Fanatics - Customized NFL Gear

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"K it Ain't So, Hub?"

(Photo by T. Peter Lyons)

News "Iteam": USA Basketball Names Coach Mike Krzyzewski as the head coach of the 2009-2010-2011-2012 USA Basketball Senior Men's National Team.

TL's quick forward to the column.... "In September of 2004, immediately after the United States Men's Olympics Team "settled for" the bronze medal in the Athens Summer Games, the NBA had a serious decision to make.

There were two paths ahead. Either meet with the USA Basketball hierarchy and encourage them to return to the ways of 'pre-'92' and field teams for the World Championship and Olympics in the same manner that we currently field teams for the likes of the Pan Am Games, the World University Games, the Junior World Championship, etc. or to meet with USA Basketball and say "We've got to change the way we do this and turn the program over to one person and allow that person total autonomy in doing what he/she feels is in the best interest of one goal: Winning the Gold.

Well, the NBA and USA Basketball took the latter approach and on April 27, 2005 named Jerry Colangelo to a then-newly created role of Managing Director of USA Basketball's Senior Men's team.

On that day, Colangelo said the following: “I take on this responsibility with a great deal of commitment and passion,” Colangelo said. “My intent is to restore USA Basketball’s role in international basketball and the status we once enjoyed. With the increased international competition that exists, this will be a major challenge for us as we prepare for 2008 and the Olympics.”

That was the first day of the new program, one that would go on to take a bronze in Japan in 2006 but would win the gold in Beijing in 2008. The USA would have its "redeem team" a few years after the same moniker was hung on the 2004 team by the writer I highlight here today, Mr Jan Hubbard.

Instead of providing my opinion on Mr. Hubbard's work, I am going to post it and then post my comments after the story he wrote and published in the Ft. Worth Star today. Read on:

(The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star Telegram Headline for this story - which reads, "Coach K Gets the Nod, NBA Coaches Get the Shaft," was very inflammatory...and I Chose not to repeat it in my headline. I do make note of the fact it was above the Jan Hubbard-written opinion column in the Ft. Worth, Texas paper.)

By Jan Hubbard

The coronation became official Tuesday night when Mike Krzyzewski, the supposed "savior" of USA Basketball, agreed to a second term as Olympic coach.

Not to be ornery here, but the way I see it, Kobe Bryant was actually the savior when the United States won the gold medal in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics. Krzyzewski’s debut in international play featured this semifinal result in the 2006 World Championships:

Greece 101, USA 95.

Two days later, this was the result of the gold medal game:

Spain 70, Greece 47.

Didn’t say much for Coach K’s defense. Spain allowed 54 fewer points than the United States, and it should be remembered that Pau Gasol sat out that game with a foot injury.

Bryant was not on that 2006 team. When he arrived at the Tournament of the Americas in 2007, it made a monstrous difference. The U.S. had a player who approached defense with the attitude of Joey Chestnut eyeing a plate of hot dogs.

Jason Kidd, who also did not play in 2006, helped direct the 2008 team and players such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul were two years older. All that helped.

But Bryant was the leader on the court, clearly the best player in the world. He still is.

Although I don’t blame Krzyzewski for taking a second term as the senior men’s team coach, I do believe some great coaches who have been nothing but loyal to David Stern and the NBA have been insulted.

Utah’s Jerry Sloan has been the poster child for consistency. He’s the longest-tenured NBA coach with 21 seasons. He’s won 1,137 games. He’s coached teams to 50 or more victories 12 times. He’s made two appearances in the Finals, losing only to Michael Jordan. And he’s paid his dues by being an Olympic assistant coach for USA Basketball.

Krzyzewski has been at Duke 29 years and has won three national championships — the last in 2001.

But Gregg Popovich has coached the Spurs for 13 seasons and has won four NBA titles since 1999. USA Basketball puts a large premium on coaches participating in their programs and, like Sloan, Popovich also has served as an Olympic assistant.

Sloan is 67 and Popovich is 60. In 2016 — the first chance either will get to coach an Olympic team — Sloan will be 74 and Popovich will be 67. It is doubtful that either will be considered.

"My judgment was we’ve got the right team together," USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said. "[Krzyzewski] has earned the opportunity to do it again if he chose to do it again, and there were outstanding people available if he chose not to."

Krzyzewski certainly deserves credit for directing Team USA to the 2008 gold medal — just as he deserves criticism for the 2006 failure.

But since NBA players began representing USA Basketball in 1992, there has not been one second when they were on the floor against a team with superior talent. Not one second. In short, Krzyzewski and Team USA did exactly what they were supposed to do in 2008.

The embarrassments of 2006, 2004 and 2002 were a result of bad coaching, bad playing and bad player selection. Whoever decided to put Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson and Larry Brown together in 2004 has obviously gone into hiding and is referred to in USA Basketball circles as "He Who Shall Not Be Named."

The 2002 team had plenty of talent but a cavalier attitude that proved to be fatal at the World Championships, with losses to Argentina, Yugoslavia and Spain.

This is no attempt to diminish Krzyzewski, but a lot of coaches could do what he has done. He also coached the 1990 World Championship team, and that group did not win the gold medal.

In the history of U.S. play in the Olympics and World Championships, only two coaches have lost twice — Hal Fischer in the 1967 and 1970 World Championships and Mike Krzyzewski in 1990 and 2006 — and the latter time with pros.

It seems odd that with David Stern the de facto boss of the U.S. Olympic effort and Colangelo, who’s been involved with the NBA for more than 40 years, as the managing director of the senior national team, someone from the college ranks gets to coach in two Olympics.

Krzyzewski has resisted overtures to coach NBA teams in the past, and in terms of international play, that was a good choice.

Because as Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich can attest, if Krzyzewski were in the NBA, that would almost certainly mean that he would have no support from the most influential people in the NBA as the Olympic coach.

TL Opinion: On this story, Mr Hubbard shot a complete air-ball. First and foremost, he made one of the biggest mistakes in journalism, he did not let the truth get in the way of a pre-conceived notion that is 100% false. That faux pas, for Hubbard, is a very rare mistake.

Unfortunately, I believe he made the mistake because of the fact that on August 1, '04 -- the same day the United States Men's Olympic Team landed in Cologne, Germany on its training trip in advance of the Athens Olympics -- Hubbard was writing for the Dallas Morning News and awoke in his native Texas rather than waking up in Jacksonville, Florida.

On July 31, 2004 - the United States Men's team lost any chance of winning the gold medal. That major development occurred in Florida, not Athens. However, Hubbard was not covering the game that day, he was writing a story about professional lacrosse which appeared on the pages of the Morning News on August 1, 2004.

On that lovely July 31st Sunday back in 2004, assistant coach Gregg Popovich and head coach Larry Brown lost their team when they chose to bench Allen Iverson, Lebron James and Amare Stoudemire for their tardiness (by five minutes) for a team meeting before the USA vs. Puerto Rico friendly, won by the USA 96-71

That day, everyone involved in USA Basketball knew the model was broken. There was absolutely no continuity, no state of stability between the selection of players and the coaching of those players within the USA men's program. Coach Brown, trying to do his best I stress, did not "like" the very players he was dealt and he made it clear from the 'git go." Coach Brown and Coach Popovich fell into the trap. They circled their own wagons and alienated their team. Coach Brown was preparing for disaster and fueling it at the same time. Coach Pop bought the fuel.

In his article above, Hubbard makes reference to the selection, but he errs mightily when he tagged Coach K with a "savior" tag. That distinction should be hung solidly on the chest of one JERRY COLANGELO. Yes, it was Colangelo who took the keys to the car and made one thing clear in 2005-2006-2007-2008. Colangelo had total authority to name the coaches and players and he would not rely on the prior politics between USA Basketball constituents like the NBA, the NCAA and the various and numerous committees and boards when it came time to name his coaching staff and his team.

So, when faced with the challenge of defending the USA's 2008 Olympic gold medal for the next "three+ years," Colangelo again proved his mettle and evoked his authority when he named Mike Krzyzewski, Mike D'Antoni, Jim Boeheim and Nate McMillan to repeat as the national team coaches. In TL's humble opinion, that move is TREMENDOUS.

Now, I love coach Sloan like a brother and I think the world of his Hall of Fame coaching abilities, but the fact of the matter is -- Coach Sloan was not named the Olympic team coach in 1998-2000 and he was not chosen because of the fact Rudy Tomjanovich coached the Houston Rockets to an NBA title and he was pegged to lead the 1998 World Championship team.

I also respect Coach Popovich and believe he deserves a chance to 'redeem' himself and his shortcomings as an assistant coach in 2002 and 2004 in Indianapolis and Athens, respectively. I honestly hope he gets a chance to take a USA team into competition someday, but with Pop's massive ego, I doubt he would agree.

So, my conclusion is this: Time marches on. The USA men's program is run by Jerry Colangelo. Period. Colangelo faced a lot of pressure and he also faced the music when the USA team lost to Greece in 2006 at Saitama, Japan. After that game, Colangelo and Coach K met the media with a huge task ahead of them. After the loss, they recoiled and adjusted the USA roster to increase the national team's size and strength in the backcourt. That was easily done by adding the best player in the world (Kobe Bryant) and the most experienced and strongest leader among NBA point guards (Jason Kidd).

Note: Kobe was scheduled to be on the 2006 team but had minor surgery on his right knee as the team was about to begin training camp and could not commit to the long and grueling schedule in advance of the '06 Worlds

See the boxscore:

And the game story:

No comments: