Team USA: Scouting tales from Poland and Puerto Rico

By Chris Sheridan

Tony Ronzone, the chief scout for Team USA and the head international scout (and director of basketball operations) for the Detroit Pistons, is quoted extensively in an analysis column I wrote today on Team USA's draw for the 2010 World Championship in Turkey.

Space constraints kept me from re-telling all the stories Tony had to tell, and believe you me, the man can tell a story like no other (Want to go off on a tangential debate on the relative merits of Matjaz Smodis vs. Kristof Lavrinovic? Ronzone's your guy).

Anyway, I asked Ronzone what were the strangest things he remembered from his trips last summer to Poland (to scout EuroBasket 2009) and to San Juan, Puerto Rico (to scout the 2009 Tournament of the Americas.)

Here are his two tales:

"I'd say the strangest Poland experience, from going to those games, we weren't in Warsaw. We were on the outskirts. So getting in late at night was the ritual after all those games, and trying to find restaurants -- for some reason the restaurants there were all closing early. We got stuck eating pizza every single night. When in doubt, you can always find pizza in Europe -- and that's what we did. A lot of times it was two times a day. and when you order pepperoni pizza on Europe, you've got to remember that pepperoni to them means bell peppers, so you've got to make sure you say it right -- davioli is what you want, spicy sausage, because they don't use pepperoni over there," Ronzone said, adding that, yes, kielbasa is available as a topping at Polish pizza joints.

From Puerto Rico:

"I can't remember the name of the hurricane that was coming in there, but there was a hurricane coming in, so what they did was basically the whole hotel was locked in, and they wanted everyone downstairs. So you can imagine, every single hotel guest was down in the lobby, and in typical Puerto Rican style they brought in a salsa band, and the whole place - with chairs flying around outside, it was storming, there was water coming in -- and people were just dancing. I thought that was kind of interesting how the music and excitement of this band playing took away everyone's fear of a hurricane coming in."