First-time US coach feels heat

The West Australian - - SPORT - CRAIG O'DONOGHUE

Five-time NBA cham­pi­onship­win­ning coach Gregg Popovich ad­mits he is feel­ing the pres­sure of lead­ing the US for the first time ahead of this year’s World Cup in China.

The Amer­i­cans an­nounced a 20-man squad yes­ter­day which will be trimmed to 12 af­ter a se­lec­tion camp in Las Ve­gas which runs from Au­gust 5-9.

They will then travel to Aus­tralia to play two matches against the Boomers at Marvel Sta­dium be­fore com­plet­ing their prepa­ra­tions with one match against Canada in Syd­ney.

The Amer­i­can squad in­cludes seven 2019 NBA All-Stars but LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Du­rant and Rus­sell West­brook are among the no­table ab­sen­tees.

The US won the 2014 and 2010 World Cups plus six of the past seven Olympic gold medals.

Popovich is coach­ing his coun­try for the first time and has al­ready started analysing prospec­tive op­po­nents.

“I’m a hu­man be­ing. I feel the pres­sure,” Popovich said.

“I’ve watched all the games for the last 12 years. Some have been close, some have been blow-outs. “It’s the way sport is.

“As a coach, you’re a lit­tle bit of a para­noid per­son in some re­spects be­cause you know things could go one way or the other.

“From my per­spec­tive, a 40minute game is very dif­fer­ent from a 48-minute NBA game.

“I know we have to play very well, play from the be­gin­ning of the game to the end of the game to se­cure a vic­tory.

“The pres­sure is there. “I def­i­nitely feel it. If I didn’t, that would be a prob­lem.”

Aus­tralia will host Canada in two games at RAC Arena on Au­gust 16 and 17, giv­ing them an op­por­tu­nity to pre­pare for the block­busters against the US.

The Boomers have se­lected their strong­est squad in his­tory, fea­tur­ing NBA play­ers Ben Sim­mons, Joe In­gles and Patty Mills, who Popovich coaches at San An­to­nio.

Pic­ture: AP

Kevin Du­rant limps off, con­soled by op­po­nent Kyle Lowry.

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