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Patrick Baumann, rising star in Olympic circles, dies at 51

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Patrick Baumann, the secretary general of basketball’s world governing body who was seen as a potential IOC president, has died at the Youth Olympics. He was 51.

Baumann “unexpectedly succumbed to a heart attack” in Buenos Aires despite getting immediate medical help, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) said Sunday in a statement.

“Basketball has lost a leader, an advocate and a friend and our thoughts are with Patrick’s wife and two children at this tragic time,” the Switzerland based FIBA said.

Baumann was FIBA’s top administrator for 15 years, and an International Olympic Committee member since 2007.

“We can hardly believe this terrible news,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. “We lose a young and sympathetic leader full of hope who was standing for the future of sport. Our thoughts are with his wife, his children and his family.”

Flags will be flown at half-staff at IOC offices in Buenos Aires and its home city of Lausanne, Switzerland. The IOC said a memorial will be held in the athlete village in Buenos Aires.

A lawyer from Switzerland, Baumann had taken an increasingly important role in Olympic circles.

He led an IOC panel evaluating the Paris and Los Angeles bids for the 2024 Olympics, and then took charge of overseeing preparations for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. The IOC appointed Baumann to the World Anti-Doping Agency executive board, and he was elected president of the global group of sports federations, known as GAISF.

At meetings last week on the sidelines of the Youth Olympics, Baumann updated IOC members on the Los Angeles Games and the 2020 Lausanne Youth Olympics. He was president of its organizing committee.

Baumann was key to developing the 3-on-3 urban version of basketball and pushing for its inclusion as an Olympic medal event.

He earned masters degrees from the Business School of the University of Chicago, and in sports administration from the University of Lyon in France.

Steve Kerr among U.S. men’s basketball assistant coaches for Tokyo 2020

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Steve KerrNate McMillan and Jay Wright will be Gregg Popovich‘s assistant coaches with the U.S. men’s basketball team for its Tokyo 2020 Olympic run.

Kerr, who coached the Golden State Warriors to three of the last four NBA titles, was cut from 1988 Olympic consideration when the tryout pool was cut to 21 players, the last team before the NBA began participating in the Olympics. Kerr had just finished his career at the University of Arizona and was about to start a 15-season NBA career that would include five titles (the last two playing for Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs).

He was also on the 1986 World Championship-winning team in Madrid, the last American men’s senior team composed strictly of amateur players to capture a gold medal.

McMillan, the Indiana Pacers head coach, was an assistant on Mike Krzyzewski‘s staff at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Wright, who coached Villanova to two of the last three NCAA titles, coached Team USA at the 2005 World University Games and 2007 Pan American Games.

The U.S. men’s basketball team, which has won 25 straight Olympic games and the last three gold medals. Its first opportunity to qualify for Tokyo 2020 at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, though it still must qualify for that world tournament.

The 2016 Olympic assistants for Krzyzewski were Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Tom Thibodeau and former New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams.

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Is Diana Taurasi the GOAT? Who is the best player today? Kara Lawson reflects on FIBA World Cup

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After the U.S. women’s basketball team again won the biggest tournament outside of the Olympics — the FIBA World Cup — 2008 Olympian and NBC Sports Washington Wizards TV analyst Kara Lawson discussed noteworthy topics within the U.S. team and the sport abroad with Tokyo 2020 in mind (questions and answers lightly edited for clarity) …

OlympicTalk: Overall impressions from worlds aside from more U.S. dominance?

Lawson: The turnover from 2016 in Rio to this year’s roster. Six players that helped the U.S. win gold [at the Olympics — Tamika Catchings (retired), Lindsay Whalen (retired), Seimone AugustusSylvia FowlesAngel McCoughtry and Maya Moore (all resting)] now turned over to six new players. They’re starting to integrate that next generation of players like A’ja Wilson, Jewell Loyd. Obviously Breanna Stewart was on the 2016 team, but was a young player then. She’s still young, but she’s asserted her dominance. You can see her becoming a focal point. There will probably be more tweaks [for Tokyo 2020]. I would anticipate seeing some of the familiar faces that we didn’t see in 2018. The U.S. is well positioned to bring home a seventh straight gold medal.

OlympicTalk: Who is the world’s best player?

Lawson: I would say probably Breanna Stewart [WNBA and FIBA World Cup MVP]. Also, the way Brittney Griner played inside. Also Diana Taurasi. To me those are the three players. You look at their performance in the World Cup. They’re able to change the game in different ways. Brittney Griner’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but what she was able to do was be the backstop back there and really solidify the U.S.’ defensive prowess, then offensively in the semis and finals. Stewart and her all-around game playing out of position for most of the tournament [at small forward]. Of course you had the experience of Taurasi, how she played in the semifinal, particularly out of halftime [when the U.S. led by just one point over Belgium] and the third quarter.

OlympicTalk: What happens with the starting lineup — in particular Stewart at the three — when Maya Moore returns and Elena Delle Donne isn’t coming off a knee injury?

Lawson: That’s going to be something the committee has to look at going forward. Stewart’s going to be on the floor. What position she is, it really doesn’t matter. But there are a lot of post-up players. With Delle Donne not fully healthy [at worlds] and how strong this team was, if she’s healthy that’s a whole new ballgame. There’s a lot of options, and they can bend their rotation any way they want to go. If Maya Moore’s back in the mix, that helps to upgrade this roster’s wing depth and obviously athleticism and shooting. There were definitely some flaws in the roster in terms of wing depth not a ton of athleticism at guard.

OlympicTalk: Is Diana Taurasi, now with seven global gold medals in addition to her club accolades and likely one final Olympics in 2020, the greatest player of all time? 

Lawson: She’s definitely in the GOAT conversation for sure with the likes of Cheryl MillerLisa LeslieTamika Catchings. At every level, she has achieved what those stars have or more. There is a winning component to a GOAT conversation. By the end her college career, she put herself in position to be talked about as one of the greatest college players ever [three NCAA titles at UConn]. In the WNBA, it took her four years to make the playoffs, but in her first year in the playoffs she won a championship. You look at all the international success, not just with the U.S. team but the EuroLeague, then playing at this level at this age [36], it’s incredible. I don’t know if you’re going to find a better résumé than what Diana Taurasi has to be the greatest of all time. In the top group of players, you can say this player or that player was a better player, and those are all reasonable arguments. What’s not reasonable is that Diana Taurasi would not be in the conversation.

OlympicTalk: It seemed like four years ago there was a question if a young point guard could supplant Sue Bird before Rio. She’s still the No. 1 point guard on this team at 37. Do you see anybody challenging her before Tokyo?

Lawson: If she’s healthy, I expect to see her in Tokyo with that wealth of experience she brings. With the U.S. enjoying as much depth as they do at these competitions, she’s not needed to play 40 minutes a night. I think [a young point guard] is still a question mark for the roster. I don’t think anybody’s solidified themselves as a point guard behind Sue quite yet. It’s still kind of murky, but there’s so much growth that happens year over year in the WNBA.

OlympicTalk: Is guard depth the biggest question for this team?

Lawson: Diana Taurasi played backup point guard in the medal rounds. Obviously she’s perfectly capable of filling that role. It’s something they can work around with all the talent that they have. The biggest question is you want to be sure and hope that Bird and Taurasi are healthy for Tokyo. Not that I’m questioning them, because they have great attention to detail, discipline and focus in taking care of their bodies, but you get into your late 30s and your health is a key all the time.

OlympicTalk: Who’s the silver-medal favorite right now?

Lawson: It’s pretty even. The group of favorites might depend on which European teams qualify [at global 2020 tournaments]. Australia, obviously, with Elizabeth Cambage, the team the U.S. played in the FIBA gold-medal game, that’s going to be a team to watch. France, which lost in the quarterfinals to Belgium, is a really good team. Belgium is up and coming. Spain has medaled in three straight global competitions.

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