Even the pros of pros prepare for pressure. At least, they have to learn how to, as Carmelo Anthony stated in a June 23 article about the unfortunate failure to win gold at the last Olympics.
"We really had not a clue as to what we were getting into," Anthony said.
Well, this time they do, and the physical play, the suspicious refereeing, the legalized offensive goaltending, the jet lag and the fatigue -- none of it will surprise them. Still, the man who put this team together is the man who ultimately will be judged as a Team USA success or failure.
The “man” the last sentence refers to is the head of it all, Jerry Colangelo, who did his research, consulted the experts, and formed what he hopes to be a true team – a group of unselfish NBA ballers who have experience, personality, and the skills to get it done. He and Team USA added shooters and versatility, leaders and go-getters, and assembled a staff of well-respected coaches from the college and pro ranks.
Being prepared, though, is the key. Coach K, in his sanguine and literal tone, emphasized his mentality in one of the first meetings and, thank goodness, Melo seems to get it now. There was no passing out of gas station shirts to symbolize work ethic, as Eric Musselman points out about Harbaugh’s new Stanford gridiron squad; rather, the mood was one of “it’s time to get serious and win this thing again.” I haven’t heard a straight-out statement of guaranteed gold from anyone yet, although the staff boldly mentioned that they have the talent and wherewithal to be successful – especially if the defense is disciplined. And with Kobe leading the way as the so-called stopper, he looks to relish the role of licking his chops as his opponents lick their wounds.
It seems that this group of superstars is focused and excited to be representing the country. They are there, hopefully, because they want to be there – luminaries who love the camaraderie, the experience, and the desire to put the U.S. back on top in the basketball world. Heck – Dwyane Wade is the 6th man and they almost have a 1:1 coach to player ratio!
If it comes down to the question of the mental game in a close-knit contest with Argentina or Spain or Greece, all they need is to read Bill Russell’s 1965 narrative from Sports Illustrated that highlights his key psychological points related to competing and out-thinking the opponent.
Let’s just hope they aren’t all puking pre-tip to prepare as Russell was known to do -- unless, of course, it's a necessity for mental development and they perform like he did.