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Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006

U.S. must tweak formula for Olympics


Special to The Japan Times

SAITAMA -- Coach K said it was a disappointing loss, but the Americans began a long journey with the setback.

"Obviously, Greece did a tremendous job," United States coach Mike Krzyzewski reluctantly said after his team's 101-95 loss to Greece, last year's EuroBasket champion, in the FIBA World Championship semifinals.

Without a question, the U.S. team came to Japan with gold-medal aspirations, having assembled the team early and held camps and tuneup games since June.

And unlike in the past, Team USA had role players alongside its superstars -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were the big names, but Shane Battier, Brad Miller and Kirk Hinrich were big factors in the American equation.

It wasn't enough, however. Not enough to win the whole thing with just two-month training period at the world-wide level.

Krzyzewski said that the U.S.'s basketball infrastructure presented some obstacles against Greece, a team without any NBA household names that killed the American giant.

"Greece has a good youth (basketball) program," he said. "We don't have something like that in our country.

"Hopefully, we can get our country behind us like that."

Yet, the U.S.'s program has just started. Under the leadership of Jerry Colangelo, managing director of the 2006-08 USA Basketball senior national team, it made a firm three-year plan to utilize the same personnel and coaching staff through the Beijing Olympics in 2008, making stars like James, Wade and Anthony play on the national team until then.

After the loss, Team USA was keeping its eyes on that future.

"To lose any game, it is a shock to us," said Anthony, who had the game-high 27 points on Friday. "Yes, we're disappointed. But it's not the end of the world.

"Mr. Jerry Colangelo put a good team together. We made a commitment (to the national team) for three years."

Team USA failed to take gold at the FIBA championship for three straight tournaments, last winning it all in Toronto in 1994, making it all the more obvious that winning a world championship goes beyond superhuman athletic ability. Team play and tactics are just as important in basketball.

Coach K knows it is the key for the U.S. to get back on top again, on its "long journey."

"Our guys played together as one, but they hadn't played like that for a long time," said Krzyzewski, adding he would take the responsibility for the loss. "We learned a lot today. We better learn the international game better."



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