Spain’s men’s basketball coach Sergio Scariolo couldn’t believe the level of disrespect shown to his players after a hard-fought victory on Tuesday in Tokyo.
After defeating the host nation 88-77, the Spanish team was stuck on the court for nearly half an hour before being allowed back in the locker room, compelling their bench boss to call out tournament organizers and demand a change in protocols.
“It took 25 minutes from the end of the game before they could get their legs into an ice bath, and that’s something that is very dangerous and needs to be changed,” said Scariolo. “Their legs are tired, and they should be treated with respect; protocols have to be changed.
“Everyone’s here for one thing, and that’s the players, and we need to look after their health. Honestly, I’m not just annoyed for the sake of being annoyed, I repeat, it’s incredibly dangerous.”
The reason for the extended wait was not clear.
Scariolo has plenty of experience at the helm of the Spanish men’s national team. He earned a silver medal at Beijing in 2008, a bronze medal in Rio and world championship gold in 2019.
But Canadian fans might remember his name better for his championship pedigree rather than the podium finishes.
The 60-year-old helped Nick Nurse coach a Toronto Raptors team led by Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Kawhi Leonard and Spanish legend Marc Gasol to an NBA championship as an assistant in 2019.
Scariolo’s most significant individual achievement with the Raptors came on Feb. 26, 2021, when he stepped in as head coach in place of Nurse, who was out due to COVID-19 protocols, and earned his first career NBA win in a victory over the Houston Rockets.
The coach, who’s joining Italian club Virtus Bologna next season, doesn’t seem afraid to speak honestly when queried. Just last week he claimed the men’s basketball gold medal was “already booked” for the United States.
Scariolo has a point. The United States has secured gold in all but one Olympics since NBA players began participating in 1992. Or was he playing mind games after watching the Americans lose pre-Olympic tournament exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia?
The United States already has its first loss at this summer’s Games after opening the tournament with an 83-76 defeat to France, snapping a 25-game Olympic win streak.
The Spanish team boasts one of the strongest rosters in Tokyo, led by point guard Ricky Rubio, Gasol, his brother Pau, and centre Willy Hernangómez. Here’s hoping there’s not another locker room snafu when they face Argentina in their next game on Thursday.
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