New USA Coaches Look to Maintain Gold Standard
- Photo Gallery: July 22
- Day One Practice Quotes: USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski & U.S. Players Ryan Anderson, Mike Conley, Anthony Davis, Derrick Favors & Doug McDermott
July 22, 2013 • Las Vegas, Nevada
As USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp officially got underway this afternoon at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center, many would have presumed that Mike Krzyzewski or Jim Boeheim would be the coaches leading the camp’s opening drills.
Instead, however, the initial instructions came from a pair of newly announced USA assistant coaches: Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls and Monty Williams of the New Orleans Pelicans.
“It's a major, major blessing for me to even be a part of this,” Williams said following the Day One practice session. “I'm overwhelmed by the fact that Mr. Colangelo and Coach K would have me, and I feel a responsibility to do my job as best I can. And just being in this atmosphere, it makes you a better coach. You are around the best players and the best coaches, and it's a great opportunity to learn and get better.”
Thibodeau echoed Williams’ remarks, “It’s a great honor and a privilege certainly to be around Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim and Monty and then all the great players and representing our country and just seeing how they go about things, it’s a great day for me.”
For Williams, two decades ago he was wearing a USA Basketball jersey as a member of the USA 22 & Under World Championship squad that finished 8-0 and captured gold. While he’s still getting settled into his coaching role with USA Basketball, he noted that knowing where you’ll ultimately wind up always seems unpredictable.
“I started with USA Basketball back in 1993,” Williams said. “Twenty years later, here I am as a coach of the national team. And it wasn't like I was auditioning for it, but you never know who is watching. This is one of the best experiences that you are ever going to have as a basketball player and as a coach. I feel blessed and so underserving to be in this position, so you want to make the most of it.”
Three of Williams’ Pelican players are participating in the mini-camp and two of them commented on how beneficial and prepared Williams is for this assignment.
“It means a lot because as much as I’m learning, he’s learning as well,” Pelicans center and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Davis said. “Hopefully we can take everything that we learn back to the (Pelicans) organization.”
Forward Ryan Anderson labeled Williams as a hands on coach and high character individual.
“He deserves to be acknowledged as one of the best coaches in the world and in our country,” Anderson said. “He’s a role model. He’s a guy that you can’t help but look up to. He’s a guy that just loves God and wears it on his sleeve, and I love that.
“If it was a different coach that I was hearing from, it might be a little bit harder to translate these differences that we have to learn in the international game. But with him, I understand his wording.”
Although the duo has only held the title of National Team assistant coaches for a month and a half, Thibodeau states that he has already gained tremendous insight from USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski.
“For me, I have to learn their system and just help in any way that I can,” the 2010-11 NBA Coach of the Year said. “It’s been great for me. You’re always trying to learn, and I’ve been able to learn a lot in just a short few days.”
From Boeheim’s point of view, Thibodeau and Williams are more vocal than the USA’s former two assistant coaches, Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan. And while he classifies D’Antoni and McMillan as great coaches and great friends, he also admitted that he honestly didn’t know what to expect when he heard that the two would not be returning to the staff for 2013-16.
“When you replace those guys, you think, is this going to be the same?” Boeheim said.
Yet despite not personally knowing Thibodeau or Williams before the staff gathered in Las Vegas this past weekend, Boeheim said that the two exceeded his expectations when they were in command of drills this afternoon.
“I was unbelievably impressed with their whole demeanor, their interest and their ability to get things going,” Boeheim said. “It’s not that easy and they got everything organized and got everybody on the right page.”
On Sunday, Colangelo expressed that part of the week’s focus will be geared toward getting Thibodeau and Williams assimilated with the USA Basketball culture. Having compiled a nearly perfect 62-1 record since taking over the National Team in 2005, Colangelo strongly believes that these two coaches have the skills, passion and resumes to help USA Basketball continue its winning ways.
“They’re great guys and are going to bring some new ideas and a new vision to what we’re doing,” Colangelo stated. “We’re excited about having them with us, and I know they’re excited about being part of it.”