Who will take over for Coach K?

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Rumors are already swirling about who will take Coack Mike Krzyzewski’s spot on the Team USA bench, with Celtics coach Doc Rivers all but running away from the gig this weekend. He told the Boston Globe it was too hard of a job for an NBA coach, and even suggested that Larry Brown was aversely affected by his turn in 2004.

So who’s going to take over for Coach K? Here are the five best college options:

Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) – Boeheim has been the lead assistant on Team USA since 2006 and is the natural choice to take over for Coach K. He has a national championship, three Final Fours, and if he’s still at Syracuse come 2016 he’ll be bordering on 1000 wins. He’ll be 71 in Rio, but he’s still our top choice.

Bill Self (Kansas) – Easily one of the best coaches in the country, regardless of roster. Self already has one NCAA Championship and two Final Fours with Kansas and will likely have a couple more by the next Olympics. At 49 he’s young enough to take over the team for 2016, 2020, and beyond, providing some welcomed continuity.

John Calipari (Kentucky) – For as shady as he often is, Coach Cal wins. Everywhere. He’s unofficially taken three different schools to the Final Four and finally won a championship with Kentucky in 2012. His failed NBA attempts don’t encourage us, but he never really got a fair shot in New Jersey. If basketball went to a 23-and-under format he might be the favorite.

Rick Pitino (Louisville) – Probably a few years late on Pitino, especially after he ruined his above-reproach reputation with some lewd off court headlines. Then again, Pitino made the 2012 Final Four – his sixth. He’s still one of the best basketball minds in the country and his coaching tree would make for a great list of assistants. Still a good option.

Roy Williams (North Carolina) – He’s a hall of fame coach with seven Final Four appearances, so you can’t leave him off the list. Trouble is, Williams is the kind of guy who creates great teams over time and he wouldn’t really have that luxury here. He’s probably not the guy you’re looking for to lead the team, but again: seven Final Fours. He’s a winner.

And just incase Jerry Colangelo disagrees about Rivers’ whole don’t-ruin-my-career-with-patriotism thought process, here are the top three NBA choices:

Tom Thibodeau (Chicago) – Pretty new to head coaching, so we’ll have to wait and see, but the Bulls boss was the fastest NBA coach ever to 100 wins and is one of the best defensive minds in basketball. He was a big reason the Celtics won in 2008 and proves he can do well with an ensemble cast. If he gets his reps and wins over the next four years he could be an ideal choice.

Doug Collins (Philadelphia) – Even though the Bulls were playing without Derrick Rose, we’re still impressed by how the Sixers’ coach dispatched of the east’s top seed in the playoffs. He’d also be a bit of a sentimental pick since a gold in Rio would make up for the one his last second free throws should have secured him in 1972, before the refs got creative and stole the win out from under Team USA.

Gregg Popovich (San Antonio) – Arguably the best basketball coach alive. Popovich has won four NBA titles and the last time he missed the playoffs Bill Clinton had just been reelected. Problem is we just don’t think he’d be into it, especially if he’s rebuilding the Spurs after Tim Duncan’s retirement. To be determined.

Chinese pair holds on for first world title

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Chinese pair Sui Wenjing and Han Cong needed a personal-best score by nearly five points to avoid a silver medal for a third straight year.

They delivered.

Sui and Han beat Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot by 1.76 points at the world championships in Helsinki on Thursday.

They tallied the highest short-program and free-skate scores, including 150.83 in the free Thursday, despite Sui falling on a triple Salchow. Their previous best free skate was 144.28 points.

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov earned bronze as the top three after the short program stayed that way after the free skate.

Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who had been seeking the first pairs three-peat in 39 years, finished seventh.

Americans Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim finished 10th in their second competition this season after she came back from three abdominal surgeries last summer and fall.

“I am not as confident as I was before I got sick, but I think that’s 100 percent normal when you’re off the ice for so long and you have to re-learn things and start from the bottom,” Scimeca Knierim said. “I’ve only been back at my elite level for a month or two, so I think it’s OK that my confidence is a little shaken. I’m confident that my confidence will grow.”

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were 20th in the short program, failing to qualify for the free skate.

Based on those results, the U.S. earned one entry for pairs at the PyeongChang Winter Games, according to NBC Sports research in Helsinki. The only time that fewer than two U.S. pairs competed at the Winter Olympics was at the first Winter Games in Chamonix, France, in 1924.

Just about every star pairs team dealt with serious injury problems this season.

Sui and Han missed the autumn season due to Sui’s right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring, after they squandered the 2016 World Championships short program lead.

They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted then-personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Savchenko, who earned her 10th career worlds medal, and Massot won both of their fall Grand Prix events but missed the Grand Prix Final after she tore an ankle ligament.

Tarasova needed 10 stitches in her left leg after slicing it on Morozov’s skate in a Wednesday practice accident, hours before the short program. Their bronze medal meant Russia avoided a three-year world pairs medal drought. Soviet and Russian pairs have never missed the worlds podium three straight years since their run of dominance started in the 1960s.

Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the only Sochi medalists competing together at worlds, missed the fall season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury. They finished fifth on Thursday.

Duhamel and Radford suffered more recent injuries. Duhamel said after the free skate she may have a stress fracture in her left foot, according to the Associated Press. Radford suffered a hip injury in the week before worlds that led to thoughts of withdrawing.

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MORE: Playing the Beatles, North Korean skaters aim for Olympics in South Korea

Pairs Results
Gold: Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 232.06
Silver: Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 230.30
Bronze: Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 219.03
10. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 202.37
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Playing The Beatles, North Korean skaters aim for Olympics in South Korea

AP
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HELSINKI (AP) — North Korea’s figure skaters are aiming for the Olympics — and they’re using The Beatles.

Ryom Tae Ok and her partner Kim Ju Sik impressed observers by finishing 15th of 28 pairs at the world championships on Thursday. That’s the latest step on a road to next year’s Olympics, which would mean a politically tricky journey to South Korea.

Skating to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” and music by Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Ryom and Kim soared above expectations in only their third major competition outside their homeland.

Star-struck Ryom said the competition was “very difficult” because she wasn’t used to the large crowd, in comments translated by a team official following Wednesday’s short program. Kim said he was “excited because this is a big competition.”

The pair gave away little more than basic personal data. They’ve skated together for two years and train in the capital Pyongyang. Skating isn’t very popular there, but they’d like to change that, they said.

Asked how they’d feel about competing at the Olympics, Kim said he and Ryom are keen to take part in “a big competition,” but didn’t say how he’d feel about visiting South Korea. A North Korean team official led the pair following a question about how they chose The Beatles’ music. Foreign cultural influence is tightly restricted by the North Korean government.

To qualify for the Olympics, Ryom and Kim will need a good performance in September to take one of four places on offer for pairs at a competition in Germany.

North Korea has a patchy record at the Winter Olympics – it won speed skating medals in 1964 and 1992, but didn’t send any athletes to the Sochi Games in 2014.

When they have gone to the Olympics, North Korean figure skaters have failed to impress. The last time the country sent a pair to the Olympics in 2006, they placed 20th and last in the short program, then withdrew.

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VIDEO: Russian pairs skater slices leg on partner’s skate