2020 Olympics

Why USA Basketball should replace Gregg Popovich with Jay Wright

Why USA Basketball should replace Gregg Popovich with Jay Wright

It’s time for Jay Wright to get his chance to serve as the head coach of NBA players.

Deep breaths, Nova Nation. I’m not talking about Wright getting a job with an NBA franchise. Rather, USA Basketball should make the bold step of naming Wright as the head coach of the national team prior to the 2020 Summer Olympics.

That’s because for the first time since 2006, USA Basketball’s gold medal chances in a major tournament went bust. Or more appropriately, they went Pop — as in Gregg Popovich.

In his first run of games as national team head coach, Popovich lost twice as many games in a month as Mike Krzyzewski did in a decade at the helm of USA Basketball. The Pop/NBA apologists will be quick to point out Coach K had more talent at his disposal than Popovich did for this World Cup.

That’s true. But it points to why a college coach should always lead the national team. The No. 1 job (and probably No. 2 and No. 3) for the national team coach is to convince the best players to play. You know who has experience at convincing good players to play for them? High-level college coaches. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Popovich would be interested in sending the texts and making the phone calls necessary to convince top NBA players that were on the fence to participate. But that is second nature to Jay Wright.

Additionally, Wright is unencumbered of the NBA rivalries that can make it a challenge to build the type of relationships necessary to ensure enough frontline stars are willing to give their offseasons to USA Basketball.
 
Another reason why a college coach, specifically Wright, should lead the national team is the nature of the task. Beyond the one-and-done nature of international tournament play, the expectation is for USA Basketball to win every game. When you run a big-time college program, that is a familiar pressure. Any time a Duke or Villanova loses, it’s newsworthy. On the road, it likely means a court storm. When an NBA coach loses a game on the road, he gets on a charter flight and coaches again the next night.

You can argue that Popovich understands that expectation. And I’m sure he thinks he did. But I’d rather roll the dice with someone that lives that pressure every night of their season and plays in a one-and-done setting every March. And no coach has been better in the NCAA Tournament in recent years than Wright. Look at those two trophies on Villanova’s campus for proof of that.

Lastly, a college coach has more time at their disposal to devote towards the USA Basketball program. An NBA season can run from late September to early June. A college campaign goes from mid-October until the first Monday in April. That’s extra time for Wright, relative to an NBA coach, to dedicate to preparation, scouting and recruiting.

Wright — for his part —has been a constant for USA Basketball. He’s serving as an assistant for Popovich currently. He’s presumed by many to be next in line for the role after Popovich coaches the Olympic team next summer.

Maybe USA Basketball can afford to wait until 2021 to hand the reins to Wright. Maybe more All-Stars will agree to take part in a showcase event like the Olympics. Maybe this was just a one-game fluke.

But USA Basketball’s expectations leave no room for doubt.

Wright’s the best man for the job right now.

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International Olympic Committee and Intel to host $500,000 esports tournament ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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Psyonix/Epic Games

International Olympic Committee and Intel to host $500,000 esports tournament ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics

The International Olympic Committee and Intel, one of the world’s leading multinational technology corporations, have partnered up to announce the Intel World Open, an esports competition that will take place in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Featuring a $500,000 prize pool, the Intel World Open will feature Rocket League and Street Fighter V competitions in partnership with each title’s respective developers Psyonix/Epic Games and Capcom.

The Intel World Open kicks off with a series of online qualifiers in early 2020 for both titles followed by a live qualifier event that will take place in Katowice, Poland in June to determine which teams will be able to advance onto the main event. Intel and the IOC will host the World Open finals at Tokyo’s Zepp DiverCity venue from July 22-24, 2020, with an even split of $250,000 from the prize pool being up for grabs for competitors in each title.

IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell stated, "We are excited Intel is bringing the Intel World Open esports tournament to Japan in the lead up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. As we explore the engagement between esports and the Olympic Movement we are looking forward to learning from this event and continuing to engage with the passionate esports community from around the world."

Event production will be handled by none other than ESL who has years of experience hosting large scale tournaments around the world for various esports titles. In 2018, ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, ESL similarly collaborated with both Intel and the IOC to run the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) PyeongChang which featured esports tournaments for titles ranging from StarCraft II to Overwatch.

Following the conclusion of the Intel World Cup, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics themselves begins two days later on July 24.

Ben Simmons announces he's going to represent Australian men's national basketball team in 2019 FIBA World Cup

Ben Simmons announces he's going to represent Australian men's national basketball team in 2019 FIBA World Cup

This offseason, Ben Simmons will be focused on becoming a “better and more efficient player,” he said at his exit interview Monday in Camden, New Jersey.

He’ll also be focused on one other major objective — helping the Australian men's national team, known as the Boomers. 

Simmons announced Tuesday night that he is “going to be a Boomer for the upcoming events, so stay tuned.”

Australia will play the Canadian national team on Aug. 16 and 17 in Perth, Australia, and Team USA on Aug. 22 and 24 in Melbourne ahead of the FIBA World Cup, which runs from Aug. 31 to Sep. 15 in China.

Simmons did not make Australia’s World Cup team as an 18-year-old in 2014, but he should be their biggest star for this campaign. In 2016, Simmons decided against playing in the Rio Olympics as he worked on his game before the NBA Draft

Rookie Jonah Bolden is another Sixer who may contribute for the Australians in the World Cup. Brett Brown, the former head coach of the Australian national team, gave a strong endorsement of Bolden as an international player in January.

After the World Cup, the next major international basketball event will be the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. 

Simmons told reporters in August 2018, “I definitely want to represent Australia in the Olympics, in the future.”

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