This stern-looking fellow is Adel Tlatli, the coach of the Tunisian men's national basketball team. He's at the helm of perhaps the most successful run in the history of Tunisian men's basketball — his squad won gold at the 2011 FIBA Africa Championship for the first time in the nation's history, earning Tunisia the right to play in the men's basketball tournament at 2012 Summer Olympics in London, another national first. On Tuesday, Tlatli led Tunisia into a matchup with the United States, and while the U.S. won handily, Tlatli's players — especially young forward Makram Ben Romdhane — acquitted themselves well. It was a good day for Tunisian basketball.
[ Related: Team USA undeterred by slow start against Tunisia ]
Except for the part where Tlatli hauled off and slapped one of his players across the face during a sideline huddle before the opening tip.
Because we don't expect this video (via the folks at Ride the Pine) to last very long, hit the jump for some screengrabs.
Just as NBCOlympics.com's stream of the game (which is archived) opens up, Tlatli is shown speaking to his team in a huddle on the sidelines. One player (whom we've hit with the lime arrow) has his head down and is looking off to the right as his coach gives instructions.
This, apparently, displeases Tlatli, who raises his left hand and slaps the player along the right side of his face. (That's the beige blur underneath the point of the arrow.)
The shock and force of the slap — seriously, that was a pretty hard knock — understandably surprise the player, sending his head off to the left.
After that, the player sits up, stunned, and stares at his coach. I guess Tlatli got his attention.
It's hard to tell which player this is — you can't see jersey numbers since the players are wearing their warmups, and he had his head down most of the time he was on screen, giving us only get a split-second look. (If you're intimately familiar with the tops of the heads of the Tunisian men's national basketball team and can positively ID the player, by all means, let us know.)
It is, I suppose, possible that Tlatli was just a totally consensual shock to the system to wake his player up, like Paul Giamatti did in "Win Win." Sometimes athletes want weird stuff to psyche them up. But based on the player's reaction, it sure didn't seem like it; based on how quickly NBC Sports Network cut away to a shot of USA center Tyson Chandler, it sure didn't seem like it seemed like it to them, either.
Fostering intensity, sharpening focus and providing motivation are all part of a coach's job. But hey, Mr. Tlatli — maybe no more smacking your players in the face the rest of the Olympics? Thanks in advance.
Hat-tip to Deadspin.
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