Grant Hill named next USA Basketball men’s national team director

Grant Hill
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Grant Hill helped the U.S. win Olympic gold in 1996. He would have been on the team again in 2000 if not for injury. And he was among the college kids who famously beat the first “Dream Team” in a scrimmage before the 1992 Olympics.

Now, USA Basketball is bringing him back.

Hill will become the men’s national team managing director following the Tokyo Olympics, according to USA Basketball on Saturday. He’ll replace the retiring Jerry Colangelo, in a move where one Basketball Hall of Famer takes over for another in the critical role of assembling teams that will compete for gold.

“It’s just an incredible opportunity, also an incredible challenge,” Hill said Saturday. “I had the good fortune of participating in international play — the Pan American Games, of course the Olympic team — and I have been a fan of Team USA going back to the 1984 Olympic team when I first started to fall in love with basketball. The more I thought about it, the more intrigued, excited and the more willing I was to roll up my sleeves and move forward with this awesome responsibility.”

Hill’s resume is elite. He played 19 NBA seasons, was an All-Star seven times — likely would have been more if not for the ankle problems that derailed his career — and made five All-NBA teams. At Duke, he helped the Blue Devils win national championships in 1991 and 1992.

Hill went into the Hall of Fame in 2018 and has worked as an NBA and college basketball analyst for Turner Sports for nearly a decade. And he’s part of the broadcast team for the men’s Final Four this weekend in Indianapolis, the sixth straight year he’s been on that crew.

He will remain in broadcasting after assuming his USA Basketball job.

“Grant is a proven leader of consequence and character who will continue to help us achieve on our twin goals of winning international competitions and representing our country with honor,” USA Basketball Board of Directors chair and retired Gen. Martin Dempsey said. “In making this announcement, I also want to emphasize how much everyone associated with USA Basketball appreciates Jerry Colangelo for everything he did for USA Basketball over the past 15 years.”

And Colangelo did plenty.

The managing director role was created for him in 2005, after the Americans lost three games in the 2004 Athens Olympics and returned with an extremely disappointing bronze medal. Colangelo has since overseen the process of selecting players and coaches, bringing in Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski — who led the U.S. to Olympic golds in 2008, 2012 and 2016 — and now San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich to serve as head coaches.

In major competitions with Colangelo as managing director, the U.S. men have gone 97-4. Colangelo’s departure was not unexpected; the 80-year-old made no secret of his plans to retire after the Tokyo Games, which were delayed one year to this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I intend to spend an incredible amount of time with Jerry, shadow him some this summer, and I think that experience will certainly help as we move forward,” Hill said. “He’s just an invaluable resource and has done a remarkable job, so you can’t help but learn from someone like Jerry.”

No matter what happens in Tokyo, Hill will take over at a hectic time. The delay of these Olympics compresses everything; the next Basketball World Cup is only two years away and the Paris Games are just three years out.

Hill knows the rest of the world is catching — or has caught — up to USA Basketball. He predicted that would happen in 1996, when he was part of the second Olympic Dream Team that won the gold in Atlanta, and isn’t alone in the belief that the game found a new gear internationally because of the success of the first Dream Team four years prior.

Hill was a 19-year-old college sophomore when he was brought in along with Bobby Hurley, Chris Webber and others to scrimmage the U.S. team that featured Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing and more. The college kids won 62-54 in that first scrimmage; debate has raged since about whether U.S. coach Chuck Daly threw the game to make a point that no team was unbeatable, but there is no debate about how that day in California helped the NBA stars come together.

“We had a good moment,” Hill said. “That experience — having a chance to practice with, learn from, spend time with arguably the greatest team ever assembled — it wasn’t a formal even with a medal ceremony and the like, but it certainly was a pivotal moment for me and my development and my growth as a player.”

Hill’s job that day was to beat USA Basketball’s best. His job going forward will be to make sure that doesn’t happen.

He’s already starting to plan.

“The brain is working,” Hill said.

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NFL star Jared Allen’s team beats Olympic champions at curling nationals

Jared Allen
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Retired NFL star Jared Allen was part of a curling team that beat 2018 Olympic champion John Shuster to open the U.S. Championships in Denver on Sunday night.

Allen, who retired from the NFL in 2016 and picked up curling in 2018, is on 2010 Olympian Jason Smith‘s team, which beat Shuster’s team 10-6 in the first game of round-robin play.

After all eight teams play each other, the top four advance to Friday’s playoffs. The winner of Saturday’s final is national champion and is expected to be the U.S. team for the world championship in Ottawa in April.

Allen, 40, said before nationals that he is eyeing the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“I thought curling was going to be a lot easier than it was,” Allen, who was on a different team at the last nationals in 2021 that went 0-9, told the newspaper. “But I’m one of those guys who, once I start something, I’m going to see it through. Our goal at nationals is to beat as many teams as we possibly can and see where we land.”

How big of an upset was Sunday’s result? Ken Pomeroy rated Smith’s team fifth in the eight-team field before the tournament, while he had Shuster’s team second behind Korey Dropkin.

Shuster’s team won the last three nationals that they entered, plus the last two Olympic Trials since the bulk of the team formed for the 2015 season. Shuster went 11-0 at his last nationals in 2020, then 11-2 at the 2022 Olympic Trials, where the younger Dropkin beat him twice but ultimately lost in the finals series.

Allen was first linked to serious curling in February 2018 via U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne on a Minnesota ESPN radio show. Nanne said Allen told him at a dinner.

“[Allen] says, ‘I’m giving myself four years to make the Olympic curling team,’” said Nanne, a 1968 U.S. Olympian.

Allen, along with retired quarterback Marc Bulger, first played on a team with 2010 Olympian John Benton and fellow veteran curler Hunter Clawson.

Allen’s new team includes Smith, who played on the 2010 Olympic team skipped by Shuster, Clawson and Dominik Maerki.

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U.S. Alpine skiers wear climate change-themed race suits at world championships

U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit
Images via Kappa
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Looking cool is just the tip of the iceberg for Mikaela Shiffrin, Travis Ganong and the rest of the U.S. ski team when they debut new race suits at the world championships.

Even more, they want everyone thinking about climate change.

The team’s predominantly blue-and-white suits depict an image of ice chunks floating in the ocean. It’s a concept based on a satellite photo of icebergs breaking due to high temperatures. The suit was designed in collaboration with Kappa, the team’s technical apparel sponsor, and the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters (POW).

The Americans will wear the suits throughout the world championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France, which started Monday with a women’s Alpine combined race and end Feb. 19.

“Although a race suit is not solving climate change, it is a move to continue the conversation and show that U.S Ski & Snowboard and its athletes are committed to being a part of the future,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

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Global warming has become a cold, hard reality in ski racing, with mild temperatures and a lack of snow leading to the postponement of several World Cup events this winter.

“I’m just worried about a future where there’s no more snow. And without snow, there’s no more skiing,” said Ganong, who grew up skiing at Lake Tahoe in California. “So this is very near and dear to me.”

What alarms Ganong is seeing the stark year-to-year changes to some of the World Cup circuit’s most storied venues.

“I mean, it’s just kind of scary, looking at how on the limit (these events) are even to being possible anymore,” said Ganong, who’s been on the U.S. team since 2006. “Places like Kitzbuehel (Austria), there’s so much history and there’s so much money involved with that event that they do whatever they can to host the event.

“But that brings up a whole other question about sustainability as well: Is that what we should be doing? … What kind of message do we need show to the public, to the world, about how our sport is adapting to this new world we live in?”

The suits feature a POW patch on the neck and the organization’s snowflake logo on the leg.

“By coming together, we can educate and mobilize our snowsports community to push for the clean energy technologies and policies that will most swiftly reduce emissions and protect the places we live and the lifestyles we love,” according to a statement from executive director Mario Molina, whose organization includes athletes, business leaders and scientists who are trying to protect places from climate change.

Ganong said a group of ski racers are releasing a letter to the International Ski Federation (FIS), with the hope the governing body will take a stronger stance on sustainability and climate change.

“They should be at the forefront of trying to adapt to this new world, and try to make it better, too,” Ganong said.

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U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit