USA Basketball Men's National Team Player Announcement Media Teleconference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us on this USA Basketball Men's National Team media teleconference. As noted, this is Craig Miller. I'm chief communications officer for USA Basketball. If you have any follow-up questions or need any background information, feel free to call me or text me.
As everyone is aware, earlier today, USA Basketball announced the group of players that have been selected to be part of the 2018-20 USA Men's National Team pool of players, and before we get into discussion of that selection and questions from the media, allow me to introduce two people that are participating in today's phone call. With us is USA Basketball Men's National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo, and USA Men's National Team head coach Gregg Popovich. As everyone is also aware, Jerry has been managing director of the national team since 2005. In that period, the USA teams have compiled a remarkable record of 88-1.
You'll recall back in October of 2015, USA Basketball announced that San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would take on the national team head coaching responsibilities for the next quadrennium, which is 2017 through 2020. Coach Popovich brings with him prior USA Basketball experience as both a coach and as a player.
Before we open the call for questions from the media, I'd like to get things started with some general comments about today's player announcement, first from Jerry Colangelo and then from Coach Popovich. Jerry, would you go ahead and make some opening comments about today's announcement?
JERRY COLANGELO: Sure. First of all, welcome, everyone. You know, it's another exciting time for USA Basketball as we get ready to prepare for this next series of competitions. We don't have competition this summer, obviously, with the new FIBA format, but we will be meeting this summer and taking our first step in continuing with our culture under the new leadership of Coach Popovich, getting ready for the World Cup in '19 and the Olympics in 2020.
Just a couple of things. The selection committee was comprised of Sean Ford, who is a longtime USA Basketball executive and a very key part of our whole program, myself, and Coach Popovich, and you can see that we have an extensive list of qualified, experienced, international experienced players with some new additions, and we're excited, obviously, about that.
With the new World Cup qualifying system, we are well on our way toward qualifying, and a very special shout-out to Jeff Van Gundy, who has done an incredible job of coaching the World Cup qualifying team, and he's doing it with G League players who have done a great job for him.
So we're excited to get the ball rolling, and bear in mind that this is a fluid list, as it has been in the past, but very pleased, very excited to have Coach Popovich taking the lead as we go forward here, and I'll now turn it over to Pop.
GREGG POPOVICH: Thank you, Jerry. Hello, everybody. As anyone might imagine, this is quite an honor and humbling experience to be involved with USA Basketball and this group of players. I'm very much looking forward to getting together with everybody this summer.
I have to piggy-back on Jerry's comment about Jeff Van Gundy. He took on a heck of a job and was magnificent in forming a team so quickly and getting them to believe in themselves and play so hard for their country on short notice. He deserves an awful lot of credit, as do the G League players. It was tough duty for them in some ways, and they really cared about nothing more than trying to win basketball games as part of the USA group. Hats off to everyone involved there.
The summer is going to be an interesting social experience more than O's and X's and that type of thing. But very necessary and very important, getting the group together to continue the camaraderie and the friendships that Jerry and Coach K and Sean Ford put together for the past years, so that will be hopefully a continuation of that.
Q. My question is just what prompted you guys to, along with the selection committee, to pick Devin Booker after he's only played a little over half a season? What did you see that prompted a selection of him?
JERRY COLANGELO: Well, he's one of the outstanding young players in the league, and bear in mind in some of these selections, we're projecting where these players might be a year or two from now. And so he's one of the young guys that we decided we wanted to take a real good look at.
GREGG POPOVICH: Also he was with the team (2016 USA Select Team) last summer that participated in the group, that scrimmaged against the Olympic team, and he was very impressive, as he has been. He's not just a talented player, he's a heck of a competitor, and as Jerry said, down the line, you expect that he will even improve and continue the good play that we've seen, despite the injuries that he's had.
Q. You guys talked about the young talent. There's so much young talent in the league, especially this year's rookie class. Do you guys possibly see yourselves bringing in somebody like a Donovan Mitchell maybe to come in and get some experience and possibly even play on the team someday? What's your thoughts on him and his future?
JERRY COLANGELO: Well, we had a lot of discussion about Donovan Mitchell. He's had a terrific rookie season, and another class character guy, and so as we move forward here, Pop and I are talking about the possibility of bringing in some young studs like him, as we have in the past, getting ready for different competitions to be part of it. And so for the moment, the list we submitted is the list, and I said also it's a very fluid list. It could be -- there could be some additions, but for sure we see Donovan Mitchell as someone involved with USA Basketball as we go forward.
Q. Coach Popovich, I'm from Italy, and Coach Messina has been with the Italian national team for a while. Did you talk with him about his experience and how he was able to adjust to the NBA and then coaching the national team?
GREGG POPOVICH: Well, of course. Coach Messina is a longtime champion in Europe, and when he agreed to come over and help us out here several years ago, we were very excited about it, and with that experience and the success that he has had, of course I would try to glean as much information as I could from him about transitioning from the normal team you coach to an Olympic situation, and he's been very helpful in that regard.
Q. Pop, you obviously have talked for a long time about how significant it is for you to get the opportunity to coach the national team. You mentioned it in your introduction. I was just curious with this announcement today of the first training camp roster and kind of the preliminary stages coming into play, does it feel real now that this is actually happening and you're starting to go down the path towards 2020, or did you already feel that was the case back when you were named as the next coach of the national team?
GREGG POPOVICH: Well, obviously as the meetings and practices begin, things gear up in your mind. But in all honesty, from the time that Jerry decided that he wanted to go this route, it's been on my mind as far as preparation is concerned. I was fortunate enough last summer (2016) that he and Coach K and Sean Ford invited me to spend time in Las Vegas while they prepared for Rio, which was a huge, huge step for me to see how they did things and how things are organized.
So from that point on, it's a major thought in my mind, pretty much on a daily basis to some degree. I'm sure as we meet this summer, it will become more and more of a direct feeling as far as what's coming. As I said, I'm humbled by it and ready for the challenge, but got some very large shoes to fill for sure.
Q. Obviously there are some names of guys who have done a lot of big things already in international play. What does that mean for the program going forward as you kind of start this next cycle, that some of these guys do want to possibly keep going and what that means to a team to have that success already in place?
JERRY COLANGELO: I don't think there's any substitute for experience. With this roster, just looking at how many of these people are gold medalists and have participated and experienced the winning situation, they're not novices in international play, so that's a leg up. There's no question about that. And the mere fact that when you look at this list, these people have all indicated a desire to be part of our national team.
That is the greatest thing about this list in my opinion, that there's such buy-in for USA Basketball and the fact that they want to represent their country. We're very pleased with that.
Q. A guy like Blake Griffin, who's reaching the later part of his career and has kind of developed his game in a different way to match the times, what have you seen from him over the past couple years and maybe has he taken his game to a different level since joining the Pistons, as well?
GREGG POPOVICH: Well, Blake is a competitor of the highest order, as we all know. And he has added to his game each year. I mean, in the beginning of his career, he was somebody that if he shot a jump shot from a certain distance, you were relatively happy because you knew that every other part of his game was going to hurt you. But obviously now that's not the case. You know, he handles the ball. He shoots it from distance. And so he's become a more complete player. So I think he's done a great job and is a good example of a player who has just gotten better and better skill-wise.
JERRY COLANGELO: Just to add to what Pop said, he was very much in the mix of making a couple of teams, and injuries at the very last moment took him out. He was -- just to make that point, that he was very close to being on rosters in the past.
THE MODERATOR: Jerry or Pop, do you have anything you'd like to add?
JERRY COLANGELO: We're just excited about getting started.
GREGG POPOVICH: It's quite the idea or thought when you think about being on the court with all these players, that's quite a brotherhood. There's a lot of talent there. There's a lot of friendships. They enjoy getting together. The culture has been established already, you know, with USA Basketball and everything that they've done. To see that in action and to see all these guys come together in Vegas this summer is going to be pretty exciting.