When it came time for a pro coach again, the U.S. basketball team turned to the one considered the NBA's best.
Gregg Popovich, winner of five NBA championships, will have a chance to lead a team to Olympic gold.
The San Antonio coach was hired Friday to replace Mike Krzyzewski as the U.S. basketball coach following the 2016 Olympics, a job he never knew he would get despite his undeniable place in coaching history.
"I can't imagine having this opportunity," Popovich said at a news conference in San Antonio. "It's still sinking in … but I love it."
Popovich will take over starting with 2017 training camp and lead the Americans into the 2019 Basketball World Cup and 2020 Olympics if they qualify.
Krzyzewski has led the Americans since 2005. When USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo decided to tab a pro coach, there was no question where to look.
"I had a short list," Colangelo said. "It started and ended with Pop."
LeBron James, who has played in three Olympics, called Popovich the best coach in the world.
"Team USA is in good hands with him," James said. "It was in good hands with Coach K. It's almost like 'The Godfather.' We hand it off to Michael Corleone now."
Krzyzewski has guided the Americans to consecutive Olympic gold medals, two world titles and a 75-1 record. The Duke coach will stay on as a special adviser to Colangelo.
Popovich was a U.S. assistant in the 2002 world championships and 2004 Olympics, the low point of U.S. basketball. Colangelo was hired to assemble the national team program following the bronze medal in Athens. He selected Krzyzewski as his coach after considering Popovich.
Popovich was angry then that Colangelo said he detected a lack of interest when he spoke to Popovich about the job. This time, Popovich not only made clear his interest but also that it was predicated on working with Colangelo.
"We talked about a lot of things. The past. The future," Colangelo said. "He asked me a question: 'Are you going to stay on? Are you going to continue? Because if you're not, then I don't have interest.' Which I thought was pretty interesting, coming from him that quickly.''
Commissioner Adam Silver is optimistic about the NBA's health and relationship with its players, offering hope that the league can avoid another lockout in 2017.
Silver also said he expects the league will reduce the number of preseason games, though doesn't know how many would be played. The schedule currently allows for a maximum of eight per team.
Owners wrapped up two days of their annual preseason meetings before Silver held a news conference Friday. They are expecting an enormous influx of revenue next year with the beginning of the new national TV deals, valued at about $2.6 billion.
Either side could opt out of the collective bargaining agreement in 2017, six years after it was approved following a work stoppage.
The 82-game schedule was reduced to 66 games during that 2011-12 season, but the league and players association are trying to avoid another interruption so soon.
"I remain optimistic in a general way just because I think things are going so well for the teams and the players," Silver said.
James may miss opener
LeBron James has not been medically cleared to practice because of his back and says it's not certain he will play in the season opener.
James has not practiced since receiving an anti-inflammatory injection Oct. 13. He has been limited to shooting and individual drills. The Cavs open Tuesday night in Chicago, and James says he'll play if "everything goes right."
The four-time MVP said Friday he will listen to the team's medical staff and "not be hardheaded." James received a similar anti-inflammatory shot early last season.