Alright, we are officially one day into Team USA training camp, and some ridiculous sportswriter has already penned a column ripping our boys.
No games have been played - no exhibitions, no group plays, no eliminations. Hell, the team hasn't even trashed a hotel room yet.
But don't let that stop ESPN's Chris Sheridan from ripping into Coach Mike Krzyzewski for sending the wrong motivational message.
Gilbert Arenas says Coach K told his players: "We have to go out there and be dominant for 56 quarters -- every quarter of every game we play. That's our mission."
Sheridan's response, in short?
This should be about having the U.S. team playing at its peak when the games really count, and that won't happen until the single-elimination stage of the World Championship arrives at the end of August with the Round of 16, then the quarterfinals, the semifinals and the gold medal game -- the only four games that will really matter.
You know what would have been a better message, Coach K? How bout this: "I don't care if you lose, and I don't want you losing your confidence if you do lose. I want you playing at your peak seven weeks from now. I want us at our best when this mission finally gets serious." You can't be dominant if you're not even superior, and right now there's a team in Argentina that has first dibs on worldwide rights to being the best."
Thr rest of the column talks about how great Argentina is, and how Yugoslavia won the Worlds four years ago despite sucking in the first round. All of this, somehow, is supposed to prove Coach K's insane strategy of "being the best team" is flawed to the ppint of self-inflicting harm.
I'm not a Coach K guy. I was born in Maryland. I root for the Terrapins. I don't like Duke to the point where, well, I hate Duke.
But, seriously? I'm not going to quibble with a pep talk given by a guy with three national championships, nine Final Fours, 12 conference championships, and more than 700 wins with a .750 winning clip. Maybe if I was Phil Jackson, or Larry Brown, or even Bob Knight, maybe then I could have some sort of relevancy when discussing the right way to motivate a team of multi-millionaires.
Team USA's goal is to win the damn tournament. The only way to win the damn tournament is to (surprise!) beat the teams you face. The only way to beat the teams you face is to score more points than you let them score. I don't think any coach EVER says, "Alright guys, let's go easy on Angola. We don't want to peak too early. Whatever you do, guys, don't beat Angola by more than, say, 15 points. We want to build up to the semifinals. Then you guys can go hog wild and beat The Krauts by 30. But right now, um, keep close until the final minutes. We don't want to dominate every minute of every quarter. We want to be average until the end of the tournament. Ready, everyone in, and BREAK!"
If Team USA followed Sheridan's assinine strategy of not dominating the competition until the end of the tournament, they could easily find their way OUT of the tournament. The reasons Sheridan brings up for taking it easy - the teams you're likely to face late in the tournament are really good - is exactly why the team has to play as well as possible the entire tournament. It's not just France and Spain and Argentina that are good. It's Puerto Rico, it's Germany, it's Serbia, it's Lithuania, it's China, it's Brazil, it's Austrailia, it's Italy. There are a lot of good international basketball programs out there now, and many of them are only getting better. If you let up against any of them, you stand a good chance of getting your ass handed to you on a platter of interesting-looking hors d'oeuvres.
Almost any nation can beat any other nation any given night. If you don't bring it in the first quarter, bring it in the second quarter, bring it in the third quarter, and bring it in extra hard in the fourth quarter, you could be heading back to the States early. It's fact we saw in plain view in Athens. We're not invincible. We can't take it easy ANY NIGHT.
Coach K's motivation - to play hard and dominate every minute - is perfect. No other way can bring home the championship.