USA Basketball Makes Steve Kerr its Next Coach as World Starts to Catch Up to U.S. Stars

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was introduced as the next coach of Team USA's men's basketball team Monday, succeeding San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich as America's Olympic basketball team tries to extend its streak of dominance in the international game that has been frequently challenged in recent years.

Kerr takes over as coach following another major change as former NBA star Grant Hill took over as managing director of the men's national team following the Tokyo Olympics, following Jerry Colangelo, who oversaw the team as it won gold medals in the last four Olympics.

The Tokyo Olympics and other world championship events in recent years have illustrated the narrowing of the gap between Team USA and basketball teams from around the globe as the game has become more and more popular worldwide.

Leading up to this summer's games, Team USA suffered two uncharacteristic losses in exhibition play and didn't have its full team together for long before the games started.

Once three players who were playing in the NBA Finals—Khris Middleton, Devin Booker and Jrue Holiday—joined the roster full time, Team USA swept the rest of the way after losing their first game in group play to a gold medal with a final 87-82 victory over France in the gold medal game.

Kerr will coach the men's team leading up to and in the 2023 FIBA World Cup and the 2024 Olympics in Paris if they qualify. His assistants will be Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few.

"Coaching the USA men's national team comes with great responsibility — one that calls for a group effort with a team of coaches committed to the team, to the goal and to each other — and I couldn't ask for a finer group of high character individuals to help me lead our national team," Kerr said. "Our goal, of course, is to win and make our country proud. We will work hard to do so."

Steve Kerr, Team USA, Olympic Basketball, NBA
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr claps for this team during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, in Boston. Monday, Kerr was formally introduced as the next head coach of Team USA's men's basketball team. Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

Kerr saw everything that Popovich went through as coach of the U.S. men's national team, and saw exactly how difficult it was last summer for the Americans to emerge from the Tokyo Olympics with another gold medal.

And when he walked off the floor for the last time in Tokyo, he was drained.

"It wasn't easy," Kerr said.

Williams has been an assistant before, under former U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski. Spoelstra and Few were involved in coaching the U.S. select team, which was assembled to practice against the Olympic team, this past summer.

Kerr would be the 16th different coach to take the U.S. men into an Olympics. Of the previous 15, 13 have emerged with gold.

"I have been very, very blessed, very lucky, in my career," Kerr said at the news conference, a few minutes before Hill presented him with a USA Basketball jersey bearing the number "24"—a nod to the Paris Games. "And this opportunity is a result of being in the right place at the right time, working with the right people, having a lot of people lift me up along the way."

Kerr has three NBA titles as coach of the Warriors, won five more as a player, was part of the staff that won gold at the Tokyo Games and won a senior-level gold medal for USA Basketball as a player in the 1986 World Cup.

"His basketball acumen, his ability to connect with people, I think his understanding and respect of the international game, along with some other factors, certainly played a role in this process," Hill said in an interview with the Associated Press about the selection process. "As I talked to people and went through consideration, he was the perfect fit. His wealth of experiences, including that on the international stage, I think really differentiated him."

There are plenty of parallels between Popovich and Kerr, plenty of ties that bind.

They are close friends, Kerr played for Popovich in San Antonio and both are taking the Olympic job after missing out on Olympic bids as players. Popovich tried to make the 1972 U.S. Olympic team; Kerr was a finalist for the 1988 Olympic team.

"I just did whatever he told me," Popovich said with a smile earlier this month when discussing what it was like to have Kerr on his Olympic staff.

The Americans currently are in the process of qualifying for the 2023 World Cup—which will end in the Philippines, the homeland of Spoelstra's mother. A strong finish at the World Cup would be the easiest way to qualify for the Paris Olympics; simply being the reigning gold medalist and the world's No. 1-ranked program doesn't get the Americans into the Games by default.

Hill said he and Kerr already have had conversations about how to approach the next 2-1/2 years in terms of building a roster, putting their own touches on the program and still maintaining the best of what has delivered results for the U.S. in the past.

"I don't think you want to totally depart from what's worked," Hill said. "But I also think there's an opportunity to press the reset button on some things and look for opportunities to improve the experience and ultimately, the goal for everyone involved. Look at this staff and they've all been a part of USA Basketball. Monty Williams was with Coach K's last quad. Erik Spoelstra and Mark Few were part of this past select team. So, it's something that can be looked upon as a continuation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Steve Kerr, Team USA, Olympic Basketball, NBA
Steve Kerr was introduced as head coach of Team USA's men's basketball team on December 20, 2021. Above, Team USA poses for photographs with their gold medals during the Men's Basketball medal ceremony on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena on August 07, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images