead of waiting until the real thing comes around and try to jump on board and be at 100 already.
Your thoughts on the first day with Coach Popovich?
Everyone knows how good a coach he is. It’s great to get to hear him and feel out what he wants from the team.
Why is this camp important to the USA Basketball process?
I think it’s important for many reasons. One of the main reasons is we have a new leader. I think it was great to have an introduction to the person who we will partner with on this journey and who we will be working in ultimately trying to win gold for on this journey. I think it’s always great to have us come together, get some work together, build some chemistry. We want to have some type of identity and I think that’s what we build here.
What’s it like playing for Coach Popovich?
I’m really excited. First day, first time, really officially being around him. He’s a heck of a leader, heck of a communicator, really charismatic and he’s just a fun guy. There is not much I knew about him personally but he’s actually just an amazing human being.
Is there a difference for you this time around now that you’re a USA Basketball veteran?
I’ve got one to hang around my neck so I’ve been through the journey, been through the grind. I know what it takes. There is a real brotherhood that comes with that from the guys that have one it to the guys that are going to be a part of that next series of winning it. You just know what it takes and you know what you’re up against.
What does the opportunity to get on the court with your teammates mean to the USAB program?
With what Mr. Colangelo has done with the USAB program, having us all come out and be together and just get a feel for each other is important. Now especially with Coach Pop being the head coach giving him a chance to get his hands on us and show us his vision for the program.
What are you looking forward to the most with Coach Popovich?
Hopefully just getting to know him, getting to talk to him. Getting a chance to understand the wisdom that he has and to get the opportunity to play under his tutelage.
Why is getting together with your teammates important to what the team wants to accomplish in this program?
It’s really important to get that experience with your teammates, even for a few days. You get to play with and against some of the best players in the world. The quicker we get that feel for each other the better we can become.
How did it feel on the first day with Coach Popovich and his staff?
We all have the aspirations to be successful on the world stage. It’s the same with him now as our coach. Any chance you can get to build chemistry with him and the staff is important.
Thoughts on the experience so far?
It’s a stepping stone. This is one thing that you have to go through, just kind of get to know all the people around USA Basketball. I’ve been part of USA Basketball in the past but this is the first time I’ve taken the step up and it’s good just to able to learn.
Is this similar to your previous experience with USA Basketball?
I was here two years ago with the minicamp with Pop and it’s similar things. I just like how everybody always gets after it. It’s not coasting. Everybody here just plays hard.
What’s it like to play for Pop?
It’s great. He’s so mild-mannered but he’s going to get the best out of you.