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What is Gregg Popovich doing coaching Team USA?

It’s a brutally hot August afternoon, and Gregg Popovich is running back and forth between Mike Krzyzewski, Jeff Van Gundy, Steve Kerr and Jay Wright, among others. They’re comparing notes as Popovich’s Team USA players go through scrimmages.

In the bleachers, a few dozen of his coaching peers, league executives and some scouts put in face time. They’re keeping an eye on the action, but their minds also are occupied by questions about when would be the appropriate time to fly home, because it’s finally vacation season for almost everyone in the sport.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

The players, many of them at least the third choice for their roster spot, are facing a preposterous task of having to force themselves to come together in an environment in which they might only be remembered if they lose.

And yes, they’re struggling a little. Their lungs are burning as they get into shape. The ball consists of thin rubber and deep seams that most of them don’t like. They have to endure an onslaught of questions from the media, asking whether this squad is capable of keeping up Team USA’s 13-year winning streak.2

Over the past two days, the media has seen three scrimmages. In one, the Americans’ backup Select Team crushed the senior team. In Wednesday’s two scrimmages, the sides tied, and that’s only because Khris Middleton saved one game with a three-point play with less than a second left. It seems possible a couple of Select Team members could get promoted to the senior team by the end of the week.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

All of it makes you stop and ask: Just what the hell is Popovich doing here?

What does he have left to prove? Putting together this team is a big lift. Leading it to an undefeated run and a world championship is a big ask, even for a living legend with an impeccable record and solid gold reputation. The risk/reward ratio is off.

His past forays with Team USA have been fraught. Some think he should’ve made the 1972 Olympic Team because he was fantastic in that year’s training camp. But as a relatively unknown guard from Air Force without size or a big name, he was cut in a move that his friends say deeply bothered him for decades.

“They picked the right guys. I was an alternate, went to Brazil, alternate team, and partied my ass off,” Popovich said, using humor to cover a scar, as he often does. “The thing I always wanted to do was be on the Olympic team and play. That was always my dream. You don’t sit down and say, ‘I’m going to coach the Olympic team one day.'”

He did coach as an assistant in 2002 and 2004. In 2002, the U.S. team was an embarrassment, finishing a ridiculous sixth in the World Championships in Indianapolis. The 2004 team finished with a bronze at the Olympics in Athens and was remembered as a disgrace.