Jerry Colangelo has been in charge of getting USA men’s basketball back to the top of the podium. And he’s done his job.
Colangelo took over as general manager in 2005, and has since built the team back into a dominant force. The team has won two straight Olympic gold medals and is looking for a third this summer in Rio.
He said the team is looking to have its roster set by late June for the 2016 Olympics.
“We think we’re in great shape as it relates to all the preparation being done,” Colangelo said. “Part of our team of people with USA Basketball are in Rio this week looking at final preparations.”
Colangelo began his press conference at the Team USA Media Summit by setting the scene from when he took over.
When he began his tenure with USA Basketball, the men’s team hadn’t won a gold medal in a major competition since 2000.
“It was important to me [to join Team USA] because I was proud to be an American and was very unhappy about the status of USA Basketball,” Colangelo said. “And the competitor in me wanted to make a change.”
Colangelo hired Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski to coach the USA Team in one of his first moves. He thought Krzyzewski was the right guy to help him rebuild.
“We had to show respect to the basketball community in order to earn back what we had lost,” he said.
Krzyzewski will retire from USA Basketball after the 2016 games. Colangelo has named San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich as his replacement.
Krzyzewski will continue as Colangelo’s assistant.
The talent pool for Rio is deep, and Colangelo said it starts with the young players. He talked about analytics and referenced Duke’s 2015 national championship, in which the Blue Devils started three freshmen.
“We’re focusing USA Basketball on the youth of America,” Colangelo said. “… And make a difference with the youth.”
When asked about Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Colangelo said his issues off the court wouldn’t affect his chances.
The team has international friendly games in cities like Chicago and Houston later this summer before it departs for Rio.
“I think all of our people understand one thing. We represent the United States of America when we’re competing,” Colangelo said. “And we don’t take that lightly.”
That family atmosphere of USA Basketball was on display in support for Monty Williams following the recent death of his wife. Colangelo doesn’t know Williams’ plan for the Olympics, but said “they’ll be fine either way.”
Colangelo also said Team USA is very supportive of 3-on-3 basketball, and would love to see it at the Olympic level.
Team USA will look to carry its new culture to another gold medal at the 2016 games in Rio.
“The players are in a different mode, and it’s not like their relationships with their respective NBA teams,” Colangelo said. “It’s different. They’re different. And it’s all positive.”