NBA: Spurs' Popovich to coach US squad in 2020 Olympic run

Popovich (left) speaking to San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (right) at an  NBA preseason game.
Popovich (left) speaking to San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (right) at an NBA preseason game.EPA

SAN ANTONIO (AFP) - Gregg Popovich, a five-time NBA champion coach with the San Antonio Spurs, was named on Friday by USA Basketball as coach of the Americans from 2017 through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Mike Krzyzewski has guided the US Olympic squads to gold medals at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics and to a Basketball World Cup title last year that clinched a US berth in next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

"Coach K" retired from the US post in February 2013 only to return three months later and declare he would guide the squad through one more Olympic cycle through Rio.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo was also announced as managing director of the US squad for the 2017-2020 span while Krzyzewski moves into a special advisory role for that cycle.

Popovich, 66, would see the American collection of NBA talent though the 2019 Basketball World Cup in China and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"I'm extremely humbled and honored to have the opportunity to represent our country," Popovich said.

"What the programme has accomplished over the last decade under the leadership of Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski is truly impressive. I will do my utmost to maintain the high standards of success, class and character established by Jerry, Coach K and the many players who have sacrificed their time on behalf of USA Basketball."

Since a bronze-medal showing at the 2004 Athens Olympics sparked a revamp of the US programme, American teams have gone 75-1, including a 63-game win streak since losing to Greece in the 2006 semi-finals of what was then called the World Basketball Championships.

Popovich, a 1970 graduate of the US Air Force Academy, has coached the Spurs for 19 seasons, making him the longest-tenured coach in any major North American sport. His 18 consecutive winning seasons trail only Pat Riley's 19 and Phil Jackson's 20 in NBA history.


With an international squad led by France's Tony Parker, Argentina's Manu Ginobili and US Virgin Islander Tim Duncan, the Spurs won NBA crowns under Popovich's guidance in 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2014.

He was named the NBA Coach of the year in 2003, 2012 and 2014.

Popovich has an NBA regular-season career record of 1,022-470, the third-best win percentage in NBA history and just 105 wins behind Jerry Sloan's record for all-time wins with a lone NBA team, and is 152-94 in NBA playoff contests.

"There's no doubt in my mind that we have the great fortune of bringing on board one of the NBA's best and most successful coaches ever," Colangelo said.

"By making this decision now, it will allow us to have a clean, efficient and immediate transition following the 2016 Olympic Games.

"This progression plan will also help ensure that our national team will continue to build on the culture and success we have achieved since launching the programme."

Krzyzewski was pleased to have Popovich as his replacement.

"Gregg Popovich is the ideal choice to take over as coach of the USA programme. His long track record of success - both in terms of winning championships and creating a culture of excellence - are well documented and, rightfully so, he is considered among the very best coaches in the world."

Popovich was general manager of the Spurs for more than two seasons before taking over as coach when the team began the season 3-15.

The Spurs won their first NBA crown in his second full season as coach.

Popovich served as an assistant coach for the US squad that finished third at Athens in 2004 and settled for sixth as host of the 2002 worlds.