By Dionysis Aravantinos / @AravantinosDA
BEIJING – “We want more, we want to win gold,” said Argentina head coach Sergio Hernandez, a day prior to the FIBA Basketball World Cup, after finishing the team’s clapping ritual at the end of Saturday’s practice. And he’s not lying.
The team’s mentality is extremely professional on and off the court. The coaching staff and players are all about winning, and not celebrating. Despite the fact that they beat Serbia and France to reach the final, Hernandez’s team remains calm and down to earth. “Last night was weird, we didn’t celebrate as much,” said forward, Patricio Garino. The younger players look up to the legendary Luis Scola, who is on a mission against father time, and follow his lead. Just the way the team ends every practice with a two-minute clapping ritual shows the identity of the team. They’re in it together.
Despite the fact that Argentina was ranked seventh in FIBA’s official power rankings to start the World Cup, coach Hernandez and his players knew their capabilities. The job is still not finished though. “It was a dream one month ago, and now it’s a reality. We’re happy but we want more,” says Hernandez, and Garino agrees: “We always try to overachieve. We came here with our minds set on a gold medal. For some people, it seemed unrealistic, crazy, or not possible, but that was our mentality. Many years of hard work and many games have led to this point, however, such as the Pan American Games, the Olympic games of Rio, Brazil in 2016, as well as using the experience of retired players Manu Ginobili and Andreas Nocioni. The team’s identity remains the same. “They love playing together. They are friends, not just a team. We are a strong group and after that, we are a team”.
Back in Dongguan when Argentina kicked out Serbia, media outlets around the world were talking about a huge upset, a surprise. Scola disagreed: “It bothers me that people just keep talking about a miracle, about a surprise, nobody believed in Argentina. I’ll tell you, there were 22 people that believed for two months that we’ll be here. That’s all we need, just 22 people”.