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

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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.

MORE BASKETBALL: Nine teams qualified for 2016 Olympic men’s tourney

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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