Mike Krzyzewski said he planned to step down as Team USA coach after the 2012 Olympics. He even added that he was certain.
But the Duke coach had a change of heart and returned for the 2016 Games.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo figured that would be Krzyzewski’s last ride.
Krzyzewski says that’s correct.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN that the 2016 Olympics will be his last coaching the United States men’s basketball national team, and that a succession plan to replace him will be announced in the coming year before the Games in Rio de Janeiro next summer.
“It is. It definitely is,” Krzyzewski told ESPN about this being his last stint as head coach with USA Basketball. “I think it’s time to move ahead. During the next season there will be a number of decisions made about the future of USA Basketball with Rio [the roster] and coaching.
“There has to be a succession … a planned succession with really good people so we can keep the continuity of the program going.”
It says a lot about Krzyzewski’s stature in the program that Team USA can name his successor before Rio. It’s not as if the new coach must begin the next day.
Knowing the identity of the next coach could cause friction, giving players an opportunity to gripe that the successor wouldn’t operate a certain way. But these players seem to support Coach K so much. I’m not worried about the politics.
Krzyzewski has a chance to win his third Olympic gold medal, and the Americans are heavy favorites. The biggest challenge might be sorting through all their talent to pick a 12-man team.
As for his successor, my top guess is Gregg Popovich, who served in the Air Force and is widely respected as the NBA’s best coach. The Spurs coach could get his feet wet with the 2019 World Cup in China and be ready for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Unless Krzyzewski changes his mind again, but I wouldn’t count on that.