Colangelo given control, wants two-year commitment

PHOENIX -- Jerry Colangelo has been given total control of
the U.S. men's Olympic basketball program and has promised radical
changes in an effort to restore the United States to international
prominence in the sport.

The system of a handful of NBA stars gathering for a few weeks
before the competition will be abandoned, said Colangelo, the
chairman and CEO of the Phoenix Suns who has been involved in
basketball for 50 years, 39 of them in the professional ranks.

"It's going to be drastically different," Colangelo said
Wednesday at a news conference, "and I say that because you know
stars do not necessarily make a great team."

The 10-member committee that selected the teams has been
disbanded, and Colangelo alone will name the players and coaches.
He said he wants them to commit to the team for two years leading
up to the 2006 world championships and 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"The international game is a lot different game than people
truly recognize," Colangelo said. "It's more than just the
trapezoid lane compared to our line. It's a different game. As you
prepare a team, you need players who can shoot the ball, pass the
ball, understand the game, as much as you need players who are just

The president of USA Basketball, Val Ackerman, said that the
organization felt significant changes in the structure of its
senior men's team were necessary after it finished sixth at the
2002 world championships in Indianapolis, then won only the bronze
medal at the Athens Olympics. Before Athens, the United States had
won every Olympic basketball gold medal since the NBA "Dream
Team" of Barcelona in 1992.

"The current reality, the new normal if you will, is that the
dominance that the United States has enjoyed, and which we continue
to aspire to, is simply much harder to achieve," she said, "and
it can no longer be taken for granted."

The committee that selected the 2004 team was one of the
problems, she said.

"Simply put, it was too many cooks in the kitchen," said Jim
Tooley, USA Basketball executive director.

The 65-year-old Colangelo immediately became the obvious
candidate to take over, Ackerman said.

He came to Arizona 37 years ago as general manager of the
expansion Phoenix Suns. Later he put together a group to buy the
franchise, and just last year sold it to businessman Robert Sarver.
A member of the basketball Hall of Fame, Colangelo is chairman of
the NBA board of governors. He was appointed by NBA Commissioner
David Stern to head a committee in 2000-01 that examined the state
of the game and made rule changes.

Colangelo also brought major league baseball to Arizona before
leaving the Diamondbacks a year ago in a dispute with the new

College players will be considered along with NBA players for
the new team.

"We certainly want to change the perception that this thing is
a locked-in deal for a handful of star players to participate in,"
he said. "No, that's not the case. I really like the idea of
tryouts, I like the idea of opening the process up. We want people
to feel that it's all-inclusive. This is not a fraternity, far from

As for selecting a coach, Colangelo said, "One of the things
that I'm very, very sure of is those who have a true understanding
of the international game I think have an edge. It's very, very
important to understand it's a different game."

One coach who fits that description is the Suns' Mike D'Antoni,
a star point guard and later a highly successful coach in Italy
whose team had the NBA's best record this season.

Colangelo said he will appoint a small advisory group, and hopes
to have it in place by early next month. But he alone will have the
final say on the team's makeup. Character, he said, will be a major
part of the selection.

"The perception of our athletes around the world is one that
I'm very sensitive to," he said. "The kind of people I want
wearing a USA uniform are those we can take some pride in. I want
good people and high character. I think that's very, very

He also wants former Olympic players and coaches to be part of
the process of building the new U.S. team.

"I have relationships with players, coaches and people within
the business," Colangelo said. "I'm looking for people who share
the same kind of passion I do. It's as simple as that, and there
are plenty of them out there. Some of them may not have the star
recognition that we're accustomed to in the past, but that's all

Colangelo wants the same coach and virtually the same team for
the 2006 worlds and the 2008 Olympics. He plans to meet one-on-one
with prospective players to explain his ideas and the commitment he
believes is necessary.

USA Basketball has no qualms about giving one person so much
authority of its highest-profile team, Ackerman said.

"We're actually kind of relieved to be putting it in his good
hands," she said.