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Gregg Popovich loses it with reporter after US basketball team loses to Australia

'Are you going to let me finish my statement or not?' Gregg Popovich told the reporter
UPDATED JUL 13, 2021
Gregg Popovich's team USA suffered two consecutive losses since 1992 (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)
Gregg Popovich's team USA suffered two consecutive losses since 1992 (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Team USA national coach Gregg Popovich lost his cool at a press conference after the US basketball team suffered a second consecutive defeat ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The 72-year-old president of San Antonio Spurs was taking questions from the media with Damian Lillard on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. When a reporter asked him about Team USA's history of past victories in the exhibition games ahead of the Olympics, Popovich sounded upset. He went on to school the journalist about the Games after repeatedly telling him, "Are you gonna let me finish my statement or not?"

The US team, which is missing three key players Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Devin Booker due to the NBA Finals, lost 91-83 to Australia on July 12. They had also suffered a 90-87 loss to Nigeria in the first of the five exhibition games that lead up to the Tokyo Olympics. According to BetMGM, currently, the US team are -600 favorites to win the gold medal. The losses were more devastating considering the fact that Team USA had only lost twice since 1992 - once at the 2002 FIBA World Cup and then at the 2019 Basketball World Cup. Their defeat to Nigeria was especially heartbreaking since it was the first national loss for the favorites in nine years. 


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When attending the press conference after the game, Popovich appeared visibly upset. He delivered a scathing lecture to journalist Joe Vardon of The Athletic in response to his question. Moreover, he repeatedly and sternly asked the reporter to let him finish his statement when he tried to interject "What’s it like having watched your colleagues go through some of these tournaments and blow these teams out, and now you are experiencing a different, much closer, tougher experience?” Vardon had asked Lillard. As Lillard calmly addressed the question speaking about a different international landscape, Popovich did not take the question light-heartedly. 

"Let me also answer that question,” he followed after Lillard's response, adding, "You asked the same sort of the question, the same family of question last time where you assume things that are not true. You just mentioned blowing these teams out. That’s never happened. So, I don’t know where you get that.” As Vardon tried to explain, Popovich did not allow him to speak further, and continued to fire, "Can I finish? Can I finish? Can I finish my statement? Can I finish my statement? Are you going to let me finish my statement or not?" He then went to the extent of rudely demanding that the journalist "be quiet" while he speaks. "So, you’ll be quiet now while I talk, then I’ll listen to you,” he said.

Gregg Popovich (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Popovich continued, "When you make statements about in the past just blowing out these other teams, number one, you give no respect to the other teams; I talked to you last time about the same thing." He continued, saying, “We’ve had very close games against four or five countries at all these tournaments. So, the good teams do not get blown out. There are certain games that might happen in one of the tournaments — the World Championships or the Olympics — where somebody gets blown out. But in general, nobody is blowing anybody out from the good teams. So, when you make a statement like that it’s like you assume that’s what is going on. And that’s incorrect." 

However, not everyone is ready to agree and accept Popovich's logic. Yahoo Sports NBA reporter Ryan Young argues that despite Popovich saying that not every game is a blowout, the last two Olympic teams have almost only won in blowouts. While the 2016 team won by an average of 41.4 points in its five exhibition games prior to the Rio Olympics, the 2012 team won by 26.6 points before the London Olympics. "So, technically, the Americans do have a history of blowing out opponents in exhibitions — no matter how Popovich wants to phrase it," Young writes.