Team USA Basketball: 5 Men Who Could Succeed Coach K
That means for the 2014 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, Team USA will have to find a new coach, preferably one with a lot of college or pro head coaching experience, and one that can manage the big egos who play for the American team.
Here are five men who could be that coach.
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Here are some names that, in my opinion, deserve consideration, but I wouldn't rank in the top five:
- Geno Auriemma: In my opinion, Geno Auriemma is the greatest basketball coach (pro or college) who is currently coaching. He has a record of 804–129 with Connecticut, plus 390–58 in the playoffs. His one drawback? He's never coached dudes.
- David Blatt: Blatt is arguably the person of American heritage with the most experience in the Euroleague. He has coached the Russian national team as well as pro squads in Russia, Greece and Israel. In 14 Euroleague and Eurocup seasons, he has had 12 winning seasons, and coached legendary Italian squad Bennetton Treviso for two campaigns. But having never coached a big-time college or pro team stateside, he'll most likely be looked over.
- Jim Boeheim: Has been an assistant for Team USA. Has been a very successful college coach. Will be over 70 when the 2016 Olympics roll around.
- George Karl: Karl has more wins (1,805) than any other active NBA coach, and is among the top 20 percent of active skippers in win percentage. He's coached four NBA All-Star squads. Karl does have prior experience coaching the U.S. National basketball team, but the fact that it was with the 2002 Worlds squad is a blot on his record.
- Nate McMillan: McMillan has been an assistant coach with Team USA Basketball for several seasons, including with the 2008 gold medal winning squad, but has not been a terribly successful head coach in the NBA.
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John Calipari is a name bandied about as Coach K's successor. People have seen his current stint as head coach of the Dominican Republic's team as an audition for the U.S. gig.
Calipari flopped in the pros (72-112 with New Jersey), but has been quite successful in college, with a career .770 winning percentage and 10 Sweet Sixteen appearances in 20 seasons. This was punctuated by his Kentucky squad winning the NCAA Championship last month.
I'd put Calipari high on my list, but I'm not ready to ordain the master of ones-and-dones the second coming.
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Mike D'Antoni has a career .533 winning percentage, a Coach of the Year Award, and twice took teams to the conference finals.
D'Antoni knows the international game: he won two Euroleague championships and five Italian League championships in eight seasons coaching in Italy. Furthermore, he has been an assistant for Team USA at the 2006 Worlds, 2008 Olympics, 2010 Worlds, and will be for this summer's Olympics.
His one drawback? He flopped with the Knicks.
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But why coach in the NBA when you could win a gold medal, the one achievement you haven't done yet? Furthermore, Team USA coach is a much less stressful and time-consuming post than an NBA job, allowing for more time with Jeannie Buss.
I needn't reiterate Jackson's numerous accomplishments, but I will anyway: 11 NBA titles, 13-time NBA finalist, Naismith Hall of Fame, .704 regular season winning percentage, 1155 regular season wins, 229 playoff wins, and four times coach of the All-Star squad. Jackson is also an expert at controlling big egos such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
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Greg Popovich has international experience. He was an assistant on the 2004 squad. I'd also count coaching foreign phenoms Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as international experience as well.
More importantly, Pops is the best pro coach still in the game. He has four NBA championship rings, two Coach of the Year trophies, a .680 career regular-season win percentage, a .603 career playoff percentage, 847 career wins, and 50-win seasons every year since 1999-2000.
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Like Popovich, Roy Williams was an assistant on the 2004 squad. But more importantly, Williams has been one of the more successful college coaches of the last few decades.
He's one of a number of active coaches with 650 wins, has a career .801 win percentage, and has taken seven teams to the Final Four. All three of those numbers are better than Calipari's. He's also in the top two in wins at both Kansas and North Carolina. Not very many people can say that.