By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
News has come down over the past couple of days that Coach Mike Krzyzewski will step down from his position as head coach of Team USA following the 2016 Olympic Games. Krzyzewski has presided over a remarkable run of dominance in his time as head coach of Team USA. Since being named to the position in 2005, he has compiled a 52-1 record in FIBA or FIBA Americas competition and won gold medals in the 2012 and 2008 Olympics along with the 2014 FIBA World Cup, 2010 FIBA World Championship, and 2007 FIBA Americas Championship.
No question Coach K has been a steadying hand for the national team and has done well dealing with the large egos of the superstars put under his command. In looking to the future, it seems that Coach K has a succession plan in place, but it hasn’t been announced yet which leaves room for us to speculate. Here are 5 candidates that could be ideal fits for the position.
Gregg Popovich, Head Coach San Antonio Spurs- Pop seems like an obvious choice here. That’s because he is. Try and name another head coach that is almost universally respected amongst players in the NBA. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Popovich has become the master of managing minutes and egos in running the smoothly operating San Antonio machine for the last nearly 20 years. Plus, he’s shown a willingness to adapt to the way the game of basketball has evolved to more of a pace and space style which in essence is what the Spurs run. The main question you have with Pop is his age. It was rumored he was thinking about retirement prior to this season, so how many more years does he have left?
Sean Miller, Head Coach, University of Arizona- Miller is currently the head coach for the U-19 USA Basketball team in addition to his post at Arizona. He’s working with players who are a part of the next generation of USA Basketball and names that college basketball fans will soon become familiar with. Having been a part of the structure of USA Basketball already, coaching some of the younger stars, the only question would be the level of respect he commands among the big pro names.
Billy Donovan, Head Coach, Oklahoma City Thunder- Donovan, similarly to Miller, already has experience working in the Team USA culture having worked with the U-18 team as the head coach. He coached at Florida for 18 years and now will be working with two of the brightest stars on Team USA in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as he takes over the reins of the Thunder. Donovan’s age (50) could set him up for a long run similar to Coach K’s decade at the helm.
Brad Stevens, Head Coach, Boston Celtics- Stevens has been a rising star in the coaching ranks since his first season at Butler in 2007-08. At age 38, he seems like a far off choice, especially considering he has just 8 years in the coaching ranks. However, every player you talk to that has played for Stevens has nothing but the utmost respect for him as a coach. People that know him say he’s a brilliant basketball mind, and he’s shown that in his two years in Boston, taking the team from 25 wins in year one to 40 last year and a playoff spot. If there’s a downside, it would be his youth and relative inexperience.
John Calipari, Head Coach, University of Kentucky- I know, I know. If you’re not a Kentucky basketball fan you probably hate him. He is already the coach of the Puerto Rico national team, but I’m sure he would be able to give up that obligation if given the chance to head man the USA national team. Calipari has shown tremendous ability to deal with high profile recruits and get them all to buy in and that would seem to be a key skill when dealing with the superstars of Team USA.
We’ll find out in the next year what the succession plan is, but I’d feel comfortable with any of these five guys taking over the reins.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him.