From the moment he was named head coach, Mike Brown’s goal with the Nigerian basketball team was clear: to be the first African basketball team to win a medal in the Olympics.
These ambitions were reinforced when his team – barely two weeks before the Olympic Games – clinched two breathtaking victories against the USA in first place and Argentina in fourth place.
These results resulted in the team finishing fourth in the FIBA pre-tournament leaderboard ahead of the tip, which further raised hopes for a historic achievement.
But all of that recently went to zero as Brown watched his team collapse for the second straight quarter for the fourth straight quarter, losing 80:71 to Italy, putting an end to all hopes of getting past the pool game, let alone a medal fetch.
In his assessment, Brown did not hesitate to talk about his team’s shortcomings on the floor.
“It’s the same old song for us. We didn’t look after basketball well,” Brown told ESPN.
“We have to do a better job in the transition phase. We weren’t good at our transition defense, nor were we good at not fouling.
“One of the things we said to our guys coming into the tournament is that we have to be smart, we can’t send our opponents to the free throw line and at the moment they have basically doubled our free throws.
“That in itself is a difficult number. But when you take into account the way we play with our interim defenses and how we turn the ball and how the teams hurt us with our turnover, it’s the right one.” very hard.
“They got 27 points less on losing the ball and we talked about it. I think out of 12 teams there could have been another team that was worse off than us when it came to losing ball.
“They also really hurt us in the offensive lens in the fourth quarter.
“You have to give them credit. We ran, we took the lead, but they stayed calm and just went for it.”
Chimezie Metu says he found it difficult to focus on Nigeria’s Tokyo 2020 campaign amid several extrajudicial challenges. Ned Dishman / NBAE via Getty Images
This inability to watch the ball was hampered by the lack of a true elite point guard after a tough season, resulting in the ailing Monte Morris unable to join the team for the games.
Aside from technical issues, the team’s focus and preparation have been hampered by administrative and logistical issues off the field, both on departure and arrival in Tokyo, said Chimezie Metu. That started with her escape from training camp in California, which took much longer than she should have
“It was supposed to be a 10-hour drive and it was a 30-hour drive because our government and our National Olympic Committee were neglecting the details,” said the Sacramento Kings Center.
Officials told ESPN that the association had made arrangements to take the team to Japan on a flight that would have taken 10 hours. However, the Nigerian Olympic Committee insisted on booking them on a flight via Germany, which meant it took the team about 34 hours to get to Japan and just under 48 hours to get to the first game.
The NOC had only made sure that three officers received their certifications. One of these officials was the team general manager, which means that of Brown’s 10-man employees, only head coach and assistant Alex Nwora could get into the Games Village.
The coach also had to make hotel arrangements all night long, which cost her valuable training time before the opening game.
“It’s over my head,” he told ESPN. “These people worked hard and helped the team for over a month. They were in Vegas and part of historic victories against the US and Argentina, but it was different here.
“During the games, you can see me and one of my assistants, Alex.
“But my other assistants and my masseuse are in the hotel and couldn’t go to training or games.
“It’s tough. You have a member of staff who has been with you from day one and now you have no one available. During the first practice session, the players only had player training because I couldn’t get a taxi from the hotel.
“Other teams have nine guys on the bench and they wish it was for you and you’re just trying to figure it out,” Brown said.
Metu was less diplomatic.
“It is extremely difficult to go out and try to concentrate on a basketball game with so many things off the pitch. For many of the athletes here representing Nigeria we love our country and are ready to risk it all . ” and risk it, but our government and the Nigerian Olympic Committee are making it extremely difficult for us to go outside and just focus on doing our sport, “Metu said.
“And I’m not just talking about basketball. I’m talking about the track and field athletes and I’m pretty sure everyone knows about the 10 disqualified track and field athletes.
“It had nothing to do with what they were doing, but it was a lack of attention to detail and a lack of empathy that was put to use by the Nigerian Olympic Committee staff and the Nigerian government.
“The game is what it is, but for 60-year-old athletes who come here and fly halfway around the world to be disrespectful and humiliated by our country, none of us can stand it.”
Mike Brown of the Golden State Warriors and Jayson Tatum of Boston Celtics chat during the Nigerian and US basketball exhibition game in Las Vegas ahead of the Tokyo Games. Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Aside from an Olympic medal, one of Brown’s goals is to develop basketball in Nigeria.
“I love being a part of Nigerian basketball and I really hope that the people of Nigeria continue to accept me as they did because I think we can build something special because hurdles like these arise and hopefully we’ll keep trying. ” Finding ways to get around them, “Brown said.
“I enjoy it and I’m looking forward to the day when we will be at the top.”