As USA Basketball coach Mike Kryzyzewski and USA Basketball executive director Jerry Colangelo prepare to select the 12 players who will don the red, white and blue in Rio next summer, Colangelo has to be thinking even further ahead.
As in who’ll take Kryzyzewski’s place on the sidelines after the ’16 games, and there’s no shortage of candidates who are either capable, willing or both.
Names like Doc Rivers, Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan were brought up to Colangelo as possible successors to Kryzyzewski’s spot, and the Chicago area native refused the flinch as he stood watching nearly 30 players go through drills in the air conditioned Las Vegas gymnasium last week.
“I plan to, right after hopefully winning another gold medal in Rio in ‘16, go to sleep and dream about who that next person might be and what he looks like,” Colangelo told CSNChicago.com. “Until then I have so many things going on in my small brain, I can’t even focus on it.”
Rivers, the Clippers’ coach and Chicago native, is loved by players across the league due to his background as a player and ability to relate at his various stops in Orlando, Boston and Los Angeles.
Stevens has coached some undermanned Celtics teams to relative success after his college days at Butler, while Donovan prepares for his first season in Oklahoma City after leaving the University of Florda—walking right into championship expectations.
Even new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was brought up as a possibility, despite Colangelo telling CSNChicago.com at Summer League in July he wants a pro coach as opposed to a collegiate coach like Kryzyzewski (Duke).
Colangelo, in his previous moments of candor with CSNChicago.com at Summer League, also stated he had a coach in mind to replace Kryzyzewski but he didn’t want to reveal who it was.
“That is true and I’m the only one who knows it,” Colangelo said laughing. “It’s a big world and there’s a great coaches. And I don’t want to give any indication who it might be. Heck, you might wake up and find out I called you to ask if you were interested!”
Colangelo’s joke notwithstanding, the school of belief that four-time NBA Championship coach Gregg Popovich has been ruled out by USA Basketball is “absolutely false,” according to someone close to Colangelo.
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Popovich was apparently a finalist to take over USA Basketball back after the 2004 Olympic Games, a bronze-medal finish that spurred the widespread change starting with Colangelo taking over the program, but there were rumors Colangelo didn’t feel he was as enthusiastic as Kryzyzewski.
Before Kryzyzewski agreed to return for a third Olympic run—as Colangelo convinced the fellow Chicago native to return after the much ballyhooed “pizza and wine” dinner they had together—Popovich was thought to be in line again.
But even as Popovich is going to turn 67 in January, that ship hasn’t sailed. Colangelo, a 75-year old himself, plans to step down after the 2020 Olympic games so this next coach will be part of his legacy as it evolves.
“Here’s what I will say: There’s been a big investment of players, management, coaches, to build infrastructure for USA basketball,” Colangelo said. “The concept was put it in place, it doesn’t matter who the people are, it keeps going in the right direction. I think we’ve established that sound infrastructure for USA basketball. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. When Coach K is finished, it’s a matter of someone taking it and continuing what we have created. And that’s what we have to remember.”