Hernández: Gregg Popovich needs to take blame for the underperforming U.S. men’s basketball team

He was a firm, essential voice of reason during the most brazenly racist presidency in generations.

Over the four years in which the White House was occupied by a vulgar failed casino operator, Gregg Popovich earned widespread respect as more than a basketball coach. The praise came from both minorities who appreciated him using his position as a successful white authority figure to speak on their behalf and from white progressives who admired how he articulated their sentiments.

Now, in what could be his final act in public life as the leader of the U.S. basketball team at these Games, the 72-year-old Popovich has been considerably less dignified.

He’s blowing it.

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In the wake of the U.S.’s embarrassing 83-76 defeat to France in its Olympic opener on Sunday night, the five-time NBA champion coach came across as unaccountable.

He was defensive. Arrogant, even.

“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Popovich told reporters. “That’s the part that confuses me a little bit.”

Really, there’s nothing surprising about a team representing the country that invented the sport, has the most competitive league and the best players blowing a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter?

It’s bad enough that Popovich hasn’t been able to convince some of his players to take on the roles required for the U.S. to win a gold medal — or even beat cannon fodder such as France. It’s bad enough that Popovich can’t run an offense…

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