USA Basketball: Popovich, Rivers, And Four More Coaching Candidates

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — From 2006 through the London Olympics, the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team went 43-1 (62-1 if you count exhibitions) under coach Mike Krzyzewski. And Sunday’s gold-medal-game victory over Spain was its 36th straight win (50 if you count exhibitions) since losing to Greece in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championship.

So Krzyzewski, who has said that he’s done coaching the National Team, is going out on top, with two Olympic gold medals and one World Championship. The coach that replaces him has some big shoes to fill, as well as plenty of pressure to keep the U.S.A. on top of the basketball world.

Even if you’re a Duke hater, you have to respect what Krzyzewski has done over the last seven years. He’s a college coach, but managed to connect with and motivate five different squads of NBA stars. And after that ’06 loss to Greece, he clearly made it a priority to learn more about the international teams and players his team was facing.

While most fans and pundits focus on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, a new coach needs to be selected well before then. The U.S. will look to defend its World Championship at the renamed FIBA Basketball World Cup, which takes place from Aug. 31-Sept. 14, 2014 in Spain.

So who should USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo select as the next coach? Here are six candidates…

1. Gregg Popovich — My man Fran Blinebury makes the case for Pop here. And it’s hard to argue against it.

2. Doc Rivers — Rivers has done a fantastic job of managing star players (and the egos that come with them) for the last five years in Boston. Players want to play for him, a fact that would only help USA Basketball put together more star-studded rosters going forward. During these past Olympics, Rivers said on NBC that “you’d have to say yes” to an offer to coach the Olympic team. But at the same time, he endorsed Popovich. Then, after the Olympics were over, Rivers said the next coach should be Doug Collins.

3. Doug Collins — Collins has done a nice job with the Sixers over the last two seasons, and Rivers believes that Collins deserves some redemption for the 1972 Olympics, when the U.S. was robbed of the gold medal because officials gave the Soviet Union three chances to score the winning basket with one second left. It would certainly make for a good story if Collins led the U.S. to gold 44 years later, but is sentiment a good reason to choose a coach?

4. Nate McMillan — If Colangelo wants some continuity from the last seven years to the next four, McMillan could be the answer. He has served as one of Krzyzewski’s assistants since 2006, and though he’s currently unemployed, he should be back on an NBA bench soon.

5. Erik Spoelstra — If Colangelo is thinking long-term, he couldn’t do much better than the 40-year-old Spoelstra, who has a lot of coaching ahead of him. He’s also won an NBA championship with at least two stars — LeBron James and Chris Bosh — who could be back on the roster in 2014 or 2016.

6. Tom Izzo – Izzo could be the way to go if the U.S. wants to follow the “well-respected college coach” formula. Like Krzyzewski, Izzo owns a long tenure at a big-time school, coaching Michigan State since 2005 and he has been on the staff there since 1983. Under Izzo, the Spartans have made six trips to the Final Four and won an NCAA championship in 2000.


  1. Havok says:

    Filipinos vote for Coach Spoelstra

  2. hamz says:

    coach thib?
    runs a proper defence and uses his bench properly..
    as if you put erik spoelstra..

  3. Peter says:

    Here’s a thought – how about offering the job to Pat Riley? Yeah he’s retired, but he is one hell of a coach…and like Pop, Doc and Phil he’s a guy everybody would respect.

    It’s really got to be one of those 4 guys. I’d throw Jerry Sloan in there too if he was still coaching!

  4. D says:

    Spoelstra is just a puppet. I can’t believe his name is even mentioned. Go Pop!

  5. Wasfy says:

    Tom Izzo has been the head coach at Michigan State since 1995, not 2005.

  6. Ggg says:

    With a name like popvic it’s hard to tell if he is American or not
    Actually no cuz his name is greg

  7. Doc for USA coach! He has won a championship in 2008 with the Big Three in their first year together, unlike the Miami Heat!

  8. Royt says:

    Spoelstra’s team defeats Rivers’ team in east final two times in a row. Wow! Rivers is better than Spoelstra, is insane. Only with Charles Barkley’s brain would believe that. Also, Spoelstra handles much bigger superstar with big egos in LBJ, CB, and DWADE. Check your facts people, Rivers can not even convince Ray Allen to stay. Long term should be Spoelstra or Brooks, Quick fix would be Jackson, Pop or Collins.

    • Ban bosh from the team? The heat struggled without should ban yourself! Get out of here!

    • Peter says:

      Half of Boston’s team was injured, it was amazing they even made it past the first round given the state of their roster.

      The ONLY reason Miami won was Lebron – that’s it. Boston were the dominant team up until game 6. and at the point Lebron raised his game to a whole new level and pretty much single handedly took over the series.

      You seriously think Miami wouldn’t have gone just as far if Vinny Del Negro was the coach? ANYBODY can coach that team – just give the ball to Lebron and everyone else get out of the way.

  9. charles says:

    I think Popovich is a great NBA coach, but I don’t believe he will be a great Olympic coach. I think Doc Rivers would be better. Why? You are not just dealing with basketball players, you are dealing with EGOS. Popovich loves working with players who are not egotistical. Tim Duncan and David Robinson are exceptions to the rule and not the rule. The only person that has shown uncanny ability to manage different egos is Doc Rivers – Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rondo have huge egos and Doc was able to blend them together and synthesize their talents into a championship – even though they were all older and knee deep in their own habits. I don’t think we should start with an outcome in mind and find reasons to make that outcome happen. I think we should be open minded about the coaches and identify a coach who has a personality and heritage that translates to being a successful coach for the OLYMPICS. That may turn out to be different than some coaches who have been successful but not faced with such a unique situation.

  10. DR says:

    Should clearly be Pop or Phil Jackson. But since Phil’s retired, Pop’s the obvious answer and clear best coach in the league. Doc is okay at ebst, but tends to mess up as he somehow loses with his Boston squad, Spoelstra is decent at best, never seen Collins do well ever, and Scott Brooks is one of the worst coaches in the league and should never, ever, coach a team of that caliber. So Pop it is.

    • Peter says:

      You the same way as Pop has lost the last the last what..5 seasons?

      Doc helped lead an old and battered Celtics team to game 7 of the ECF last season…that’s further then Pop took the Spurs, who didn’t even have close to the injury issues Boston had.

      Doc is up there with Pop as a coach.

  11. GERVIN says:

    I’d rather vote for doc, for his improving coaching skills. 🙂

  12. sven says:

    how about the zen master

  13. No says:

    Should be between Coach Popovich and OKC’s Brooks.

  14. Ggg says:

    Spoelstra is a terrible coach. He only won because he has lbj dwade band bosh on his team

    • thitikla says:

      have you forgotten that this was the same way Doc won his ship? With a much better all around team with KG & Jesus Shuttlesworth coming in via trade to join Pierce, Raging Rondo & Big Perks. im sure this team was a hell of a lot better than the Heat team that won the Larry O’brien in June. If Doc was such a great coach how come he couldnt take TMac and the Magic past the first round in Orlando? then he got booted. he should been happy and overwhelmed to be a celts coach with the players hes gaining. awful first year but then a GM named Ainged gave him 2 All Star fire powers with the help of then minnesota VP McHale who was also a celts alum. hhhmmmmm?!??!?!! thinking here. who is better at coaching? both coaches are great. they each won a ship. go POPS for next TEAM USA coach. now thats a good coach

      neither a heat or a celts fan. just a guy who loves ball. Debate up.

      • thitikla says:

        “both coaches are great. they each won a ship. go POPS for next TEAM USA coach. now thats a good coach”

        both coaches are “GOOD”. they each won a ship. go POPS for next TEAM USA coach. now thats “AN AMAZING” coach

      • Peter says:

        Rondo and Perk were nobody’s when Boston win in 2008, they were just getting started and nobody considered them starting calibe players at the start of that season. Who did they seriously have outside of their big 3? Eddie House? PJ Brown? Leon Powe? Brian Scalabrine? They did amazingly well with wha they had!

  15. Marc says:

    Pop all day every day. Then again I wouldn’t be surprised if “you know who” would screw him over again after what happened last time…

  16. Spoelstra should be coaching Philippine team! hahaha

  17. me says:


  18. larry oconnor says:

    I vote for Doug Collins. Greg Popovich Could do it but I see him wanting to slow down life right now. Doc Rivers has great talent but I don’t see his personality fitting in with a 23 and under Olympic team. He fits more with coaching NBA style and mature veterans. Nate McMillan is able but he should focus on being a success at NBA coaching first and foremost. I like a young coach idea but Spoelstra has his hands full with the Heat and I would like to see the Heat win because of his coaching instead of in spite of it. Tom Izzo seems alright but Collins has the fire and the personality. He also has the experience of playing in the Olympics.