I, along with many other basketball fans across the country I’m sure, was more than ecstatic to hear the announcement yesterday that Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski would be returning to lead the 2016 version of the United States Olympic men’s basketball team.
With whispers that he may not be returning, it was a relief to realize that he would once again return to lead our hoops squad in pursuit of a third consecutive gold medal.
Since taking over the country’s team in 2005, Coach K has turned US Basketball into the dominant force that it once was. Those two gold medals came from him instilling discipline, hard work, and most importantly, introducing a team aspect back to the international squad.
Now, while it is exciting that Coach K is back in the fold for one more go-around, we also need to remember that 2016 will probably be his last. Or, I’d at least make a safe bet that it is. The search for his replacement will be highly newsworthy as well as exhausting on the US Basketball Committee, especially if the team were to secure a third consecutive gold medal in 2016.
These two young, up-and-coming head coaches have made names for themselves recently by taking their respective lesser-known programs and leading them into the national spotlight.
At Butler, Stevens has guided the Bulldogs from the basketball-crazed state of Indiana to two consecutive national championship appearances recently, coming dangerously close to capturing the crown against Krzyzewski’s Duke squad in 2010.
Smart, at VCU, has recently led that team to one Final Four appearance, as well as a subsequent NCAA Tournament appearance last season.
Both have recently shunned offers from big name programs, choosing to stay at their respective institutions to continue to build upon the strong foundations they’ve created. That is exactly why, should Coach K in fact step down after 2016, one of these men should be heavily considered to fill the void.
Stevens and Smart both promote a version of teamwork that is rarely seen in any sport today, much less just the game of basketball. That’s how these two have built what they have at Butler and VCU. Their teams run solely off of teamwork and fluidity. Those are two of the same attributes that Coach K instilled into his star-studded USA Basketball rosters.
Should both of these men stay on the track that they seem to be headed in at their schools, it would be simply ludicrous not to bring their names up among the other number of candidates that will be mentioned. Let me also remind you that they are on the same track, more or less, as the man they would be replacing. Duke was not nearly as hot of a program before Coach K as they were afterwards leading into today.
So, I have to ask. Should it come down to these two men some day down the road, who would you choose to lead our USA squad?