USA Basketball only came away with a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games, but Colorado head men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle was able to gain some valuable experience.
Boyle, the team’s resident assistant coach under head coach and Gonzaga’s Mark Few, said he expected stiff competition from the countries whose basketball talent has exploded recently.
He believed the makeup of the team, comprised of five overseas professional players and seven college players, contributed to its inexperience in comparison with the likes of Brazil and Canada, who won the gold and silver medals, respectively.
“We knew going in that the competition was going to be good,” Boyle said. “We knew we were going to be playing against experienced, grown men. In years past, when they brought in college players only, there’s a reason that the United States hasn’t won a gold medal in the Pan American Games in 32 years. It’s just because college players aren’t at a point where they can compete with the pros from the countries that they’re competing against: Brazil and Canada.”
The disparity, he said, was obvious on the court.
“You could definitely see the difference between the (professionals and college players) and not just physically, because the college players certainly were physically capable,” Boyle said. “But mentally, you could see a big difference.”
When it came down to the wire in its losses against Brazil (83-73) and Canada (111-108 in overtime), however, Boyle believes the team’s truncated preparation time contributed most to their ultimate downfall.
“We were basically going from A to Z in a couple of weeks in terms of putting a basketball team together and coaching it,” Boyle said. “Obviously, that’s not a lot of time. We played like it, at times, and that’s just a function of how USA Basketball is run.”
Despite the “disappointing” outcome of the games, Boyle said he believes it changed him and his coaching style for the better.
“I think this experience has kind of confirmed for me what I believe in as a coach in that, number one, defense and rebounding wins games,” Boyle said. “We scored 108 points against Canada in a 40-minute game and lost. We were up three with 40 seconds to go and couldn’t get a stop.”
The experience is something he hopes will help his approach at Colorado basketball in the long run.
“It reaffirms my philosophies that I’ve always believed in, but I also think I brought back with me some offensive terminology, some offensive sets, some offensive concepts that I’m going to institute into Colorado basketball,” he said.
All in all, it was an experience that he won’t soon forget.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience, quite frankly,” Boyle said. “We’ll never get another opportunity to be with that group of guys and that group of coaches. It’s a special thing to be involved in, and it’s such an intense three-week process—to pick the team and prepare with the team and then compete with the team… It was a first-class operation and the opportunity to represent your country is something I take very seriously.”
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Alissa Noe at email@example.com and follow her on twitter at @crazysportgirl1.