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Things would have been different under Knight

SAN ANTONIO -- Bob Knight said Friday that the U.S. Olympic
men's basketball team didn't win the gold medal in Athens last
month because the players were too pampered on and off the court.
The Texas Tech coach, speaking to a gathering sponsored by the
San Antonio Sports Foundation, said things would have been
different had he been leading the team instead of Larry Brown.
For starters, the NBA stars representing the United States would
not have been staying on a luxury ocean liner.
"They would not have been on the Queen Mary," said Knight, who
coached the U.S. men to the gold in 1984. "They would have been in
the Olympic village, just like everybody else."
He recalled his own Olympic experience in Los Angeles with a
squad that included Michael Jordan, Chris Mullin, Sam Perkins and
Patrick Ewing.
More than 70 players were invited to try out for the team, he
said, and the hopefuls were pared to 12 over several strenuous
months of auditions. He contrasted that to the 2004 team, whose
players were assured roster slots.
The players who brought home a bronze medal from Athens did not
practice together long, and he said for that reason they did not
develop into a team whose players were toughened by a common
struggle.
"You can't just pick a team and ask the players to play if they
didn't earn a chance to play," he said.
Craig Miller, a spokesman for USA Basketball, said the
basketball players' living situation in Athens was not all that
different from other U.S. athletes.
"Most of the teams didn't stay in the Olympic village," Miller
said by phone from an organizational retreat in the Colorado
mountains. "It wasn't five guys to a room, like the village, but
where the (basketball) team stayed was a USOC-controlled facility,
just like the village."
Regarding the team selection, Miller said, "I'm sure USA
Basketball will be looking at things down the road on what needs to
be done differently, and input from a lot of sources will be
given."
Knight was especially critical of the several nonstarters on the
2004 team who openly complained about limited playing time.
He didn't refer to anyone by name, but NBA rookie sensations
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony expressed their dissatisfaction
about too few minutes.
Knight suggested that perhaps the United States should send the
defending NBA champion to represent the nation at the Olympics.
"The Detroit Pistons would have won the Olympics," he said of
the current champs, also coached by Brown. "They would have won
because they are a team. ... Their bottom four or five players
already know their role."
Knight did, however, have praise for the team-oriented play of
one man near and dear to his listeners -- San Antonio Spurs star
forward Tim Duncan.
Not only did Duncan make his teammates better on the floor,
Knight said, he did so while playing out of his natural position as
the team's center.
"If we had a 12-man team with the approach Duncan had, we would
have had a team that would have won," he said.