Jerry Colangelo doesn’t know who the coach will be and is still holding out hope it will be Mike Krzyzewski. But some of the players are coming together who could represent Team USA at the World Cup next year in Spain.
Colangelo, chairman of USA Basketball, said Tuesday by phone that Golden State Warriors forward David Lee, a former University of Florida star, approached him at All-Star Weekend earlier this month in Houston to indicate his desire to play for Team USA. And Colangelo is intrigued.
“He’s had a heck of a year,’’ Colangelo said. “He’s been healthy. He’s been with us before but he had injuries.’’
Lee was in Team USA’s training camp in the summer of 2010 in preparation for the last World Cup, which was then known as the World Championships. Lee was considered to have a good chance to make the team, which eventually won gold in Turkey. But he had to drop out due to a finger injury.
Colangelo said Lee’s Warriors teammate, guard Stephen Curry, also expressed to him in Houston his interest in playing in Spain. Curry, who was on the 2010 team, had talked to FOX Sports Florida last December about wanting again to play.
Colangelo also said Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, who was part of the 2010 team and the 2012 Olympic gold-medalists in London, “wants to play.’’ Colangelo wouldn’t say for sure that Love, who is out with a hand injury but hopes to return late in the season, could be a part of the team in Spain. But Colangelo said Love has said he “wants to be a part of USA Basketball as long as he can.’’
Colangelo said nothing is definite yet as far as Lee being among 20 to 24 players who will be in Las Vegas for a July 24-28 USA Basketball camp, and that the only two players he seems pretty sure on for that list are Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving. However, Colangelo certainly likes Lee, who is averaging 19.2 points and 11.0 rebounds and just made his second All-Star Game.
Who will coach Team USA at the World Cup and at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro remains unclear. Even though Krzyzewski has said he will be stepping down, Colangelo is holding out hope the Duke coach might stick around.
In an interview Tuesday on ESPN Radio, Krzyzewksi reiterated he wouldn’t return after having won Olympic golds in 2008 and 2012, the Worlds gold in 2010 and a Worlds bronze in 2006. He said, “My stance hasn’t changed. I’ve loved, loved, loved, and it’s been an honor being with the USA Basketball team. And to coach the team and work with Jerry these seven years have been marvelous.’’
But Colangelo won’t consider anything official until he talks with Krzyzewski.
“We haven’t had a conversation,’’ Colangelo said. “All I’ve heard (about Krzyzewski saying he won’t return) is second hand… Until he and I have a final meeting after this season, then I’ll know one way or another. I always have a Plan B or Plan C in place.’’
Colangelo said he might talk with Krzyzewski before the season ends, but the meeting afterward will be the “official’’ one.
If Krzyzewski really does step down, the top candidates to replace him are San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Miami Heat star LeBron James, who has been on all of Krzyzewski’s USA Basketball teams, last year endorsed Popovich as a possible Krzyzewski replacement, telling FOX Sports Florida, “Absolutely, He knows the game. He knows the players. And he’s coached enough stars at San Antonio… Coach Popovich would be a great candidate. His resume speaks for itself.’’
For now, Colangelo and USA Basketball officials are concentrating on which players to invite to the Las Vegas camp. He said there will be meetings this week.
The 2010 Worlds team was comprised of younger NBA stars after none of the members of the 2008 Olympic team opted to play. While Colangelo said the 2014 team also will include many young players, he said didn’t rule out some 2012 Olympians participating. He said some already have expressed interest, although he didn’t want to elaborate.