Team USA deeply tied to Nigerian national team head coach Mike Brown
There’s not many times that an opposing coach is as deeply rooted with Team USA as Nigerian national team head coach Mike Brown is this year.
“More than anything, hopefully like we all are, he’s wiser,” head coach Gregg Popovich said. “He appreciates the opportunities that he’s had and basketball-wise has grown every year just like all of us.”
Brown was hired as an assistant coach by Popovich in San Antonio over 20 years ago.
After defeating the New Jersey Nets in 2003, he won his first NBA championship with Pop.
“Well, he’s got the same great sense of humor,” Popovich said. “He’s got the same great smile and love of life that he’s always had. Right now, he’s a lot more confident of an individual just like any of us would be 20 years later.”
The former Coach of the Year also won rings with another member of the Team USA coaching staff.
Golden State Warrior head coach Steve Kerr hired Brown as an assistant in 2016 to replace previous assistant Luke Walton.
There again, Brown reached the pinnacle of the NBA, this time twice.
Those two titles are of three as a head coach for Kerr in Golden State but he also won five championships as a player.
Three of those titles won as a player, Kerr was coached by Popovich.
Though that exists, Popovich is excited about the opportunity to learn from Kerr along with everyone else on his coaching staff.
However, Pop mentioned during camp that a player on this roster reminds him of Kerr during his playing days.
“When you start talking about great defenders -- I believe he was first-team All-Defense this year -- the first thing is a natural affinity and desire to be a great defender,” Popovich said. “Having the desire to want to stop an opponent but at the same time understanding that it's done with wisdom.”
According to Green, he gets a particular thrill from playing defense.
“When I came into the league I fell in the draft because the No. 1 question was; what position would I guard?” he said. “That stuck with me and I wanted to make everyone eat those words. Every team that passed me, every reporter, everyone who's anyone who ever said anything about my defense at that point, I wanted them to eat those words.”
When asked if his trash-talking NBA-style would find its way onto the international courts, Green gave an expected honest answer.
“I don’t know how to play without talking,” he said. “That’s just who I am, I grew up that way in Saginaw. That’s just a way of life for me.”
The three-time champion and former Defensive Player of the Year is getting another opportunity at Olympic gold after winning with the national team in Rio in 2016.
“I’m extremely excited to be here,” Green said. “It’s like every time I’ve played with Team USA, in my mind, I’m like ‘That’s my last opportunity.’ We just continue to put the work in, you know every time you’re here, it’s an honor.”
Following the FIBA World Cup in 2019, Green was open about wanting to commit right away for the Tokyo Olympics.
“I think when you have an opportunity to play for USA Basketball, you do that,” he said. “At least that’s how I feel. For me, it was a no-brainer. I knew in 2016, the next Olympics, I wanted to play.”
Even the postponement didn’t deter the three-time all-star.
“I think we all will look back at some point and reminisce and try to conceptualize how insane this time has been,” Green said. “But when that time comes, it’ll be just that. What happened back in time, what happened back then.”
Recently, there has been another outbreak of the coronavirus forcing fans out of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics games.
“I don’t think it affects us at all, if anything we’re all used to it,” Green said. “And normally when we go the whole crowd is cheering against us. So if anything, it may help us.”
Team USA has been hit recently with the bug as well with multiple members of the select team testing positive for the virus.