It seems odd to think about a head coaching position that only comes around every two to four years, but that’s exactly what the men’s basketball team for the United States has to do.
In a report from the Associated Press, USA basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo discussed that even though Coach Mike Krzyzewski has hinted this will be his last time coaching Team USA, he wasn’t going to close the door on the idea of him coming back:
Krzyzewski has said he believes this will be his last time coaching the national team. Colangelo said Monday he thinks that is probably true, however, the USA Basketball chairman added he's "not 100 percent sure" Krzyzewski is done.
"I know what he's said so far and that may be the case and maybe not," Colangelo said. "And I'm kind of thinking that he's probably not going to come back unless he changes his mind.
"If he's finished coaching, I'm going to keep him involved and he's going to be right alongside me. That's the way I see it and then we'll talk about who's next."
Coach K is already 65 years old and will be pushing 70 at the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. While I also wouldn’t rule out Krzyzewski coming back for one more gold medal run, it does seem unlikely he’d be a main figure for USA basketball.
Ideally, I’d love to see Gregg Popovich take over the job of coaching Team USA. Not only is he the best basketball coach in the world right now, but his résumé demands respect from all players. He doesn’t get worried about egos and players are never really dumb enough to challenge his authority.
Pop was also a guy that gathered intelligence for the Air Force and graduated with a degree in Soviet Studies. While I can’t prove it, it’s hard to imagine the movie Behind Enemy Lines being based on anybody but Coach Pop’s life. If anybody was qualified to take down international threats in basketball, it’s Popovich.
The problem though is he’s only two years younger than Krzyzewski, and the progression of the program needs to bring in a much younger coach to continue building for the future of USA basketball.
My solution for continuing the construction of the greatest basketball program in the world would be hiring Erik Spoelstra to be the successor to Mike Krzyzewski. Spoelstra, coming off his first NBA title as a head coach, seems to be the perfect candidate.
At 41 years old, he’s growing into the role of a veteran coach perfectly. He found a way to balance out the attack of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to defeat an extremely talented Thunder team.
In the last two years, he’s had more experience wrangling the egos of some of the best players in the world than just about any coach. To already have the respect and trust of the best player in the world would be a huge step toward gaining control of this roster.
By the time the 2014 World Championships come around, Coach K could still be the head coach and add Spoelstra to his coaching staff. By turning Spo’s defensive system of pressuring the ball, creating turnovers and wreaking complete havoc on an opponent’s perimeter, Team USA’s dream of dominating through athleticism and up-tempo swarming would have its perfect coach.
Spoelstra is also the embodiment of what the Olympics are supposed to be about. We constantly are fed stories about athletes who came from nothing, defied odds of an unusual path to success, and overcame to become one of the best in their fields. Doesn’t that sound like a certain Miami coach?
Read this profile of Erik Spoelstra by Kevin Arnovitz (refill your Sierra Mist and buckle up because it’s a long read that’s completely worth it). He kept getting himself more involved in a Miami Heat organization that was being rebuilt by one of the greatest basketball minds in NBA history. He kept proving that he belonged and was deserving of moving up toward the head-coaching job.
When times got tough after the signing of LeBron and Bosh, Spoelstra always stood in front of the firing squad and handled the situation/controversies in the best way he could manage. It went from him being constantly doubted to coaching the 2012 NBA champion.
Making him the successor to take over USA basketball wouldn’t just be something that makes sense in 2016; it could end up being a move that takes Team USA through the next four or five Olympic runs.