ED NOTE: This was written and posted to Golden State of Mind literally 10 hours before Gregg Popovich was announced as the next Coach of Team USA. I still wrote it, so Ive posted it here for prosterity sake.
The below is just one man’s thoughts on who should replace the legend that is Coach K. It’s an important time for US Basketball and it will be a key decision. They got it right with the appointment of Mike Krzyzewski, they need to get it right again.
The latest NBA GM survey confirmed what the majority of basketball fans already knew, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, the doyen of NBA coaches, is still its most highly rated. He’s the best in the business and the one whom others, perhaps a little bit jealously, look up to.
When it comes to instilling a winning attitude and team culture, Pops win/loss record speaks for itself. His real talent though? Well, that lies in his man management ability, empowering those around him to ‘get over themselves’ and work together for a common goal.
His reputation alone, now gets half the battle done. Pop as head coach, seemingly has it all in spades.
Should he be the next leader of Team USA though?
Ken Berger at CBS Sports has him as “the clear No 1 Choice”. I disagree.
Quite a few names are doing the rounds now that 68 year old veteran coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) has stated for the record he will bid adieu at the end of the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, Pop being one of them, John Calipari another. The Clippers Doc Rivers and even Dallas Maverick Rick Carlisle have had their names mentioned as potential candidates for the job.
Other questions raised are: Should it be an NBA head coach? Should it be a college coach? Do they even have to be coaching right now?
None of the guys mentioned above inspire any excitement in me at all.
One name that hasn’t been appearing on the go to list for replacements is Golden State’s own, Steve Kerr. Why is that? I find it hard to fathom that he isn’t even being mentioned as a possibility.
Of all the potential candidates, I can’t think of anyone else who ticks all the prerequisite boxes as Steve does.
Coach K says the next man up should have some previous international experience. Let’s take a look at what else they could be looking for in a replacement.
Steve was born in Beirut and while I know that doesn’t count as International experience, he didn’t have any NBA experience last year either. That didn’t have any negative effect on how the Warriors performed and it wouldn’t have any negative effect if he were coaching Team USA either.
While International Experience may be beneficial, it shouldn’t be a ‘must have’ either. I call this a moot point.
NBA Head Coaching Experience
Is it necessary? I find this one hard to acknowledge given the unbelievable job done by Mike without any NBA experience.
A brilliant coach is a brilliant coach no matter the league in my opinion.
Geno Auriemma is another name that should be mentioned but invariably won’t be because he coaches Womens College Basketball.
Trust amongst the next player Group
The way that Steve turned the Warrior player group around after team and fan favourite Mark Jackson was let go is his crowning achievement.
To get the boys on side in such a short space of time shows you he has that special quality only the best have. Bogut became an instant fan after Steve flew to Melbourne to meet him. Barnes was on board after the first meeting in Miami, Iggy took a seat after talking with Steve and so did Lee. The trust was built instantaneously.
You can tell it’s a first-class organization…You could just tell, from Day 1
Kerr is a major reason for that.
Glance at the names that could be on Team USA over the next decade, names like, Drummond, Cousins, Thompson, Barnes, Wall, Curry, Oladipo, Davis and Butler.
Steve Kerr is the perfect coach for them, composed at all times yet fiery in the heat of battle, loose and playful yet diligent when required, he can be serious yet fun at the same time.
There is a building aura to the man.
Ability to continue the Legacy and build upon it
This should be NUMBER 1 when looking at candidates.
There appears to be a transition period coming for Team USA, hence the exquisite timing of Coach K’s announcement.
It’s plainly obvious that Rio 2016 is the “last dance” as Phil Jackson would say for this group. When you go down the list of this all-time great USA squad, it’s clear a change is coming.
It’s probable that Carmelo, Wade, Lebron, Howard, Kobe, Gay, Love and Paul won’t be a part of the World Cup in 2019 or Summer Olympics in 2020.
A new team means a fresh start and that should rule Pop out. He is already 66 and would be 70 at the next games in 2020. He would realistically be in charge for an at most 4 year stretch, which is 1 Olympics campaign.
Is that long enough for the next regime to be in place? I don’t believe so.
It saddens me that Pop never got a shot at being the head man, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled. I’m positive he won’t lose any sleep over it.
Kerr on the other hand, has the credits in the bank of doing this very thing. He took over a 51 win team and made them exponentially better immediately.
Some words from the MVP:
“Coach came in and was very humble about how he was going to approach the job”
“He had a lot of talent to work with but he had some ideas he wanted to implement”
Humble, almost to a fault, while always respectful of the past. Kerr has enough intestinal fortitude to instil his own team style imprint and coaching philosophies. He’s proven that and it sounds a lot like what taking over Team USA would be like.
Can you picture the “ball movement and people movement system’ (as Al Gentry called it) being deployed by the high flying, ultra-skilled, athletic air force that is the next iteration of Team USA.
Steve Kerr was absolutely brilliant in his first year as Golden State Warrior head coach. We all know the challenges and we all know they were heartily conquered and put to bed very early in the piece. One lucky guy showed his coaching chops right from the start and the rest was history.
I have no doubt he would be able to continue the legacy and build upon it despite taking over from a legend and being in an International setting.
This may be the deciding factor in who takes over the next wave of team USA talent and continues the juggernaut.
It would be prudent to have someone who will be in charge for around a decade and at least 2 Olympic Games (2020 and 2024), with a similar handover to come after that. I’m not privy to Team USA’s thinking but that is what I would do if I was in charge.
Coach K is a spry and healthy 68 and Pop will be a cantankerous and moody 70 by 2020.
Steve has just turned 50 and I’m sure GSoM fan regular Parvenu believes like I do, that 50 is the new 30. Kerr could conceivably be in charge of Team USA until the games of 2028 before passing the baton to Brad Stevens or Chris Paul (if he becomes a coach) or whoever the next hotshot coach is around 2025.
Time Schedule (Is he willing to commit)
Time and more succinctly, time taken away from those you love. It may be the single thing that stops Steve from even putting his name in the hat.
It was a major factor in taking over Golden State rather than New York.
Aside from the gruelling 82 game schedule, there are another 20-25 games in the playoffs every year. Team USA meets every year for Camp and however short or casual they may be, there is a synchronicity to those camps now.
Would that change with a new voice? Will everyone need to commit more time to get to know each other? Obviously they will initially but I don’t think it would be that big a deal after the first camp.
Some important questions
Has anyone broached the subject with Steve while he’s been lying around on his back resting and recuperating? Nate? Sleepy?
Would he do it? Does he want to do it?
He’s seemingly in a very good place right now. Would family life, Warrior life and his own health dictate that the timing is not quite right and he can’t put in the required man hours to see it through just now?
These are all questions that need to be answered.
If this was a media vote and I had the credentials, Steve Kerr would get my vote. When I look at the potential candidates, there is only one man I can see as the leader of these men, one man who gets my juices flowing, one smiling charismatic sideline stalker; Steve Kerr.
The Twin Powers of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo and Coach K, have the final say and “the guy who got lucky” may just be in the right place at the right time once again.
I hope so