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USA Basketball: The Coaching Transition Starts This Week

From Krzyzewski to Popovich. Will the success continue?

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder
Mar 10, 2018; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reacts to a play against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

For 12 years, Coach K did an absolutely brilliant job with USA Basketball, losing just once, early on to Greece, before leading the US back to total dominance.

It was an interesting journey.

From 1936 to 1968, the US never lost a single Olympic game and one lost to the Soviets in 1972 under highly questionable circumstances.

In 1976, Dean Smith won gold back but in 1980, the US boycotted the Moscow games. Bob Knight led the US to gold in LA in 1984 with Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullins among others.

Then it was on to the Dream Team and restored dominance before the NBA sabotaged itself with ugly wins and then bad losses.

This peaked in 2004 when Larry Brown whined all the way to a bronze medal on a team with head cases Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury and Lamar Odom. It was such a miserable experience that Tim Duncan said “FIBA sucks” and swore off international play for the rest of his career.

Coach K took over after that fiasco (yet another Duke-UNC connection as Coach K replaced Tar Heel Larry Brown) and, as we said, turned things around.

Guys were proud to be on the team again and some complained publicly if they didn’t make it. Instead of being aloof, they mingled with the other athletes and became de facto diplomats for basketball and the US.

And by the time Coach K was done, the US had established a sense that they probably couldn't be beat - too athletic, too unified, played too hard and so together.

Now though Coach K is done and Gregg Popovich, who was an assistant on that 2004 disaster (as was Roy Williams), takes over.

Minicamp starts this week and Pops will get a chance to put his stamp on the team. He’s had a chance to study what Coach K did and to seek his advice as well. The transition from one legend to the other is going to be one of the bigger stories in basketball and well worth watching if only to see if the template Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo established can be maintained.

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