Who’s the next Olympic basketball coach?
Mike Krzyzewski has hinted that’s he’s done, and, if that’s the case, the first two-time gold-medal winning coach since Henry Iba will be remembered as the leader who got U.S. basketball back on track.
Dominating on the world’s stage is impossible because of the game’s international popularity, so it’s a just win, baby, approach. Even with LeBron, Kobe and K.D. on your roster. Coach K did that. Twice.
Plenty of successor possibilities will surface. From the NBA ranks, Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra are prominently mentioned.
But if the choice comes from the college ranks, why not Bill Self?
The Kansas coach is one of the game’s greats with a national championship and eight straight conference titles to his credit. He’s 49, so age isn’t an issue. His personality should allow him to command respect from an NBA all-star team – perhaps Krzyzewski’s greatest gift as the national team coach since 2005.
Self briefly addressed the topic recently before the Jayhawks headed to Europe for exhibition games, and he wondered how recruiting could be maintained during the time required of national team coaches. But in the Olympics, the timing works better for a college rather than a pro coach.
He’s active in USA Basketball as a member of the competition committee, but three of the last four Olympic head coaches – Krzyzewski, Larry Brown and Lenny Wilkens – had served on Olympic staffs. Self has not.
But, hey, Kansas was the school that pushed basketball into the Olympics in the first place. Phog Allen, armed with information provided to fellow KU staffer James Naismith about the growth of the game internationally, convinced American officials that basketball was worth pursuing as an Olympic sport.
The Kansas influence in the Olympics has been strong, especially early on, when half of the the 1952 gold-medal winning team were Jayhawks. Former KU players or coaches have won medals in seven Olympics, including this one when Sasha Kaun won a bronze for Russia.
Just about every role in the Olympics -- player, assistant coach, trainer, manager – has been filled, except head coach. Maybe that will be Self.