USA Basketball made big headlines when they announced that Gregg Popovich would be taking over as men’s senior national team head coach from 2017 to 2020. But plenty of questions remain unresolved as to who will actually coach the USA team during that period.
The San Antonio Spurs head coach, who served as a USA assistant from 2002-2004, will coach the USA National Team over the course of the 2017-20 quadrennium, which could possibly include all USA Men’s National Team training camps, and if the USA qualifies, the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China and the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo – read the USA Basketball announcement.
“I’m extremely humbled and honored to have the opportunity to represent our country as the coach of the USA National Team,” Popovich said.
“I will do my utmost to maintain the high standards of success, class and character established by (USA Basketball chairman) Jerry (Colangelo), Coach K and the many players who have sacrificed their time on behalf of USA Basketball.”
But how much exactly will “Pops” be coaching the Americans when he takes the reins from current boss Mike Krzyzewski following the Rio 2016 Olympics?
This past summer Popovich said he plans to coach out the remaining four seasons of the contract extension he signed with the Spurs in 2014. That means he will be unavailable for most of the United States qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which start in 2017.
To be exact, the FIBA windows are set for November 20-28, 2017; February 19-27, 2018; June 26-July 3, 2018; September 17-25, 2018; November 26-December 4, 2018; and February 18-26, 2019.
The 2015 NBA Finals ended on June 16, a day later than the 2014 NBA Finals concluded. The 2013 NBA Finals finished on June 20 after the 2012 NBA Finals were decided on June 21 and the 2010-11 NBA champion was crowned on June 12.
With the Spurs a perennial contender for the title, Popovich would regularly hope he coaches until at least into the third week of June, making it a tight fit for him to be available for the June-July window. That would leave “Pops” only available for the September opening, missing out on the late November/early December and February windows as well.
It’s clear that NBA players will not be available for FIBA games during the NBA season. So while USA Basketball tries to determine what it will do about players for the qualifiers – from the D-League? Americans abroad? – Colangelo and Co. will also have to come up with an answer to the unresolved coaching situation.
Even up in the air is the 2017 FIBA Americas Cup, which is scheduled for August 25-September 3, 2017 since there was no mention of that tournament in the announcement.