Gregg Popovich will be next U.S. men’s basketball coach


Gregg Popovich, then 23 years old, tried out for the 1972 U.S. Olympic team. He didn’t make it. A reporter reminded the San Antonio Spurs coach of this on Friday afternoon.

“I was screwed,” Popovich interrupted, joking but in a serious tone, before the reporter could finish his question.

In 2005, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo called Mike Krzyzewski and Popovich in his search for a coach to rejuvenate the program, after the Americans lost three games at the Athens Olympics and left with a bronze medal and a new, beatable image.

“And Pop was not overly thrilled when I called him just because of NBA burnout or maybe even international burnout,” Colangelo said in 2006, according to the Denver Post. “He’d been around on a number of occasions. He didn’t show great enthusiasm.”

So Colangelo hired Krzyzewski, who guided the U.S. to back-to-back Olympic gold medals and a 75-1 record going into the Rio Olympic year. Krzyzewski announced earlier this week, as expected, that he would step down after the Rio Olympics.

Colangelo apparently knew this as far back as this summer, because that’s when he contacted Popovich again. The two Chicagoland natives met in Carmel, Calif.

This time, Colangelo had just one candidate in mind.

“I had a short list, and it started and ended with Pop,” Colangelo said in a press conference, sitting next to Popovich. “We talked about a lot of things, the past, the future. The more important thing is where are we going, going forward. He asked me a question, he said, ‘What about you? Are you going to stay on? Are you going to continue? Because if you’re not, then I don’t have interest.'”

Apparently Colangelo, 75, will continue.

Popovich, 66, was announced as the next U.S. men’s basketball head coach on Friday. He will succeed Krzyzewski, who will stay on in an advisory role, and lead it through the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“Way back then, when I was in my early 20s, and we all had a dream to make an Olympic team,” said Popovich, who did make it to the Olympics in 2004, as an assistant on the ill-fated Larry Brown-coached team. “That never leaves you. You grow up, and you watch the Olympic Games on TV, and you always want to be part of something like that. … In that sense, it does have an added meaning.”

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Colangelo said all roads led to Popovich in choosing Krzyzewski’s successor. Krzyzewski played at Army and is a five-time NCAA champion at Duke. Popovich played at Air Force and is a five-time NBA champion with the Spurs.

“It’s because of who he is, his character, his leadership, he’s a winner,” Colangelo said of Popovich. “His self-sacrificing attitude in terms of being a military guy. He’s respected by everyone in the basketball world and his legacy of course, relative to his championships, is extraordinary.”

Krzyzewski, 68, will become the oldest U.S. Olympic basketball coach ever in Rio. Popovich is in line to break that mark in Tokyo and sees the next five years as a challenge, saying his top priority is to maintain the standard set by Krzyzewski.

“I’m not ready to plant tomatoes,” Popovich said.

Colangelo wanted to wrap up the Krzyzewski succession plan before both the NCAA and NBA seasons began. And anything that happened in 2005, when Colangelo called Popovich and chose Krzyzewski, was yesterday’s news.

“I didn’t sense that same enthusiasm in my conversation with Pop [in 2005],” Colangelo said in 2012, according to the Sacramento Bee. “Afterward, [Popovich] sent me a letter and said I misinterpreted what he said. He felt I had misjudged him, and maybe I did. But that was a long time ago. How can anyone argue with his record, his performance?”

Krzyzewski originally intended to leave the post after leading the U.S. to a second straight gold medal at London 2012 but came back for one more run.

“Gregg Popovich is the ideal choice to take over as head coach of the USA program,” Krzyzewski said in a press release. “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’s current Spurs roster includes Olympians Tim Duncan (U.S.), Tony Parker (France), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Boris Diaw (France) and Patty Mills (Australia). He also coached Brazilian Olympian Tiago Splitter on the Spurs the previous five seasons.

Could Duncan, now 39, mull a run for the 2020 Olympics? Like Popovich, his only previous Olympic experience was on that 2004 team, the first U.S. group of NBA players to lose at the Olympics.

“I think Timmy’s got other plans for summertimes in his future,” Popovich said.

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Chloe Kim, Elana Meyers Taylor among Olympians to join presidential sports council

Elana Meyers Taylor, President Joe Biden

Chloe Kim and Elana Meyers Taylor are among the Olympic and Paralympic medalists set to join the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition.

President Joe Biden intends to appoint the snowboarder Kim, bobsledder Meyers Taylor, retired Olympic medalists Chaunté Lowe (track and field) and Tamika Catchings (basketball) and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) to the council, among other athletes and people in the health and fitness fields, it was announced Friday.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry are also on the list.

The council “aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.”

Last year, Biden appointed basketball gold medalist Elena Delle Donne a co-chair of the council.

Kim, the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, sat out this past season but is expected to return to competition for a third Olympic run in 2026.

Meyers Taylor, the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledder in history with medals in all five of her Olympic events, sat out this past season due to pregnancy. She took her first bobsled run in 13 months this past week in Lake Placid, New York.

There is a long history of Olympians and Paralympians serving on the council, which was created in 1956.

In 2017, Barack Obama appointed medalists including gymnast Gabby Douglas, soccer player Carli Lloyd and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Others to previously be on the council include sprinter Allyson Felix, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer and triathlete Brad Snyder.

Members serve for two years and can be reappointed.

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Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth


Kaori Sakamoto overcame a late error in her free skate to become the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world titles and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama to prevail by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea in the closest women’s finish at worlds since 2011.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to an easier victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the gold in doubt. She can be thankful for pulling off the second jump of that planned combination — a triple toe loop — and her 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

“I feel so pathetic and thought, what was all that hard work I put into my training?” Sakamoto said of her mistake, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “But I was able to refocus and do my best till the end.

“Because I have this feeling of regret at the biggest event of the season, I want to make sure I don’t have this feeling next season. So I want to practice even harder, and I want to make sure to do clean, perfect performances at every competition.”

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest senior world medalist since 2014.

After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. The Lutz was planned to be the first half of a combination with a triple loop.

“I am severely disappointed because I’ve been nailing my Lutz-loop for a really long time, and this is the first time I’ve messed it up in a while, and of course it had to be when it actually counted,” Levito said, according to the ISU. “But I’m pretty happy with myself for just trying to move past it and focusing on making the most out of the rest of the program.”

Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and worlds) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and world debuts in 2002.

“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said on USA Network.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her world debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the ISU, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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