Planning ahead, Colangelo looks back - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Planning ahead, Colangelo looks back

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Posted: Friday, December 11, 2009 1:13 pm | Updated: 2:44 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

NEW YORK — Jerry Colangelo is busy with roster decisions, schedules, sponsorships and anything else he believes USA Basketball needs to be successful next summer.

That should be easy compared to the challenges he faced when he took over four years ago.

The Americans had plunged to their lowest point before Colangelo stepped in and built a program that returned them to the highest of heights — the Olympic gold medal platform. The story of how he did it is told in the new book "Return of the Gold."

Written by Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley, Colangelo said the book offers many lessons, including the opportunities that are available for those who aren't afraid to fail.

"It's also a book that I believe has some business components as it relates to building team and also leadership," Colangelo said in a phone interview while traveling to New York, where he will sign copies at the NBA Store on Saturday. "Then I share a lot about my personal life, which is all part of my own personal journey, and hopefully it depicts what the whole Olympic experience was about."

The book tells of the difficult year Colangelo endured in 2004 — the same year he was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He sold the Phoenix Suns in June, stepped away from baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks a month later, got into a fight on the streets of Paris when his wife was mugged, and had surgery for prostate cancer in December.

American basketball had been beaten up that year, too.

The United States lost three times and managed only a bronze medal at the Athens Olympics. Furious with the bad play and worse press, NBA commissioner David Stern turned to Colangelo in early 2005, asking his longtime trusted colleague to take control of USA Basketball.

Colangelo, saying he felt a "little antsy" realizing he was otherwise out of the game, agreed.

"The call came at a perfect time," Colangelo said. "We've always had a close relationship and I think he's always known he could trust me and always believed in me and my ability to get things done, and he knew if I would accept it there was a good chance that it would be successful."

The book gives glimpses into why it was. Colangelo invited former Olympic players and coaches to a meeting in Chicago, where Dean Smith endorsed former rival Mike Krzyzewski as coach, and potential players were recommended. Colangelo would personally meet with all the ones he wanted so he could show them his passion.

He no longer has to go finding players. The accomplishments of the 2008 team have players reaching out to him, hoping they can be considered for next summer's world championships and the roster for the 2012 Olympics.

"I think there are individuals who are kind of campaigning a little bit and that's wonderful," said Colangelo, mentioning Portland's Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. "I think it's great, it's exciting to see that there are so many players who want to be a part of this."

The national team roster could be named sometime next month. Colangelo believes the Olympians who committed to returning will keep their word, though there is still concern that the pending free agency of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could impact their availability.

Like the players and Krzyzewski, Colangelo could have walked away from international basketball on top after he completed his three-year commitment. Instead, he's looking for a repeat of the 2008 story, which he considers his greatest success in sports.

"I'm putting it at the top of the list," he said. "Representing your country on an international stage in the Olympics and having the opportunity that I did to rebuild something, I'll put at the top of the list."

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