Just over a year ago in Chicago, Gregg Popovich raised the question with commissioner Adam Silver at the annual NBA coaches meeting: How did the USA Basketball national coaching job turn into a lifetime appointment for a college coach? "Isn't an NBA coach good enough to coach NBA players?" is one of the queries to Silver that peers in the room remembered Pop asking of the commissioner. Pop offered several candidates, including Doc Rivers, as deserving of a chance to coach the Olympic team. All around Pop, NBA head coaches nodded with agreement. Popovich never offered his own name, though. Popovich had once wanted the job, but would never campaign now – and truthfully never thought it possible as long as Jerry Colangelo was running USA Basketball. Popovich and Colangelo had a nine-year cold war that started to thaw with a telephone call in March, league sources told Yahoo Sports on Friday.
Months of consideration ensued for Popovich, including a full day of face-to-face conversations between Colangelo and him in July, league sources said. Through the years, so much had happened to push them far apart. They had been part of a nasty Suns-Spurs rivalry, and Colangelo's longstanding, close partnership with David Stern had done little to ease Popovich's suspicions about him.
In an interview with me in 2005, Colangelo said, Popovich "had a bad taste in his mouth regarding his most recent experiences with USA Basketball, some bitterness, and that came out in my conversation with him. He seemed burned out by it. … He just wasn't as enthusiastic as Mike." Those comments to Yahoo Sports – along with other public statements – moved Popovich to write a letter to Colangelo that was carbon copied to several top officials in the league office, league sources told Yahoo Sports. In the letter, Popovich essentially told Colangelo: Don't you dare suggest that I had anything but a deep desire to be the USA's national coach. Mostly, Pop told him: Just stop talking about me.
Now, Popovich will take over the USA National program in 2017 and players will love the idea of performing for him. Krzyzewski will finish his third tour as the national coach in 2016, and stay on as a "special adviser," which loosely translated means this: Krzyzewski will still have the access and influence to use USA Basketball's junior national teams to leverage his Duke recruiting. High school players committing to Duke understand they have a preferred path to making those under-18 and -19 rosters competing in international tournaments.
Marc Stein: Fascinating questions remain, tho, because the whole qualifying structure for international play, remember, soon changes to soccer's format. Qualifying for the 2019 World Cup in China will happen DURING the NBA season. Pop & NBA players won't be leaving their teams for qualifying
Arash Markazi: Jerry Colangelo will continue through 2020 as USA's Managing Director with Mike Krzyzewski serving in a Special Advisory Role through 2020.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Gregg Popovich will replace Mike Krzyzewski as the USA National coach in 2017, USA Basketball says.
USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo says the next head coach of USA Basketball is likely to come from the NBA. In an interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio, Colangelo said that the “odds are that it will be a professional coach.”
The University of Kentucky coach is not only actively involved with Colangelo's beloved Basketball Hall of Fame, but also has gone out of his way to raise money for it. Of course, Calipari has complained on occasion about Krzyzewski having an unfair recruiting advantage as the USAB head coach, but one person familiar with Calipari's motives said he views the opportunity as "the recruiting tool of all recruiting tools." Another source, who is plugged into the USA Basketball program, said "Calipari wants it bad."
Who replaces Krzyzewski as the on-court conductor and how much longer Colangelo, 75, will stay on as managing director, are important issues for both USA Basketball and the NBA (which, essentially, are one in the same). According to several people with close ties to the program and the coaching industry, here are some logical successors to Coach K: Gregg Popovich: The Spurs' five-time champion coach is "clearly, unquestionably the No. 1 choice," according to a person involved in the coaching business. "There really is no second place." Not only is he the most accomplished and respected current NBA coach, but Pop also checks several other boxes that Krzyzewski and Colangelo will no doubt consider in identifying possible successors. (Yes, both men will have most, if not all the say in who gets this gig.)
But working heavily in Pop's favor is a feeling among NBA head coaches that it's time for one of them to take the reins from Krzyzewski. "They've become very territorial about this," the coaching industry source said. Two caveats to keep in mind: Popovich's long-ago rivalry with Colangelo's Phoenix Suns, and the fact that Pop may be looking for Colangelo to roll out the red carpet -- which isn't Colangelo's style.
Rick Carlisle: He's an NBA champion as a player and as a coach and president of the National Basketball Coaches Association. One coaching industry source called Carlisle "a dark horse" for Krzyzewski's job, but he might be more than that. "He's played the political game better than anyone," the person said.
What about one of the most accomplished international head coaches ever, Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt? "He won't get it," one of people connected to the USAB program said. Colangelo and Coach K, the person said, are not fans.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN that the 2016 Olympics will be his last coaching the United States men's basketball national team, and that a succession plan to replace him will be announced in the coming year before the Games in Rio de Janeiro next summer. "It is. It definitely is,'' Krzyzewski told ESPN about this being his last stint as head coach with USA Basketball. "I think it's time to move ahead. During the next season there will be a number of decisions made about the future of USA Basketball with Rio [the roster] and coaching.
“Back in ’04 as I watched where we were, USA Basketball, some of the other countries really had togetherness, like Argentina, like Spain. That was something I thought we needed to develop. So developing a national team concept, stating that we had to change our culture and to see where we are, it makes you feel very good. There was a plan. Right now we’re on a roll.” Colangelo said USA Basketball is seeking sites to play five “friendly” games before going to Rio de Janeiro. He is heading to the Olympic city and said he is concerned about the playing conditions just 11 months before the start of the Games.
“I’ll be out of the picture," said Wall through a laugh and without any noticeable trace of resentment.
Perhaps this latest response represents maturity, the kind he's showing in organizing a minicamp for the Wizards. Perhaps the 24-year-old is just keeping it real. "I’m just being honest," Wall continued. "Chris Paul has already won one (Olympic gold medal). Steph Curry had an amazing last year and just won the World Cup. Kyrie just won the World Cup. Russell will probably be on the team. They’ll use him as a two-guard. So, I probably won’t make it."
"I always said you never shut the door entirely on anyone. I mean, why? To prove what? Was I disappointed Derrick [Rose] wasn't here? Sure. Because, we want the best for him. We want the best for him. We want him to get back to the level that he once was. So let's just see how things go in the future."
"I was quoted on Kobe," Colangelo said after USA Basketball's intrasquad scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center. "In response to a question about him, I said it would be a great story if he did [play in Rio]. "And so, he also mentioned to me in a private conversation that if he had his druthers, he would love to ride off into the sunset playing one more time and winning the gold medal. And that would be the end. But he was very quick to say, 'But, I don't want a spot. I need to earn the spot. I need to be capable of playing at that level to be considered.' And I said, 'You got that. That's always there for you, Kobe.'"
Carmelo Anthony didn’t leave town without waxing eloquent about his Olympic reunion with LeBron James and Chris Paul at the Team USA minicamp. He spoke more boldly about winning big next August in Rio de Janeiro than at the Garden this season. “We talk about it all the time,’’ Anthony said of winning another gold medal with James and Paul. “Just about how we want to go out and end it the next year with the Olympics, just how much we want to take from this experience. I’m going on four [Olympics], LeBron is going on four. Paul going for three. We’re connected by the hip.’’
While Rose's decision to opt out of Team USA competition may benefit him in the future as he continues to build his confidence back up, his playing career for the national team appears to be over. While Colangelo didn't come out and say it, Rose's absence, combined with injury concerns, and the talent pool within USA Basketball which includes guards like, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul, all of whom were in attendance Tuesday, indicates that Rose's time with Team USA is over. "Anyone who's not here, who had been invited, which was not mandated, but it was a request and mandatory to be here to be considered going forward -- those who made a choice not to, I respect, but then we have to move on," Colangelo said.
Team USA director Jerry Colangelo acknowledged he initially thought Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was coming to the group's minicamp that began Tuesday. "We were advised he was coming," Colangelo said. "Maybe a week-and-a-half ago or so, and then the speculation that he might not [surfaced] ... obviously he made a decision and I respect that. I respect that."
Indiana Pacers forward Paul George has been excused from the rest of this week's USA Basketball minicamp after spending Monday with the team, according to USAB sources. Sources told ESPN.com that George attended both a team meeting Monday night as well as a one-on-one sitdown with Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski, thus satisfying a mandate from USAB managing director Jerry Colangelo that any player who wants to be considered for the 2016 Olympic team must show himself in Vegas. But sources say George -- who was always expected by USAB officials to sit out this week's two light workouts as well as Thursday night's intrasquad scrimmage -- was spared the chore of being forced to watch Tuesday's noncontact session from the sideline and then face the media hordes in attendance.
Krzyzewski, meanwhile, told ESPN.com on Tuesday that recent NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala remains firmly under consideration for a spot on the Rio squad after helping Team USA to gold medals at both the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey and the 2012 Summer Games in London. Iguodala recently got married and was prepared to postpone his honeymoon to come to this week's USAB events, but Krzyzewski told him to stick with that schedule. Iguodala would have given the newly-crowned champion Golden State Warriors a league-high five USA Basketball participants this week had he joined Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. "He's been a prince for us," Krzyzewski said of Iguodala.
Kevin Durant is back – almost. According to his agent, Rich Kleiman of Roc Nation Sports, and his manager, Charlie Bell, the Oklahoma City Thunder star who played just 27 games last season because of a fracture in his right foot plans to practice on Tuesday and Wednesday with Team USA at minicamp in Las Vegas. Durant will not, however, take part in the showcase game on Thursday at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center.
Marc Stein: ESPN sources say Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is expected to join Kevin Durant on USA Basketball practice floor Tuesday in Las Vegas.
He does expect that Krzyzewski will be coaching his final Olympics in 2016—having talked him out of retiring once, Colangelo does not expect to be able to do so again. But he expects to remain in the role of director through the 2020 Olympics. “This is my passion,” he said. “I have been thrilled to be able to stay in this kind of a role. Being, at my age, still involved on this basis, doing something you still have passion for, is just a great thing. The only thing that would prevent me from continuing would be health, and I am healthy. I am thankful for that opportunity.”
Jeff Zillgitt: LeBron James officially informs USA Basketball he will attend next week's mini-camp in Vegas, per person w/info. Yahoo reported last week.
Marc J. Spears: LeBron James will attend @usabasketball mini-camp meeting Monday,but will leave after not & not attend workouts, Jerry Colangelo tells Yahoo. LeBron James Family Foundation's annual Family Reunion event takes place in Northeast Ohio on Aug. 13, which takes precedence over USA camp.
Marc J. Spears: Paul George will attend @usabasketball mini-camp meeting Monday in Las Vegas, but wont participate in camp or exhibition, Colangelo told Y!
Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard is the latest marquee name to commit to attend the upcoming USA Basketball minicamp, according to league sources. Sources told ESPN.com that Howard, who had to withdraw from the 2012 Olympic team to undergo back surgery, has told USA Basketball officials he plans to attend the Aug. 11-13 gathering in Las Vegas to make known his availability for selection to the 2016 Olympic squad.
Q: Has James said he will be playing in the 2016 Rio Olympics? Colangelo: I think he is intent on wanting to play for USA Basketball and be in the Olympics next year.
But perhaps absence made the heart grow fonder? This morning on Sirius XM’s NBA Radio, Colangelo was asked about James future involvement in the USA Basketball program, and Colangelo sounded as though James might not be done with USA Basketball. “Well, I think LeBron wants to be part of it,” said Colangelo. “You know, when you talk about LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo [Anthony], they were the four young players who were, what, 19 years old, 20 at the best, who were added to the roster when some people dropped out at the last minute. They weren’t quite ready for prime time, if you think back. They just weren’t, and it’s a little bit of a disservice in some ways, but the NBA was looking to promote young, up and coming stars, and I get that. That’s one of the reasons why I was asked to take over the program. I said, ‘Look, I’ll do it, but it has to be complete autonomy, no more committees, no more politics. I’ll pick the coaches, I’ll pick the players if I’m going to be responsible.’ That’s the only way you can really turn the program and make it successful. So, we deal with it as it comes.”
September 17, 2021 | 5:16 pm EDT Update
The Denver Nuggets have signed forward Petr Cornelie to a two-way contract, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly announced today.
The word in Spanish basketball circles, as reiterated to me Friday, is that Marc Gasol is most likely to play for Girona if he decides to play on, even though the LEB Oro is one level below Spain’s top tier. I’m told he has been working out with new Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio to stay sharp even after negotiating his release earlier this week from Memphis following the Grizzlies’ recent trade with the Lakers to take on the final year of Gasol’s last NBA contract.
Ballots for the NBA’s 75th anniversary team were due back to the league office today. The league previously announced that the official list of its 75 greatest players, as selected by “a blue-ribbon panel of media, current and former players, coaches, general managers and team executives,” will be revealed in October. The voters will also be revealed — not their full individual ballots but the names of those who made the selections.
September 17, 2021 | 3:51 pm EDT Update
After securing the arrival of Mario Hezonja, Russian team UNICS Kazan will announce soon the signing of former NBA guard OJ Mayo.
UNICS Kazan is adding one more marquee name to its roster with O.J.Mayo having a one-year deal with the Russian club. While there’s no signed contract yet, that seems to be more a formality delayed by bureaucratic reasons.
Chris Grenham: Former Hawks guard Brandon Goodwin tells me he worked out with Celtics this week. There is no training camp agreement between Boston and Goodwin yet, but there is interest from both sides. Goodwin played in 47 games with Atlanta last year, averaging 4.9 points and 2.0 assists.