As Team USA prepares for this Saturday’s FIBA World Cup opener against New Zealand, their objective is to regain the world-champion title after finishing seventh in the 2019 tournament, the second-worst finish in USA basketball history.
As head coach Steve Kerr was also a part of his nation’s last World Cup appearance, he was asked by the media why he believes they were eliminated so early from that competition. According to the Warriors trainer, they depended too much on a single player, who unfortunately fell to injury.
“We struggled with injuries, Jason Tatum going down really hurt us that year”, said Kerr about that tournament, but believes there are similarities between both squads. “It’s similar to that team. The 2019 team was also very young.”
However, Kerr feels blessed to have been part of that process and believes that his time as an assistant to Gregg Popovich influenced his head coaching debut with Team USA.
“That experience really formed how we picked this team. We wanted guys we felt could be a team in a short period. We have players with a great feel on this team. They’re connected, they can all pass, they’re enjoying the experience,” he praised his current roster.
“It was great for me to have the experience of being an assistant for Pop [Gregg Popovich] in 2019 and 2021. Because you get to feel what it’s like putting a team together for six weeks. It’s totally different from the NBA. You can’t build continuity, years of experience, and piece together a team. You’re doing it like that,” Kerr added.
Also, the Golden State trainer shared the valuable lessons learned in their tune-up matches before the World Cup, which meant five-straight victories against Puerto Rico (117-74), Slovenia (92-62), Spain (98-88), Greece (108-86), and Germany (99-91).
“The most important thing was to get used to FIBA rules and play together. Amidst that, we played against very tough teams. We have confidence, but we also took some blows, both Spain and Germany gave us all we could handle, and that experience will help us because we know how good these teams are now,” he assured.
Kerr already won a FIBA World Cup gold medal back in 1986 and talked about the pressure of being considered favorites
Back when he was a college player in 1986, he was part of the Team USA roster who conquered FIBA’s gold medal in Spain that year. Even though he fell to injury and missed the final, he remembers the impact it had in his basketball career.
“Pressure is sort of what you make of it. We all love what we do. I love coaching. I love the pressure or how we want to describe the competition. Part of being a competitor is embracing the fact that you can lose. That’s all the point of competing. There’s winning, and there’s losing,” he explained.
Steve Kerr will represent Dub Nation as the Head Coach of USA Basketball at the FIBA World Cup. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/Dj4P5kcaJH
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) August 24, 2023
Besides the pressure of being the team to be beat in this World Cup, Kerr explains why his current roster has all the ingredients to compete for the gold this competition.
“What goes into that is the effort, approach, and chemistry. I love being part of a team. I love doing what we’re doing right now. Trying to build something and have something at stake. And the beauty of sports is that nobody is going to die. We’re going to compete, we’re going to play as hard as we can, we’re going to try to win a gold medal. If we don’t, we understand there will be plenty of criticism, and we’re okay with that,” he concluded.
Source: Basketball Insider