It’s no ‘Dream Team’, but they are on a boat

Published 10:41 am Monday, August 8, 2016

I’m not coming to bury Mike Krzyzewski. Instead (cover your ears Carolina fans!), I’m actually hear to praise him; albeit faint praise.

What I’m giving Coach K his kudos for is the 2016 Team USA basketball squad he’s taking to Rio de Janeiro in pursuit of another gold medal for Uncle Sam.

That’s because I hope this is not another 2004.

You may recall that was the team that lost three games in Athens, Greece and limped back home with a bronze medal. No, not even the silver medal won by the infamous 1972 Munich team, who lost to the Russians on a late last second lay-up, compared to this nadir. It marked only the third time that an American team failed to win gold (except 1980, the Moscow boycott; plus Coach John Thompson’s ill-fated ’88 team in Korea), and the first time an American team composed of professionals came up empty.

Some blamed Coach Larry Brown and his difficulty with younger players (average age of the team members: 23). It was after this loss that the head of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, reached out across the pillars and spires of Durham’s Duke Chapel and grabbed the Polish wondermeister.

Now, ten years later, Krzyzewski says this Olympic team will be the last one he coaches.

It could also be his most challenging.

Throughout his run, Coach K – much like he has consistently been able to convince the best players in the U.S. – the world, for that matter – to come to, er, Duke, he had the task this year of selling the pursuit of Olympic gold.

Just there weren’t as many buyers this year…

Don’t get me wrong, Team USA’s roster will be loaded in Rio – and because so many team members have played for God and glory before – the Americans will be the overwhelming favorites. But 2016 is feeling a lot like 2004.

The list of players not heading to South America reads like a Who’s Who list of NBA All-Stars this year, starting with “King” Lebron James, then add Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, and…well, you see where this is headed.

A lot of great players will not be wearing the Red, White and Blue.

But we’re not exactly sending chopped liver south of the equator either.

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Klay Thompson, Carmelo Anthony, Demarcus Cousins – I’ll take these guys!

In 135 Olympic basketball games all-time, the USA is a staggering 130-5, which includes six 8-0 runs over the last nine Olympic Summer Games.

Not only should they return with the gold, but it should show that USA Basketball is a much healthier organization than it was a dozen years ago and the continuity it now has will serve it well this summer.

Still, a task of ‘Olympic proportions’ awaits what could be Coach K’s greatest challenge.

Not only will there be the provocation of the assembled talent, but this group will also be fighting the Zika virus concerns as well. As I understand, the team will forego the usual Olympic housing and instead be quartered aboard a luxury cruise ship docked in Guanabara Bay rather than the spartan facilities at the athletes’ village.

And they won’t be alone: it appears the U.S. women’s team will also be living aboard the Silver Cloud, according to media reports.

The men’s team, traditionally, has opted for upscale digs ever since professionals were allowed to play in the Olympics in 1992 (remember what Jordan, Barkley, Magic, and Bird had in Barcelona!).

There is one caveat worth noting: this is the second time Team USA has stayed on a luxury liner.

It happened before, in 2004, in Athens.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.