Team USA defeated Spain Sunday morning in what turned out to be a more difficult then expected victory. The win meant head coach Mike Krzyzewski will most likely finish his international coaching career with two gold medals, one FIBA World Championship and an overall record of 61-1 (the one loss coming to Greece in the semi-finals of the 2006 FIBA Worlds). Rumblings about who will replace Coach K has already begun. ESPN’s Marc Stein writes that Team USA officials told him that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and Celtics head coach Doc Rivers are in fact the front runners to be Team USA next head coach.
“(Team USA Chairman Jerry) Colangelo has said repeatedly this week that he’ll make one more run at it, after giving Krzyzewski some time to decompress when this is all over, but sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich have indeed already moved to the top of the list to take over in 2013 for Krzyzewski, who is expected to remain with the program as a top aide to Colangelo if he can’t be convinced to extend his coaching tenure.”
The report also lists Louisville head coach Rick Pitino (who has also coached Puerto Rico in recent years) and current Team USA assistants Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan as candidates. Those seem like “just in case Pop and Doc say no” candidates but I’m guessing that if asked there’s really no chance either say no. There’s also been a lot written, mostly by Adrian Wojnarowski, that Popovich and Colangelo had a falling out in 2005 when the former Suns owner chose Coach K over Pop. However, Ailiene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee also spoke with Colangelo in May about 2005 and Colangelo admitted to a somewhat frosty relationship but also added he’s willing to work past that for the good of Team USA.
“The rules can change,” Colangelo said. “You have to be able to adapt. Coach K came in and we changed the infrastructure, the culture, the program. After London, we’ll sit down and look at everything. Pop would certainly be a leading candidate if it’s going to be a pro coach.”
I’m guessing if Colangelo is actually willing to put any personal issues aside Pop will too. A former military man and an assistant coach for two Team USA disasters (2002 and 2004), Pop’s probably pretty motivated to do this the right way (no one, including Colangelo blames Pop for 2002 and 2004). Don’t expect anything confirmed on a new Team USA coach soon. Stein also said Coach K’s replacement wouldn’t even start until 2013.