Aug. 27, 2004
Are you really shocked that Team USA, with its multimillion-dollar talent, lost in the Olympic semifinals? That's right, no gold medal for the Americans.
You can't be stunned after the loss to Italy in a pre-Olympic exhibition and the losses to Puerto Rico and Lithuania in Athens. The semifinal loss to Argentina hurt deeply if you love the red, white and blue, especially after watching the Argentinians jumping up and down, celebrating their big victory.
Our multimillion dollar crew never meshed right from the start. We can't just trot out a group of NBA stars and think we will walk away with the gold medal any more. The days of the first Dream Team dominating are long gone, and other countries are no longer intimidated by seeing the U-S-A on the front of the jersey.
Think about the money made by the American players compared to the Argentinians or Lithuanians. It is a bit scary, isn't it?
After struggling to a 3-2 mark in the early Olympic rounds, there was some hope when Stephon Marbury poured in an American Olympic record 31 points against Spain in the quarterfinals. Maybe there was the belief that the Americans could still walk away with gold. That simply wasn't the case as failure to hit the trifectas was a factor once again in the semifinals.
It is amazing to see the first group of NBA players fail to win a gold while representing America. Now it is time for the Olympic selection committee to rethink its decision-making process. You can't assemble a team of pros in a few weeks and toss the balls on the court and expect an instant winner.
Teamwork is established over a long period of time. Just look at Argentina, which had most of the same players that participated and succeeded at the most recent World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis.
Let's face reality ... Larry Brown and company didn't have a shot to win the gold medal. The coaching staff had to put together a team quickly against competition where the skill level has improved so quickly. The Americans didn't have the 3-point shooters the other countries did and it caught up in this tournament.
You have to have a T-E-A-M. T for togetherness, E for effort, A for attitude and M for mental toughness. This group didn't have any of it. It also lacked a true perimeter game, being lucky against Spain.
It's about time to re-assess the way we pick the team. To me, we should pick the NBA champion to represent the U.S. If it were the Pistons last year, you add a couple of players to fill in for Mehmet Okur and Darko Milicic, foreign players that would not be eligible to represent America. If it was the Spurs and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker played for their countries, the U.S. could fill in a few spots.
Don't tell me the NBA champion would be tired from the long season. Those guys would be in tremendous physical shape and could play as a team. You wouldn't have to deal with 12 egos.
There would be a short break from the championship to rest up and get ready to bring home the gold. There would be a fighting chance since the components of a team would be in place.
Let's learn from this disaster and unbelievable travesty. To think that basketball was founded by Dr. Naismith here in the states, and now we are no longer the dominant power, it is sad.
Maybe the U.S. men's basketball players can learn from Mia Hamm and the women's soccer team. There was unbelievable pride and heart displayed in playing as a unit and capturing the gold medal. The win over Brazil was emotional and exciting.
Brown and company had no shot with this team. There was no post play besides Tim Duncan so that when he was in foul trouble, there was a major problem. Outside shooting was missing and the competitive fire was lacking.
Bring on the NBA champions. Let's move in that direction for 2008. Right now, the hurt and humiliation are painful. The red, white and blue are just blue right now.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.