Jerry Colangelo Comments on USA Basketball, State of the Sport After Olympics

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2016

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 21: Jerry Colangelo, Managing Director of the USA Basketball, poses for a portrait on July 21, 2016 at the Wynn Las Vegas in Las Vegas, NV. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

There was no Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Anthony Davis or Chris Paul, among others, but that didn’t stop the United States from dominating Serbia in Sunday’s gold-medal game at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, 96-66.

The Americans went a perfect 8-0 at the Games, and the program’s managing director, Jerry Colangelo, didn’t hold back when an international reporter asked him about the wide margin of victory in Sunday’s contest, per Sam Amick of USA Today:

I’m all for raising the bar for global basketball. The more interest in basketball on all levels, I’m for. I’m a lifer in the game. I love the game. Basketball is the No. 2 sport in the world, (but) we just need to see these other countries get their acts together and become more competitive.

I’d love to see that. Everyone would love to see that. I’m not going to be making excuses for anyone about our (dominance). Someone said to me (after the game), one of the officials said to me, ‘You know next time you play, you ought to play with four.’ And I said, ‘No, maybe the other teams better get their act together and compete.’

Despite going undefeated, the United States didn't romp over every one of its opponents in Rio. It needed a late push to beat Australia by 10 and then barely squeaked out three-point victories over France and Serbia in group play.

Spain also tested the U.S. in the semifinals before the Americans emerged with an 82-76 win against the same team they beat in the previous two Olympic gold-medal games.

Still, the dominance was clear when the Americans turned up the intensity Sunday. Serbia had no answer for Kevin Durant’s length and athleticism as the 6'9" Golden State Warriors forward scored 30 points. It also had no response to DeMarcus Cousins’ overpowering low-post presence, as the Sacramento Kings star posted a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds.

Paul George, Jimmy Butler and others provided strong defense, and there was little Serbia could do to make up for the talent disparity. The United States program looks to be in strong hands even as the Carmelo Anthony era came to a close:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Thank you for everything, Melo #USA https://t.co/KkAbRvfTGl

However, Colangelo suggested the United States has done more than beat its opponents during its reign, per Amick:

We’ve been helping in basketball around the world for 50 years. We’ve taught the world the game. We’ve taught their coaches, players—look at the number of (international) players in the NBA, look at the number of international players in college today, in the states. So we’re all for that. I want to see the level raised.

It’s hard to argue against the NBA's global influence, especially when the United States faced familiar names such as Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili and Nikola Mirotic, among many more in Rio. 

Colangelo specifically mentioned Canada and Australia as countries that could “be big-time programs going forward” and threaten the Americans’ grip on international competition, per Amick.

Australia lost a heartbreaker to Spain in the bronze-medal game Sunday, 89-88, with players such as Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut. Dellavedova is only 25 years old and should still be in his prime during the 2020 Games in Tokyo. He could join forces with Philadelphia 76ers No. 1 overall draft pick Ben Simmons, who's 20, and 21-year-old Dante Exum at the next Games.

As for Canada, 21-year-old Andrew Wiggins is a blossoming force in the NBA. Other Canadian players in the NBA include the 20-year-old Trey Lyles, 19-year-old Jamal Murray and 25-year-old Tristan Thompson, who has an NBA title and experience in pressure-packed environments.

It is not difficult to envision those two countries challenging the Americans down the road.

However, the United States is the undisputed king in the basketball world for now. Amick ran down a list of the program’s accomplishments since Colangelo took over in 2005 and hired head coach Mike Krzyzewski after a disappointing bronze-medal showing at the 2004 Olympics:

USA Basketball Since 2005
59-1 Record2005-16
FIBA World Championship Bronze Medal2006
FIBA Americas Championship Gold Medal2007
Olympic Gold Medal2008
FIBA World Championship Gold Medal2010
Olympic Gold Medal2012
FIBA World Cup Gold Medal2014
Olympic Gold Medal2016
USA Today

It will probably take the rest of the world some time to catch up to that golden standard, and Colangelo wasn’t apologizing for it Sunday.


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