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Much was made of USA Basketball's slow start in Olympic preparation, which included roster upheaval and exhibition losses to Australia and Nigeria.
When the U.S. men lost their Olympics opener to France, the knives were out, with head coach Gregg Popovich drawing fire for the program's first Olympic loss since 2004. One scribe went as far as to declare that Popovich "stinks at Olympic basketball."
Popovich was paying attention, of course. And after Team USA ended Olympic competition with five straight wins that culminated with a victory over France to secure the gold medal, Popovich had a candid message for his critics.
He kept it to the confines of the locker room. But JaVale McGee — one of the team's most criticized roster additions — shared video of his coach's post-gold victory lap on Monday. To nobody's surprise, Popovich was taking notes on Team USA's critics in the media.
Pop's blunt gold-medal victory lap
"In the beginning, people were talking about 'why is he on the team, you should have taken him? What happened to him, why is he there?' Popovich said. "All the pundits — all these people who think they know something.
"Then we start out getting our ass kicked after a couple of practices. There it comes again."
Best basketball feeling ever?
Then Popovich made a revelation that was somewhat of a surprise. The five-time NBA champion coach of the San Antonio Spurs revealed that the gold medal win was the best feeling he's ever had in basketball.
"You guys went through all that stuff, and your families were sacrificing back there the same way," Popovich continued, starting to choke up. "That's why I'm so proud to be part of this. It's like the best feeling I've ever had in basketball."
Then he dropped the mic.
"I would just like to say to all of those people out there," Popovich continued. "How the 'f*** you like us now?"
The moment was one of catharsis and well-earned celebration from a team that fought through adversity and challenging conditions like everyone else involved with the Tokyo Games. Team USA took its lumps — which were earned — and appropriately reveled when it finished on top.
And for Popovich, who rarely misses a chance to jab at media, the triumph was especially sweet.
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