This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the original Dream Team and Mike D’Antoni and the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team would like nothing more than to honor Magic, Jordan, Bird & Co. with another Gold medal.
D’Antoni, a Mullens native, Marshall University native and veteran NBA coach, will be on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff one more time as the Americans are set to play in the London Olympic Games, July 28-Aug. 12.
Coach K, D’Antoni and the U.S. won the Gold back in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing after an embarrassing Bronze medal performance in the 2004 Games at Athens, Greece, under Coach Larry Brown.
D’Antoni joined Krzyzewski’s staff back in 2009 and returns to the bench for one more run at the Gold.
“I consider it an honor to represent our country by returning to the staff of USA Basketball. Our players’ and staff’s commitment to this great program was so evident during the Beijing Games that we want to continue the excellence on and off the basketball court,” D’Antoni told the USA Basketball website.
As an assistant coach with the 2006-08 USA National Team, D’Antoni helped the Americans to a remarkable 36-1 record and Gold medal finishes at the 2008 Olympics and 2007 FIBA Americas Championship. Named an assistant for the 2010 World Championships, D’Antoni was forced to withdraw because of a back injury.
D’Antoni was most recently the head coach of the NBA’s New York Knicks but resigned in March after compiling a 121-167 record in three-plus seasons at the helm. He had previously been the head coach of the Phoenix Suns, leading the team to a 253-136 record and four consecutive playoff appearances in five seasons and was named as the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2004-05.
D’Antoni, who has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Italy, also coached eight years in the Italian League and is a former NBA and ABA player.
After graduating from Mullens High School in the late 60s, D’Antoni played in parts of three varsity seasons for Marshall from 1970-73, leading the Thundering Herd to a 59-21 record. Graduating as the school’s career assist leader (659), while compiling 1,227 career points, D’Antoni earned CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 1972 and 1973, and was invited to the 1972 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team Trials.
For D’Antoni this may be the last go-round on Coach K’s U.S. men’s basketball team staff. Krzyzewski, the legendary Duke coach, has said it would be unlikely he would lead the Olympic team after the London Games and would probably not coach the team in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
Coach K, who is 65 years old, has led the Americans to two straight Golds at the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey. Krzyzewski, an assistant on Chuck Daly’s original Dream team at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, was brought in to energize the U.S. Senior men’s basketball team after the 2004 flop.
D’Antoni has been named as a possible replacement for Coach K, along with Jim Boeheim, current U.S. team assistant and Syracuse University coach, as well as Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said he hopes the Americans can keep its success going in London.
“I can tell you integrity was the predominant theme presented to players and a clear expectation of them at the 2008 Games and living by integrity was a key reason why we won the Gold in Beijing. Integrity will again be a loud and prominent theme and in my mind the key to winning in London too,” Colangelo said.
Seven out of the 12 spots have been filled for the Olympic basketball competition.
The Americans were automatic qualifiers after winning the Gold at the 2010 World Championships. Host country Great Britain was also an automatic qualifier.
Also making it so far are China, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, France, Tunisia and Spain.
The U.S plays in Group A with Argentina, France, Tunisia and two yet-to-be determined teams.
Twelve teams are scheduled to vie for the remaining three Olympic spots and will battle it out in a qualifying tournament, July 2-8 at Caracas, Venezuela.
The competing teams are Russia, Macedonia, Lithuania, Greece, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, New Zealand, Angola, Nigeria, Jordan and South Korea.
The Americans’ 12-man roster has not yet been picked. A total of 18 players are currently on the roster, including: Carmelo Anthony; Chris Bosh; Kobe Bryant; Tyson Chandler; Anthony Davis; Kevin Durant; Rudy Gay; Eric Gordon; Blake Griffin; James Harden; Andre Iguodala; LeBron James; Kevin Love; Lamar Odom; Chris Paul; Dwyane Wade; Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams.
In addition to D’Antoni and Boeheim, Nate McMillan is also on the coaching staff.
The Americans have won 13 Gold medals in the Olympics.
The U.S. had a 63-0 record in the Olympics until losing a controversial 51-50 contest to the Soviet Union in the 1972 Gold Medal Game at Munich, West Germany. The loss gave the Americans the Silver but the U.S. refused the medals after losing a 3-2 vote in an appeal to FIBA along political/ideological lines between Communist and non-Communist countries.
To this day, none of the 12 American players have accepted the Silver medals.
Team member Kenny Davis of Georgetown College in Kentucky, went a step further, writing in his will and instructing his heirs and future descendants to never accept the medal.
After the ’72 disappointment, the American team, then made up of college all-stars, won the Gold at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada.
The 1980 team was not allowed to compete at the Moscow Games after President Jimmy Carter ordered an American boycott of the Olympics following the Red Army’s invasion of Afghanistan.
The U.S. returned in 1984, winning the Gold at the Los Angeles Games under the direction of Coach Bobby Knight.
The ’88 Olympics at Seoul, South Korea, brought another disappointment as the Americans were beaten in the semifinals by the USSR and had to settle for third place after beating Australia in the Bronze Medal Game.
That brought in the professional players and the Dream Team in 1992.
The Americans repeated as winners of the Gold in 1996 in Atlanta and 2000 in Sydney, Australia before the debacle in 2004 brought in Coach K, D’Antoni and his staff.
London could put an end to the NBA’s presence in the Olympic Games as there have been discussions about Team USA going to a 23-and-under format for the Olympics in 2016 and beyond.