Radical Changes in Store for USA Olympic Basketball

Radical changes in store for USA men’s hoops (AP – ESPN)

Jerry Colangelo has been given total control of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball program and has promised radical changes in an effort to restore the United States to international prominence in the sport. The system of a handful of NBA stars gathering for a few weeks before the competition will be abandoned, said Colangelo, the chairman and CEO of the Phoenix Suns who has been involved in basketball for 50 years, 39 of them in the professional ranks. “It’s going to be drastically different,” Colangelo said Wednesday at a news conference, “and I say that because you know stars do not necessarily make a great team.”

The 10-member committee that selected the teams has been disbanded, and Colangelo alone will name the players and coaches. He said he wants them to commit to the team for two years leading up to the 2006 world championships and 2008 Beijing Olympics. “The international game is a lot different game than people truly recognize,” Colangelo said. “It’s more than just the trapezoid lane compared to our line. It’s a different game. As you prepare a team, you need players who can shoot the ball, pass the ball, understand the game, as much as you need players who are just athletic.”

The president of USA Basketball, Val Ackerman, said that the organization felt significant changes in the structure of its senior men’s team were necessary after it finished sixth at the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis, then won only the bronze medal at the Athens Olympics. Before Athens, the United States had won every Olympic basketball gold medal since the NBA “Dream Team” of Barcelona in 1992.

Wow. Who’d have thought when the “Dream Team” was assembled in 1992 that we’d have to blow up our entire Olympic basketball program and start over?

While it’s clear that simply slapping together a team of second tier NBA all-stars who didn’t either decide to sit out the Games or play for their home country is no longer going to be enough to get it done, this new system may be going a bit far. Putting the team under the direction of one man, especially one not particularly associated with the U.S. Olympic team, seems to put the final nail in the spirit of the Games. Indeed, having players indentured to the national team for four years strikes me as eerily similar to the system that so many of us derided when done by the Communist states during the Cold War.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ugh says:

    If we had the 1992 team today, they’d still whip everybody’s ass; they were as fundamentally sound as any team in history, happy to pass the ball around, and, if needed, Michael would just beat the other team by himself.

    Ah, the good old days of the NBA.