Back at the start of February, Mike Krzyzewski missed a Duke game (vs. Georgia Tech) as he spent a couple of days in the cardiac wing of a North Carolina hospital. He’s been on the bench ever since, and Duke played the incident down, so it hasn’t drawn much discussion.
However, that had USA Basketball’s decision maker Jerry Colangelo considering potential Plan B options for this summer’s Rio Olympics.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, who admits he is concerned about the health of Mike Krzyzewski, said he has privately been considering replacements in case Krzyzewski is unable to coach the United States in the Olympics in August, telling NBA TV, “Certainly in the back of my mind I’m thinking about what ifs.”
Stressing it is too early to be thinking seriously about implementing a backup plan for the Rio de Janeiro Games, Colangelo conceded he has been formulating ideas. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has already been announced as Krzyzewski’s successor with Team USA, but it is unknown whether Colangelo would ask Popovich to start this summer or choose from among the current Team USA staff of Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau or Thunder assistant Monty Williams.
“I’m always concerned about people I love, and I love Coach K,” Colangelo told NBA TV. “You’ve heard my expression, ‘We’re joined at the hip and have been ever since we joined together back in ’05.’ I am concerned about his health. I told him on the phone (recently) nothing is more important than his health. Not Duke basketball. Not USA Basketball. I hope and I pray that he can take care of his situations, whatever they may be, and that he’s healthy and ready to go.”
This may be a moot exercise. You can be sure Krzyzewski wants to coach another Olympics and if he is able, he will. Colangelo isn’t going to force him aside, this would need to be Krzyzewski’s call.
However, it’s not out of the question. And a smart chairman is prepared for the alternatives.
Popovich makes the most sense from where I sit; he could step in with that same group of assistants and do the job well. However, NBA players also respect Thibodeau and would gladly play for him in Rio as well; the question is will he have another NBA job to focus on this summer.
Frankly, either Williams or Boeheim could lead this team to gold. The USA will be heavy favorites in Rio, regardless of the makeup of the team. While Spain has had the talent and cohesion to challenge the United States the past couple of Olympics, the age of Pau Gasol and much of Spain’s core (outside Ricky Rubio and Serge Ibaka), and injuries to Marc Gasol, suggest Spain has taken a step back. There are good teams around the world, but the USA would need to beat themselves in Rio.