By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes stories come full circle in a way that even a movie script wouldn’t dare to present. However, with Jerry Colangelo stepping down from his position of USA Men’s National Team managing director, the 2021 Olympic tournament had a special meaning.
Winning Olympic gold at Saitama Super Arena, where the USA lost in the 2006 FIBA World Cup semifinal to Greece, was a fitting farewell for Colangelo.
As he said when asked if it felt special, he agreed: “Yes. In fact, the first time I came in here a week ago, or whenever it was, it brought back all those memories of what happened in ’06 So, I got that monkey off my back, too”.
With the 2004 Olympics ending up a trainwreck for the USA, winning the bronze medal, even if the team included Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, and then-rookie trio of Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James plus Gregg Popovich as an assistant to his mentor Larry Brown, Colangelo was the man who was picked to turn the tide.
In the summer of 2005, Colangelo was named director of USA Basketball with the task of building a “real” national team program and leave behind him the days when the national team was more solely based on talent and not on being a real unit.
One year later, with coach Mike Krzyzewski on board, plus LeBron, Wade, and Melo on their heyday, a floor general like Chris Paul and Joe Johnson being the designated outside shooter, the USA were the favorite to win the FIBA World Cup of 2006. That didn’t happen. Greece got a historic semifinal win and that was the monkey on the back that Colangelo carried with him.
As Popovich said after the final: “I actually was thinking of Jerry Colangelo and Sean Ford (USA Basketball Men’s National Team director), who have been doing this for so long. And Jerry, this is his last stop with this particular part of his life. Although, you know, the legacy will always be there for him, and he’ll always be there ready for counsel. But that was one of our motivations, to do it for those two guys who have been with us for so long”.
After 2006 and the bronze medal, the USA was out of the medals only once in the FIBA World Cup of 2019. On the contrary, they won gold in the FIBA World Cup of 2010 and 2014, plus Olympic gold in 2008 with the “Redeem Team”, in 2012, in 2016, and of course in 2021.
An ideal end to an iconic run.
In the words of Colangelo on comparing golds: “The best one is always the last one. That’s not taking away from any of the other others, but this one means a lot when you’re walking away. To finish strong, that’s what everyone dreams about”.