USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo plans to meet with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the near future to offer him the chance to return to the bench for the 2012 London Olympic Games, several sources said.
“We’ve yet to talk about how much of a level of interest he has in doing it again, if at all,” Colangelo said by phone Thursday night. “We’ve saved that conversation. There’s no need to push that envelope so soon. I wanted him to get back to Duke and get ready for his college year. But I do believe a great deal in continuity.”
Together, Colangelo and Krzyzewski were the architects of the United States’ gold medal at the Beijing Games in August. Sources say that while USA Basketball officials aren’t convinced that Krzyzewski will take the job again, it’s his if he wants it.
“I wish to have that kind of discussion with him in the short term,” Colangelo said.
Krzyzewski had said that he didn’t plan to return for a second four-year cycle as the national coach, but Colangelo is hoping the time to “decompress” could change the coach’s mind. Even so, there was no formal offer, so Krzyzewski would’ve been reluctant to sound too presumptuous.
There’s no clear successor on Krzyzewski’s 2008 coaching staff. The most likely would be New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, whom Colangelo once hired as the Phoenix Suns’ coach. Privately, D’Antoni has some reservations about another four-year commitment, one source said, but it’s hard to believe he would turn down the offer.
Portland coach Nate McMillan was a Team USA assistant in Beijing and considered a rising star, but he’s a much stronger contender for the 2016 Olympics.
No coach has more credentials than the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, who has four NBA titles and a strong USA Basketball coaching background. Still, there’s a rift between Colangelo and Popovich that would make it difficult for them to work together. Popovich was passed over for Krzyzewski for the Beijing Games and was angry with Colangelo’s suggestions that he wasn’t enthusiastic enough about coaching the team.
Most of the elite Team USA players have committed to returning for 2012 and the process of preparing will start in the summer of 2010. With so many top players expected to be free agents that summer, there’s a good chance that the Americans will send a younger team to the World Championships in two years.
If they are unsigned, players won’t risk injury that summer on the international stage. Instead of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the 2010 U.S. team could be comprised of Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and O.J. Mayo.
Colangelo plans to meet with most of his 2008 players at the All-Star Game in Phoenix next February. USA Basketball is moving its headquarters from Colorado Springs to Glendale, Ariz., where Colangelo keeps his year-round home. His duties with USA Basketball now include overseeing the men’s and women’s programs, as well as the junior national teams.
“It’s one thing to get to the top of the hill, but it’s another to defend it,” Colangelo said. “The realization is that other teams in the world are going to get better, and this won’t get easier for us. But I’d rather be in the position of defending it than climbing the mountain.”
- Mike Krzyzewski