Steve Kerr fully embraces the challenge of leading Team USA in the 2023 World Cup, highlighted the differences Between NBA and FIBA, and expressed coaching Team USA a choice significantly influenced by his previous exposure to Gregg Popovich’s guidance.
August 24 carries a special significance for Steve Kerr, the head coach of Team USA.
Around the globe, basketball enthusiasts associate this day with Kobe Bryant Day, commemorating the jersey numbers he adorned during his illustrious 20-year NBA career.
However, this date also holds profound importance for Team USA, as it marks the commencement of their journey in the FIBA World Cup 2023.
In the official press conference preceding their opening match against New Zealand on August 26, Steve Kerr and Jalen Brunson shared their initial impressions of the Philippines and discussed the challenges that lie ahead.
Yet, August 24 bears a distinctive personal significance for Kerr.
“8/24 is my mom’s birthday, so that’s what I know most about that day,” he shared with a smile during the press conference when reflecting on his memories of Kobe Bryant.
He playfully added, “So happy birthday, mom. There’s no way she’s watching it right now.”
Kerr reminisced about his interactions with Kobe, stating,
“I have great memories of playing against him and then coaching against him late in his career. To have the good fortune to be in the NBA at the same time as one of the all-time greats, watch him, and compete against him was really special. We all think about Kobe to this day and everything he meant to the league and all of us.”
Steve Kerr Explained The Differences Between NBA and FIBA
As Team USA prepares for the FIBA World Cup, their objective is to reclaim the title of world champions after a seventh-place finish in the 2019 tournament, marking the second-worst result in USA basketball history.
Kerr underscored how his time as an assistant to Gregg Popovich in 2019 and 2021 shaped his role as the head coach of the national team and Kerr explained the differences between NBA and FIBA.
“That experience really formed how we picked this team. We wanted guys we felt could be a team in a short period. We have players with a great feel on this team. They’re connected, they can all pass, they’re enjoying the experience,” Kerr commended his team.
“It was great for me to have the experience of being an assistant for Pop [Gregg Popovich] in 2019 and 2021. Because you get to feel what it’s like putting a team together for six weeks. It’s totally different from the NBA. You can’t build continuity, years of experience, and piece together a team. You’re doing it like that,” Kerr emphasized by snapping his fingers.
Kerr acknowledged that his team has already garnered invaluable insights. Team USA achieved victories in all five preparation matches against Puerto Rico (117-74), Slovenia (92-62), Spain (98-88), Greece (108-86), and Germany (99-91).
“The most important thing was to get used to FIBA rules and play together. Amidst that, we played against very tough teams. We have confidence, but we also took some blows, both Spain and Germany gave us all we could handle, and that experience will help us because we know how good these teams are now,” Kerr lauded Germany and Spain for pushing Team USA to their limits.
In the United States, anything short of a gold medal is perceived as a setback. Nevertheless, Jalen Brunson, Team USA’s point guard, confronts this challenge head-on.
“For me personally, there’s no such thing as pressure,” declared the star from the New York Knicks when queried about the pressure.
“I’ve figured out that as long as I continue working hard on my game, giving everything I can, there’s no such thing as pressure. There are different moments and situations with harder stakes than the others. But my confidence comes from my work ethic. As long as I keep working hard and know I’m doing something every day to improve, there is no pressure. I think for the team, we’re going to rely on each other when moments like that happen,” Brunson dissected.
Kerr, who secured a FIBA World Cup gold medal in 1986, addressed the weight of responsibility and differences between NBA and FIBA winnings.
“Pressure is sort of what you make of it. We all love what we do. I love coaching. I love the pressure or how we want to describe the competition. Part of being a competitor is embracing the fact that you can lose. That’s all the point of competing. There’s winning, and there’s losing,” Kerr clarified.
“What goes into that is the effort, approach, and chemistry. I love being part of a team. I love doing what we’re doing right now. Trying to build something and have something at stake. And the beauty of sports is that nobody is going to die. We’re going to compete, we’re going to play as hard as we can, we’re going to try to win a gold medal. If we don’t, we understand there will be plenty of criticism, and we’re okay with that,” he added.