Note: This article was originally published on August 7, 2021 but was lost due to a technical glitch earlier this year. To honor Gregg Popovich's Hall of Fame induction, I'm bringing it back with additional commentary in italics.
"Players are upset about running the San Antonio Spurs' offense," said Joe Vardon after Team USA's preliminary round loss to France. Now that group of "frustrated" guys is forever immortalized as Olympic Gold Medalists under the leadership of Coach Gregg Popovich.
It certainly wasn't the easiest path the United States has ever had in a gold-medal bid, but that's what Popovich had predicted all along. The legendary coach's mantra since the team formed has been to have an appropriate fear of opponents. With teams like France, Australia, and Slovenia all more-than-capable of winning it all in Tokyo, it was Gregg's last-minute group of guys that ended up getting it done.
Team USA certainly couldn't have completed their mission without their superstar of superstars, Kevin Durant. Newly-crowned NBA champion Jrue Holiday was almost just as important. But just as he was taking so much heat with early losses that ended up being meaningless, much of the glory also has to go to Coach Pop.
Before I jump into the crux of this, let me first preface with a little bit of objectivity. On the outside looking in, I can see why people could get irritated with Coach Popovich sometimes. He's short with reporters, often impatient, and can sometimes be overall pretty grumpy when asked ridiculous questions. That said, the way he's been questioned, disparaged, and attacked as he risked his safety in Tokyo to bring home the gold should never be forgotten.
Although there were many haters overall, I want to focus on one main culprit -- a writer from The Athletic who has had a grudge against Coach Popovich that goes back years.