Team USA coach Steve Kerr embraces possibility of defeat at Fiba World Cup

USA team head coach Steve Kerr

USA team head coach Steve Kerr, center, gestures during a practice session ahead of the Basketball World Cup in Taguig, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

United States coach Steve Kerr has heard several times that a win by an American team made up of NBA players is the closest thing to a guarantee in basketball.

But he has a different take on things.

“To me, we all love what we do. I love coaching, I love the weight, the pressure or whatever you want to describe it as competition. And part of being a competitor is embracing the fact that you could lose,” Kerr said as Team USA finally sees action Saturday night, expected to run roughshod over New Zealand at Mall of Asia Arena.

“That’s the whole point of competing; there’s winning and there’s losing,” the Golden State Warriors mentor added.

“And the beauty of sports is that nobody’s gonna die. We’re gonna compete, we’re gonna play as hard as we can, we’re gonna try and win a gold medal. If we don’t, we understand that there will be plenty of criticism and we’re okay with that.”

Gilas Pilipinas may need to take consolation in those words.

The Philippines took a huge blow to its hopes of nailing an outright Olympic berth after absorbing an 87-81 defeat at the hands of the Dominican Republic in the Fiba World Cup at Philippine Arena late Friday night.

NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Dominicans to their first win in the tournament.

For Gilas Pilipinas, the loss could be pinned on several factors, notably a 17-3 disparity in offensive rebounding that allowed its opponent to assemble a mini-run late in the fourth quarter that decided the match.

Jordan Clarkson, who fouled out at the start of that run by Dominican Republic, finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

The United States gets its turn to make its debut on Saturday when it goes up against New Zealand looking to lay to rest memories of a seventh-place finish in China in the previous edition of the global showcase, where the Americans were foiled in their bid to annex a third straight crown.

But there won’t be redemption arcs, though, for Kerr’s squad.

“[O]ur approach is this is incredibly fun, unbelievably fortunate to be able to do this, compete and look back at this the rest of our lives and know that we did everything we could,” said the champion coach.

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