When Jerry Colangelo took over as the director of Team USA basketball in 2005, he vowed to change the culture of the program and restore the glory. The mission was accomplished in the 2008 Summer Olympics, but was fully reaffirmed this past weekend when Team USA lived up to expectations and turned away its haters on its way to a second consecutive gold medal.
It’ll now be interesting to see that group’s next step. Coach Mike Krzyzewski says this was his last stint, but Colangelo said he plans to stay on board for another four years.
Jerry Colangelo joined KTAR in Phoenix with Doug and Wolf to discuss winning another gold medal, Krzyzewski’s emotion, if Coach K might change his mind and coach another Olympics, LeBron James as the best player in the world, Kevin Love’s performance and gearing up for 2016 in Rio.
How does it feel to have another gold medal?:
“You, know, it never gets old. How’s that for a response? Because regardless of your age, regardless of the fact that you’ve been there, done that, etc., the moment is so huge. You understand what’s at stake. We knew that the world was watching. The target is on your back and there’s a lot of pressure and all of those things. If we didn’t build that culture, didn’t build that camaraderie that has just kind of taken over USA basketball, we would’ve cracked in ’08 and we could’ve cracked the other night against Spain.”
Why did we see a different Mike Krzyzewski than we’ve ever seen at Duke, with so much more emotion?:
“Because, this is my opinion, as well as I know him, this past week, he was wound up like a top. When you see a guy in the wee hours, all by himself in a film room — didn’t want to go to sleep, just wanted to continue to watch tape — he just felt it. He knew he had to win, in his mind, or who knows what the response would be. So I think his signs of emotion at the time of the game, in the last minute or so, were of relief as much as anything else. … He’s been with me, alongside me all these years. I just love the guy so much that I want him to be a part of [USA basketball] and he will be.”
He’s said that was his last go-round as the head coach of Team USA, but you don’t think he’ll change his mind?:
“There’s always a possibility, but I think it’s really remote. … This is not like last time. After Beijing, it was, ‘I want to take some time and think about it,’ and as soon as we met, it was done, it was over with. This time, he announced he was done. I think the mere thought of another four years of sharing his mind and his energy with his program at Duke and with USA basketball because he only knows one way, and that’s total commitment, it’s just a little too much.”
Who is the greatest basketball player in the world?:
“LeBron James. It’s as simple as that. He’s earned it. He’s climbed the ladder and he’s performed at the times you need to to get that … so that’s where he is, at the top of the heap. It was kind of interesting, during our time together, to see how Kobe, who is going into his 17th season, to see how he acquiesced to LeBron. It was the passing of the baton, for sure, in USA Basketball. … You saw LeBron, I look at him sometimes and I feel like he can do anything he wants to do at any time on the court and nobody can stop that. … He may be one of the great athletes of all-time.”
Who was the player on this team that you thought really learned something in 2008 and is now putting together an even better career because of it?:
“Kevin Love. Kevin Love, who had great numbers, as we know, in the NBA, who’s one of the top five rebounders, top five scorers, is a much better player today than he was during the NBA season that he had. He’s becoming a much better all-around player. … I kind of tweaked him early on by saying he wasn’t playing up to par. And he responded by saying, ‘He’s right; I’m not, and I have a long way to go.’ But then he responded and was really terrific. He was the unsung hero on this team and I think he’s just going to take that, just like Derrick Rose took the World Championship platform and went on to an MVP season.”
Are you in for 2016 in Rio?:
“Oh yeah, sure. I figured out someone has to be there, it might as well be me. … Just my luck to become a free agent when I was 72, so I’m sure the phone’s not going to be ringing. And so I’ll have time to address my passion, which is the game, and get ready for the World Cup in ’14, which will be in Madrid, followed up by the Olympics in Rio. So we’ll get it cranked up.”