Grant Hill took over as the man in charge of USA Basketball just after the Tokyo Olympics, but there is no easing into the new job.
Thanks to the Olympics getting pushed back to 2021, we are only two years out from the next World Cup, and the first qualifying games are November 22-30 — of this year.
“It is fast, in two years we will be playing in the World Cup championships in Indonesia,” Hill told NBC Sports this week, tied to outreach he is doing to help educate men about prostate cancer through StartStrong.us. “There’s a coaching staff that has to be assembled, and eventually a roster down the road, so you don’t have that normal lead up and preparation time like you would every four years.”
Steve Kerr will reportedly lead that coaching staff (Hill spoke to NBC Sports before that report, and he would not discuss names). The Warriors’ coach was an assistant to Gregg Popovich in Tokyo and fits the mold of what Hill said he is looking for in the next USA Men’s coach.
“Someone players respect, someone who understands the international game, understands how to manage personalities, who obviously has a basketball acumen in terms of coaching,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of hats to wear for that particular person…
“There’s a number of worthy and capable coaches who are out there, who I imagine are interested in it too. But it’s tricky. You want to find the right personalities, the right balances of experiences on your staff, and find that right leader who you believe in and who can take this program and continue to have that kind of success that we’ve had…
“And someone who understands the international game, and who understands there is a big difference between the NBA game and the international game. There are some people out there I’m working on that, I hope in the next couple of months or so, we can at least have a coach and a staff announced.”
It may happen sooner than that; Hill previously said he hoped to get a new coach named by the start of the season. Hill wants to get a staff in place, then find the coach and G-League players who will have to represent the USA at World Cup qualifying, since NBA players will not be in the middle of their season and unable to play. That is what happened with the last World Cup, when Jeff Van Gundy led a collection of G-Leaguers to qualify the USA.
Hill takes over a role where there is real work to be done and ridiculously high expectations for the team.
“It’s not a ceremonial position by any stretch of the imagination,” Hill said.
That said, Hill knows what he was getting into. Hill has a gold medal as a player for Team USA from the 1996 Olympics, and played for the USA in tournaments below the senior national team as he was coming up as a player. Hill is also not a guy stuck in the past.
“I think I have a unique perspective as well, I was a former player,” Hill said. “I played in the Olympics in ’96 in Atlanta on that gold medal team. Obviously, my role as Vice Chairman, in ownership of the Atlanta Hawks. Broadcaster of the game. I think my perspective and set of experiences will help me as we moved forward.
“Since I retired in 2013, like everything in life, the league has changed. Players today are different, they’ve had a different set of experiences, and so understanding that and applying that as we move forward, and in some areas figuring out how we can enhance the experience and give us the best chance for success, these are the things I am all over and am excited about.”
The job of leading the USA Basketball men’s team is a challenge Hill is genuinely excited about.
He just doesn’t get to ease into the job.