Is Doc Rivers or Gregg Popovich a Better Fit for Team USA Basketball's Future?

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2013

After a wildly successful run at the helm of Team USA, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski continues to say his Olympic days are behind him.

Appearing on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" show on Tuesday, the coach reiterated his desire to vacate the position and said he expects chairman of USA Basketball Jerry Colangelo to name his new coach over the summer (via

He leaves behind a tough resume to match (a 62-1 record and back-to-back Olympic gold medals), but also a wealth of talent for Colangelo's next choice.

There are two obvious front-runners for the position: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

The case for Popovich is one of sustained dominance. He's the longest tenured head coach in the four major professional sports, compiling a .684 winning percentage (third best in NBA history) and guiding his Spurs to four NBA championships since taking over in the 1996-97 season.

He's unquestionably the best coach in basketball's best league. His Spurs teams have missed the playoffs just once under his direction, that being his rookie campaign when his roster was ravaged by injuries.

His coaching versatility has become evident, as he's held the unique ability to blend his game plan around the strengths of his roster. From 1997-98 to 2008-09, the Spurs ranked in the top five in defensive rating. In the four seasons since, he's found his success through a top-10 offensive attack.

And he's well versed in the international style of play. He served under former Team USA coach Larry Brown at the 2004 Games. His Spurs teams feature a number of ball-handlers and stretch bigs, both staples of the international game.

As for Rivers, his biggest strength may be his ability to relate to his players. He's got an intricate knowledge of what these young men are facing, both from his own 13-year playing career and the fact that his 20-year-old son, Austin, now plays in the league.

He also knows a thing or two about coaching in pressure situations. He's coached in two of the last five NBA Finals. He lived through the daunting task of guiding this generation's first superteam, blending personalities and checking egos when the Celtics teamed up veteran stars Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen en route to the franchise's 17th title.

And he's got his own USA basketball resume. He played on the silver-medal team at the 1982 world championships and served as an assistant for the gold-medal team at the 2001 Goodwill Games (via

So, who's the better choice to guide the next stage of USA basketball?

While there's probably not a wrong answer, it's hard not to consider Popovich as the premier candidate.

Popovich has simply done it longer and better than any of the other possible choices. His track record speaks for itself.

No matter the roster that Colangelo and Co. put together between now and the summer of 2016, there's a certainty that Popovich will know how to handle it.

His Spurs' roster has long been the greenest in the league. He's constantly recycling presumed extinguished careers and turning those players back into what they used to be (Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw) or what some never thought they could be (Danny Green, Matt Bonner).

Giving Popovich a roster as stacked as Team USA's will undoubtedly be all but guaranteeing a third straight gold medal.