The United States men’s basketball team is a spectacle to watch whenever they gather. It’s usually not a matter of if they will win or not, but rather by how much they will win by.

That wasn’t the case in 2004. The team came away with a bronze medal in the Athens games, and an oral history gathered by Bill Leopold and Ben Teitelbaum shows that the players were pretty much in agreement that Larry Brown was their biggest issue.

From Leopold and Teitelbaum:

[Emeka] Okafor: The team kind of came together at the last minute. Everyone was trying to cater to Coach Brown’s style which is a little bit different to what they would’ve wanted. Coach Brown didn’t really like to play young guys. At all. Even I think LeBron, D-Wade and Melo didn’t play as much. We all played the least, us young guys. […]

Stephon Marbury (2004 Olympian, USA): To me it was simple: they picked the wrong coach at the time. […]

Marbury: I really had a bad experience with Larry Brown in the Olympics. It was a team full of All-Stars and he was trying to coach the team like it was his team. Telling guys how to play the “right way,” what they should and shouldn’t do on the court, instead of just trying to win that gold medal.

[Richard] Jefferson: I think Larry Brown tried to use the USA team as a tool. It was when AND1 basketball was going on. He was trying to do something for the game of basketball and trying to put out a certain style of play and a certain style of message versus us just going out there and trying to win games and trying to accomplish things. I remember in the qualifier for the Olympics, he told Jason Kidd, “Hey Jason, I know you’re really good at the fast break, but I want you to stop at the free-throw line and throw a bounce pass to one of the wings.” And you’re sitting here talking to the second all-time leading assist guy and one of the most dominant point guards of all time. Truth be told, that’s probably why nine guys decided that they didn’t want to go do the Olympics.

Even then NBA commissioner David Stern thought Brown wasn’t the best choice to lead the squad into the games:

David Stern (NBA Commissioner, 1984-2014): I would say the thing that I remember was the coach going after players in the print media, and I don’t know whether there’s anything that records my response to that, but I remember I said to myself, “David, you probably should have kept your mouth shut.” But I did take a shot at the coach because I thought that he should stop complaining about the players and either coach or not coach. […]

It’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing the same issues out of this years team, especially with Coach K at the helm. The team has responded very well to his leadership since he took over back in 2006.

Not to mention, this team is much better than that team was talent wise.

[NBC Olympics; Photo Credit Chicago Tribune]

About Harry Lyles Jr.

Harry Lyles Jr. is an Atlanta-based writer, and a Georgia State University graduate.