Brian Goorjian.
Coach Brian Goorjian has weighed up the Boomers' Olympics group and begun plotting their success. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • basketball

Boomers mount defence to prevail in ‘all-time’ Olympics

Murray Wenzel March 21, 2024

If the United States are the unstoppable force, Brian Goorjian wants his Boomers to be the immovable object in what is being touted as the best Olympics basketball tournament of all time.

Bronze medallists in Tokyo three years ago, Australia’s men face a monumental task to even reach the quarter-finals in Paris after drawing a stacked Canada and potentially Spain, Slovenia or Greece in their pool.

The new-look Boomers’ colours were lowered in last year’s World Cup, beaten by eventual champions Germany and Slovenia in the group stages.

“My philosophy is to find a point of difference, be the best in the world at something and don’t duplicate,” the Boomers coach told AAP of what needed to change in France.

“What I learnt from last World Cup is that defensively we really dropped off from what we were in the Olympics.

“So the selection of team, the ability to play that end, is going to be really important.”

Daniel Theis and Duop Reath.
 NBA-based players Daniel Theis and Duop Reath battle it out at the World Cup in Japan. Image by AP PHOTO 

Canada will be led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Boomers point guard Josh Giddey’s superstar Oklahoma City teammate, while Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Greece and Luka Doncic’s Slovenia will fight for one spot in July’s final qualifying tournament.

World No.2 Spain are favourites to win their qualifying tournament, while a full-strength US team and Nikola Jokic’s Serbia will clash in another pool.

“This is going to be one of the all-time, or if not the best basketball tournaments at the Olympics, ever,” Goorjian said.

“So you’ve got the US but also all those international players – the Greek Freak, Luka – it’s going to stack this thing up.

“Our pool, my first look was, ‘Oh my god’.

“Then it’s that deep breath of, ‘Bring it on, you’re at the Olympics’.”

The Boomers will bring plenty of NBA experience of their own though, Goorjian keen to tap Giddey and Josh Green, who shares a locker room at Dallas with Doncic, for inside knowledge.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey.
 OKC teammates Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey share a moment on court. Image by AP PHOTO 

“Don’t get on the plane unless you can visualise and believe we can get the gold medal,” the coach said.

“When I started (after Sydney’s 2000 Games) guys wanted autographs and it was Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and what you’ve seen on TV.

“Now it’s, ‘We’re in combat, put your helmet on and let’s get that medal’.

“These guys are sweating with them daily. It really helps on the fear factor.”

Goorjian said he’d lean into his team’s NBA experience to turn the tables on his likely European pool-stage foes.

“Everyone talks about the beauty of European basketball and wants you to go in and beat them like that,” he said.

“But I don’t think you play like them; you have to beat them.

“With Giddey, instead of moving side-to-side (with the ball) like the Europeans, more north and south. We’ll try get him downhill, attacking early on the clock.

“So we need to be the best in the world at something and make sure we’re not playing like them.

“My job is finding a style that’s different to beat them.”