USA Basketball facing tough questions
Change will come for USA Basketball, but it won't be simple.
Phil Jackson is talking about coaching in Athens ... and Larry Brown is talking about coaching in Athens ... and everyone is skipping ahead just a bit.
Don't forget that after its collapse in Indianapolis, the United States still has to qualify for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens in a tournament next summer, potentially in South America somewhere. Maybe even Argentina.
The exact dates and location might not be known for another month. Early indications are that the qualifying event will take place in August, which would mericfully fall at least a month removed from the NBA Finals, but the host nation and official dates can only come from the FIBA body that governs this part of the world: COPABA.
Changes are inevitable for Team USA, in selection and preparation, after the sixth-place embarrassment last month. The brainstorming for those changes starts in November, at USA Basketball's next round of meetings, and USAB president Tom Jernstedt has made it clear that any suggestion will be considered.
Yet USA Basketball already knows that it doesn't want two different coaches the next two summers, one for qualifying and one for the Olympics. In hopes of getting a team together that will actually look like a unit in '04, the theory is that continuity starts with a familiar face on the bench.
Question is, what if Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant say they'll only play on the Olympic team, not the qualifying team -- and only if Jackson is the Olympic coach? And what if Jackson says he's only willing to sacrifice one of his Montana off-seasons, instead of the next two?
After Indy, would you want to be the committee that says no?
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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