USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo called it an “exciting time” for the men’s national team, which may be an understatement.
Sporting an 88-1 record under Colangelo’s leadership that began in 2005, including three Olympic gold medals, it promises to be a thrilling Olympic cycle for the 2018-20 USA Men’s National Team. And the players who will be making those thrilling moments are now known, as the 35-player roster was released by USA Basketball on Friday.
“I don’t think there’s any substitute for experience,” Colangelo said. “Just looking at this roster, just looking at how many of these people are gold medalists (11 from Rio alone) … they’re not novices in international play and that’s a leg up, no question about it.”
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich echoed those sentiments about the players he will lead into the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Popovich is no stranger to the Games, having been an assistant on the U.S. team that won bronze in 2004, but this will be his first time at the helm since taking over the national team job from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in 2015.
Popovich acknowledged he had “big shoes to fill,” but is excited for the challenge.
“This is quite an honor and humbling experience to be involved with USA Basketball and this group of players,” Popovich said. “… In all honesty, from the time Jerry decided they wanted to go this route, it’s been on my mind as far as preparation is concerned. I’m sure as we meet this summer (for national team minicamp in Las Vegas), it will become more and more.”
After training camp in July, the first major international competition up for the U.S. is the 2019 FIBA World Cup of Basketball in China. The U.S. is a two-time defending world champion and has not lost a game at the World Cup since 2006.
The players, and their coach, will be ready to go.
“It’s quite an idea or thought when you think about being on the court with all these players,” Popovich said. “That’s quite a brotherhood, there’s a lot of talent there, these guys have friendships, they enjoy getting together. The culture has been established already.”