Thursday, Aug. 21 at 11 a.m. ET

Olympics: Putting Together the U.S. Men's Basketball Team

Jerry Colangelo
National Director, USA Basketball
Thursday, August 21, 2008; 11:00 AM

Live from Beijing, Jerry Colangelo was online Thursday, Aug. 21 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about international basketball, how he assembled the Olympic Men's Basketball Team and his thoughts on the team's play so far.

A transcript follows.


Jerry Colangelo: This is a very exciting time for us, as this week winds down. We're less than 72 hours from hopefully finishing the job. We have 2 games, a critical one tomorrow night against a very good argentina team, and we're prepared and I think we'll perform well, and hopefully we can accomplish our goal.


Alexandria, Va.: Given Tim Duncan's foul problems in 2004, and that the lack of much low-post depth and height hasn't affected this team (yet), is it fair to say the international game isn't really suited to the traditional dump-it-in type big guy anymore? At least for the U.S. Team, which depends on defensive pressure and transition baskets. In other words, is Greg Oden able to make plans for his next few summers, or should he keep them open?

Jerry Colangelo: Ha! In 2010, the trapezoid lane in international play will become the standard rectangular lane, so I can see international basketball getting closer to our rules. There has been a dearth of big men as we all know, but one thing is certain -- with athleticism and versatility, you can compete internationally, because the big men play on the outside, they're not post-up centers.


Washington, DC: Do you see a possible run of players to Europe actually helping USA Basketball? I know that in soccer, the guys based in foreign leagues are anxious to come play for their teams. Is it realistic to think that USA Basketball is separate enough from the NBA that a European-based player would make the team?

Jerry Colangelo: Well it's always a possibility, I don't think it's practical to assume that. The players that are going to be attracted to this new marketplace will be limited; there are only so many teams with the cash to attract these players, and the system in international basketball is very limited. I believe this will be short-lived.


2012: Hi Jerry -- how has the performance of this year's team affected your thoughts about the 2012 team? And will you still be running USAB for the 2012 games?

Jerry Colangelo: Well, I've been deluged by the media here in Beijing regarding the plans beyond '08. I've put off all that until after this weekend, because I think it's only fair that after three years of hard work that we only keep our attention on trying to finish the job this week and win a gold medal. There will be plenty of time to address 2012, suffice to say I think the infrastructure is in place and USA Basketball has a bright future.


New York: Obviously the team is doing great, and I don't know if you can name name's, but are there any players who you would have chosen if they had been available and interested? Kevin Garnett obviously comes to mind, but anybody else?

Jerry Colangelo: Well, Garnett was a player we had a great deal of interest in because of his size, versatility and talent. But he felt it was some of the younger players time to represent their country, and he's put in his years. But we were very fortunate we had such a great response to the program, and I think it will get stronger and stronger as we go forward.


DC: Hi Jerry, thanks for staying up late with us. I have two questions:

1. Were the players instructed to keep the woofing and posing in check this year?

2. Were they also told not to make any political statements about China?

Jerry Colangelo: Well, first, they were not told to keep a muzzle on or restrict their comments. If they were, in their hearts, wanting to make comments on political issues, they were free to do so. But we're here to do a job and we want to conduct ourselves on the court and off in the right way, and believe that will make as much of an impact on what people think of us as anything we might say. I believe that when the games are over, the media's interest in what these great athletes might say will wane, but it's the flavor of the moment.


Lyme, Conn.: How does one keep professionals as hungry for winning a gold as amateurs are?

Jerry Colangelo: Well, I think there's a gray area between professional and amateur, at least in the international athletics. So many athletes go pro so early now, in tennis, golf, basketball. If players buy into a vision, share a passion, get with the program over a period of time, and this is where continuity is important, there's an attitude that's created and perpetuates itself, and that's what we have here with this current team.


Washington, D.C.: Does the success of the 2008 team cast the 2004 team in even more of a negative light? If anything, the 2004 team might have had more talent, but it seems to have lacked the desire and defensive intensity of the current team.

Jerry Colangelo: Well, it didn't have more talent. This is conceivably the most talented team to ever where a USA uniform, and I know that will raise the question about the Dream Team, and I think it would be interesting to see how they would fair against each other. This is a much younger and more athletic team than the Dream Team, which featured a group of more veteran great players.

Hopefully, comparisons is not what this is all about. The reality is that '04 left a sour taste in everyone's mouth, but a lot of it had to do with how they were perceived both on and off the court, their body language, a whole bunch of things that caused the powers that be to ask me to take on the program. We've tried to change the culture, put in an infrastructure, get a commitment from players and coaches. Argentina has had players that have played together for 10 or more years, and that's what wins basketball games, because it's the ultimate team game. Teams like that can beat an all-star team on any given night.


Washington, DC: First of all, thank you for taking the politics out of the selection. No longer the 12 biggest names, but the 12 guys best suited to win! Athletic, willing defenders, who can all handle the ball and can defend bigger and stronger players. Hopefully whoever takes over next rememebers the style of play that this team has and replicates it.

Jerry Colangelo: Well, I think the emphasis on defense, which negates poor shooting nights or a lack of size, can carry you through bad stretches from time to time. I think basketball is a sport where success is replicated on all levels. I think what we're playing is a very exciting style of basketball, pushing the ball up the court, getting a lot of transition baskets, opportunity baskets, we've been very active defensively causing turnovers, and I think you'll see more of that going forward.

And do these players enjoy a team concept more than the one-on-one basketball that might take place in the NBA? I think yes, they're having fun and enjoying playing together, and I think all of the players have benefited from playing with us and it will help their careers, because they've learned a great deal.


Rockville, MD: Hey Jerry,

How would you say that Coach K has been beneficial to this group of young stars? And was there ever any tension between Kobe Bryant and Coach K, since Kobe signed at Duke before jumping to the NBA?

Jerry Colangelo: The relationship between Kobe and Coach K is very unique. Kobe has looked forward to playing for him, and they have a close relationship. Kobe has always respected him for his track record. He's a communicator, and is as good of a communicator as any coach I've ever seen. He's developed a great relationship with his players, headed up by his relationship with Kobe.


Seattle, Washington: What have you enjoyed most during your stay in Beijing?

Jerry Colangelo: We came here on a mission, and it seemed a long time in coming, thinking back 3 years. We arrived on Aug. 6, amongst a bunch of fanfare. This team has been followed like a bunch of rock stars. There are 300 million people in the US; there are 300 million people playing basketball in China.

And this city has been so amazing. Athens spent 9 billion on the 2004 games; Beijing spent 43. It's an amazing face lift. I was here 2 years ago, and just the changes in 2 years has blown me away.

PS -- There's no shortage of Chinese food.


Chicago, IL: Has Gilbert Arenas burned any bridges with USA basketball, or will he be under consideration for the team in future years?

Jerry Colangelo: I've always stated that I'm one to give people 2nd chances and opportunities, and we're human beings and we all make mistakes in what we say or in our actions. Gilbert was asked to join us and participate and he accepted. It didn't work out the first time around, he was injured, but he was on the cusp of making the team. And despite some of his ill-placed remarks, which weren't very accurate, I didn't make a big deal of it, so he would still be under consideration.


Jerry Colangelo: This whole experience for me has been remarkable. I've built very strong ties and relationships to the people associated with USA Basketball, and I couldn't have more respect for Coach K and our staff. I'm proud of how our players have conducted themselves and I think we've changed the perception of how our athletes are viewed around the world. Now all we have to do is finish the mission and hopefully bring home the gold medal.

Thank you for your time and for your great questions asked today, or tonight, or whatever it is. It was a pleasure.


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