Boomers coach Brian Goorjian has taken us inside the locker room for a look at how the team prepared for their historic bronze medal clash with Slovenia.
After four fourth-placed finishes, the Aussies finally claimed that elusive medal, defeating Slovenia 107-93.
Patty Mills was the difference, scoring 42 points and finishing with nine assists from 38 minutes on the court.
Joe Ingles was equally important, playing 35 minutes, scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Goorjian said team leaders Mills and Ingles came to him after the loss to Team USA and asked to bear the additional weight.
“(Mills’ performance was) epic. There’s a story behind that,” Goorjian told SEN’s Whateley.
“After the USA game there was a meeting and it was basically driven by the coaching staff on board, but Patty and Joe Ingles, ‘put the ball in our hands here and let’s get Matisse (Thybulle) on Luka (Doncic) and I can go 40 (minutes). Don’t worry about rest, this is it’.
“It was something that was discussed and his performance, the ball being put in his (Mills’) hands and also Joe, it was discussed prior to the game and there was a determination in there from the opening tip that he was going to get to the spots ala Kevin Durant in the game prior against us.
“That’s our guy. He’s going to get the ball into spots and he’s either going to make a play or get the ball to the right person that can make his play and along with those 42 points was nine assists. That’s another 18 points.
“What he did was an epic performance of any Australian in any sport and the fact that he carried the flag, all that came with that, representing the Aboriginal community, bringing all of our cultures together. There’s a tremendous responsibility. That meant a lot to him.
“This guy was on a mission. I just sat back and steered the energy into the areas I wanted it and it was just an epic performance and enjoyed it and it goes down in history. I don’t think anyone has played in a medal-round game and scored more than he has in Olympic history.
“It’s not just scoring points and accumulating points, it’s in the most important game in Australian basketball history and he’s done better than anyone else ever in the world.”
The loss to the U.S ended the Boomers’ hopes of a gold or silver medal and Goorjian said he took it upon himself to make sure the unit stayed upbeat and focused on claiming bronze.
“I’m going to be honest with you, if you said to me my role in this thing, I’m not how I normally operate I was like a football manager,” the Illawarra Hawks coach said.
“I had five days of preparation, Matt Nielsen you keep the troops together, you go to their rooms, you talk, you communicate, make sure I’m touching the right buttons. (Adam Caporn) you’re in charge of side out of bounds, under out of bounds, game situation plays on offence. John (Rillie) you and I will take the defence.”
“My job I thought was to keep a strong hand on this. These are guys that are NBA players that asked me to come back into this and I needed to pick my moments and use my voice where it was required.
“It wasn’t required often, but I went to work after (the USA) game was over and it was probably my strongest role in the actual tournament.
“When they were just sitting there I just turned to them all and said ‘hey, no being sorry, hanging hands ain’t going to happen, back straight, chest up, we’re going somewhere that’s never been gone before and you guys have been s—t at it. We’re 0-11. It ain’t happening.
“‘Everything around the village, everyone in here is packing their bags and leaving and anxious to get home and making plans for their next team, Loserville. Ain’t happening. We’ve got a special vibe here. When you get punched in the face, what does an Aussie do? Where does an Aussie go in this culture?’.
“I pressed those buttons hard in the locker room. I pressed those buttons hard the next day. Then we discussed ‘hey Patty, Joe, ball’s in your hands, we’re defending Luka and we’re coming out of this thing. There’s no other option than that medal’.
“I had their attention and I had the main guys’ support to say after that loss, Andrew Bogut mentioned it, where do you go? I just think it’s all bullshit. You go and you wash your face and get in the morning and go get that fudgen medal.
“That’s a drive and everyone was on board through that. We were definitely in another place. I looked at Slovenia midway through that first quarter and I thought, this team hasn’t done this before. We’ve got an advantage. We’ve been through this thing four times.
“There’s a special place you have to go after you get kicked in the teeth and nobody does it better than an Aussie.
“I think the staff, myself, the players handled that like no other team.”
The Paris Olympics take place in just three years and it remains unclear what that Boomers squad will look like.
Will a 35-year-old Patty Mills be there? A 37-year-old Aron Baynes? A 36-year-old Joe Ingles? Will Ben Simmons make his Boomers debut? Will Goorjian be the coach?
The veteran coach weighed in on the last of those questions.
“My whole mindset on the Boomers has been, it’s like when you play All-Star games, it’s never been my drive to be the national coach. My drive is to be great for basketball, great for my teams,” he said.
“The national team I look at it like the military. If they need you, I’m there. Basketball Australia has been wonderful to me and I’m here to serve.
“Right now at this exact moment with this group I was good for this block. What’s next, if they ask me to rebound a basketball or work a guy out or scout or to get back to my club team, whatever is required I’m in.
“I’ve got a great young staff that is ready. Matt Nielson, David Patrick, John Rillie, Adam Caporn, that group of four is very, very capable and I’m excited about the future with them. I’m just cherishing this medal and it is day to day.”