Clarion’s Own Mike Taylor And Polish National Basketball Team Conclude Great FIBA World Cup Run, Earn Olympic Qualifier Tournament Bid (09/14/19)
(Above Photo: Mike in center of group with Team Poland) Who would have ever thought? Our own Mike Taylor, who grew up in this community, would one day become a professional basketball coach? That he would become the head coach of the Polish National Team, which he has guided for the past six years? That he and his staff would lead Team Poland to the 2019 FIBA World Cup Tournament, in China, their first appearance in fifty-two years? That Team Poland would be in the Final Eight, of the thirty-two team competition? That Mike and Team Poland would get to face the Czech Republic a team he was an assistant coach on four four years and then his home country USA in their final two games and that their work would earn them a bid in next year’s Olympic Qualifier Tournament?
Wow! What a ride!
For Mike and his beloved Polish National Team, this is a dream come true and a dream that will continue. A dream that exceeded their expectations and that was a surprise to many around the World.
The young men of Team Poland, a team that is mostly made up of homegrown talent, can be very proud of their accomplishments as we at Clarion can be proud of Mike and this fine, fine team.
The final two games were very competitive with Team Poland dropping a ten point 94-84 decision to the Czech Republic on Wednesday (September 11th) and to the USA 87-74, on Saturday (September 14th), in the Classification Round.
In their final game, Poland was down to the USA by as much as nineteen points, 38-19 in the second quarter, but they kept battling back and closed the gap to just seven, 70-63 with 5:34 left in the game. But the USA pulled away at the end.
Mateusz Ponitka led Poland with 18 points. Adam Waczynski followed with 17 points and A. J. Slaughter contributed fifteen.
Donavon Mitchell led the USA with 16 points. Joe Harris had 14 and Khris Middleton put up thirteen.
Poland was competitive in all their games, with the exception of the game with Argentina, who will play Spain for the title, tomorrow Sunday (September 15th). Poland finished with a 4-4 record, with their losses being to Argentina, Spain, sixth place finisher Czech Republic and seventh place USA.
Coach Taylor at press conferences, throughout the tournament, has expressed his great respect and love that he has for his staff and players, the respect he has for FIBA and to host country China for their hospitality.
Mike also shared his love for his homeland, the USA! where he still resides part of the year.
Quotes from his players make it abundantly clear that the love and respect goes both ways, coaches loving and respecting the players and the players returning that love and respect.
Following are quotes from Poland’s final post-game conference, from Coach Taylor and Waczynski, a key home grown product. I share them almost in their entirety, as there is no way I could, better express the dreams, aspirations, accomplishments, respect and love of this group of young men and their coaches, Coach Taylor’s love of the USA and his “adoptive” Poland etc.
Adam Waczynski: First of all, big thank you to Coach Mike and a big thank you to our team, because without them we couldn’t be here. We did our best to just be in the World Cup. We were in a bad situation in the Qualifiers and we worked real hard to be here first of all. And then we tried to fight in every single game.
And like today, we were losing by seventeen at halftime. Many teams would give up; we didn’t give up. we tried to play, to compete like in other games. We faced a very tough American team. It was an amazing experience for many of us. Maybe, I hope not, it is a one time experience. Maybe we won’t play them again.
We took everything out of it. I’m really, really proud. We played really well, especially well in the second half. What more (is there) to say. Thank you for the experience. This tournament was amazing. It was really well organized. So it was a pleasure to be here.
Coach Taylor: I’m really proud of our team and thankful for the effort from our players and staff and the support from the federation. This was a special experience for our team on and off the court. As Adam said, we appreciate the hospitality from China.
We’ve seen six cities on our stay. We’ve had a wonderful experience in these different places. And the best thing to me, as I said to our team in the locker room, we experienced it all together – the success on the court, the life experience off the floor.
This has been an unbelievable World Cup experience for us. I can’t be more proud that Adam and the teammates will be remembered in Poland for doing something special in basketball. We hope it can inspire the next generation of players, young boys and girls that look up to our guys. I’m just very, very thankful for the whole thing.
(Asked by New York Times reporter to describe what is going through his head about playing USA.) It’s a dream come true. For me, when you coach overseas, it’s kind of the road less traveled by. It’s kind of outside the mainstream. And every once in a while there’s a moment when you’re on the mainstream; you’re on the big stage.
This is why I’m so appreciative of our players. Adam Waczynski has worked his career in Poland and he has taken his career to Oboro to Ma’laga in Spain, but he loves basketball and he is very professional. This is outside of the mainstream. It’s in Europe. Mateusz Ponitka, A. J. Slaughter, all our players that play in the Polish League, we are outside of the mainstream.
Today, this World Cup, this stage brought us all onto the mainstream, the big stage and I am so thankful that could share this moment together.
Being a guy that loves basketball and coaching against the likes of Coach (Gregg) Popovich, and Coach (Steve) Kerr and Jay Wright and guys that I look up to, wonderful life experience. I’m really proud of the way we played and competed and did our best, not only today, but in the whole tournament.
(Associated press: Asked about how emotional it was singing words to Star Spangled Banner and that the Polish anthem touches him as well) The thing about national teams is players play for pride in their country. There is love, there is passion.
And I’ve been coaching with national teams, four years Czech Republic and now six years with Poland. That’s ten years. That’s a lot of anthems you’ve heard. And I never imagined in my life, I’d hear the United States. (choking up) So it means a lot. It’s not something you take for granted. I’m thankful that I’ve learned some of the words to Poland; that means a lot to me. But before the game, that (the Star Spangled Banner) was something I take pride in for sure.
(NBC: What expectations were coming into the tournament and what the response has been back(in Poland), from people who have been following the tournament) Adam Waczynski: Expectations were …we wanted to compete in every game. We had A Group against Venezuela, China and Ivory Coast. So we wanted to advance to the Second Stage and fight for the quarterfinals. We did it.
We are in the Top 8 teams. Many great teams are not here and here we are, small Poland, fifty-two years after they were in their first World Cup. So we are very proud of this. And then we were competing in every single game, I think except the game against Argentina. We did a really good job; that was our goal, to show ourselves in a good way, to show that Polish players, that Polish basketball is really good. And that Polish players are worth investing in, in some other countries.
So we are really proud of this and Poland, we’ve got many, many positive messages; everybody is saying that we did a good job. So we are really happy that we could share those moments with them in Poland.
(Associated Press: Mike’s job is done at World Cup, but an Olympic shot waiting and complications of qualifying tournament next year.) One of my goals was to re-open the conversation of Poland getting back to the Olympics. It hasn’t happened for a while. And we knew that a good showing, a good performance here could get us into the Olympic Qualification Tournament. I’m really proud that we’ve accomplished that.
I think we just need to collect ourselves here and kind of take a look at it. It’ll be tremendous basketball, it’ll be really intense. And again, I think the focus will just be doing the best job we can with our team so that we can put together another good performance. But that is like the next dream for Polish Basketball, getting back to the Olympics.
(After six years, how close is he with Poland (Polish media says he is a likeable person) and how does he like working in Poland) Mike: (Big smile) I’m happy they said I’m a likeable person in Poland.
Again, I want to point to the respect I have for all these guys. They love basketball. They are very committed. Their heart is in the game. I’ve got friends for life in the country. My family, we’ve lived in Warsaw for two of these years.
You know, I’ve enjoyed the time around the Polish League and meeting all the coaches, meeting all the management people, everyone involved. I’ve been a consultant for the PLK, the Energa Basketball League in my time. So there is obviously the ability to share the opinions and things like this to try to help the league as best as possible. But again, I love the country of Poland.
(Congratulations to Mike and Team Poland!!! Hope’s for great success in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament!!!!)