REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - Rumors from a couple weeks ago were confirmed on Wednesday when USA Basketball named John Calipari as head coach for their team at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017. And the choice is an excellent one as the University of Kentucky coach is a great fit.
Calipari knows how to deal with pressure. Almost every year, he brings in some of the best players in the country and is an NCAA title contender with his Wildcats. So the 58-year-old knows how to deal with pressure.
He also knows how to handle high-level players, having seen numerous future superstars come through Kentucky over the years. And the USA team in Cairo will very likely have some big-time players.
The coach will actually know some of the players quite well such as Kentucky signees PJ Washington and Quade Green and freshman Hamidou Diallo - who all helped the Americans qualify for the U19 spectacle by winning last summer’s FIBA U18 Americas Championship.
Many people think one of the reasons Calipari took the USA U19 job is to get the inside track on recruiting some other top players to Kentucky, such as five-star prospects Mohamed Bamba, Jordan Brown, Javonte Smart and Immanuel Quickley. All of those players have international experience as Bamba was on the U18 team last summer and Brown, Smart and Quickley played for USA at the FIBA U17 World Championship 2016.
This idea seems a bit far-fetched as Calipari need only call on his track record of producing NBA players and competing for NCAA titles to attract high-level guys to Lexington. He really doesn't need to be in charge of a national team tournament to attract players.
Calipari's dealing with the big personalities at Kentucky will actually come in handy with the U19 team as well. Just like with the Wildcats, he will need to convince his players to accept different roles on the team with the greater common goal of a title as the main objective.
One major issue for Coach Cal and his staff - Tad Boyle and Danny Manning as his assistants - will be a very limited amount of time. As is so often the case with USA teams, the coaches will not have much preparation to form their team.
The training camp to select the team does not even begin until June 18 at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. That is less than two weeks before the tournament starts on July 1 in Cairo.
So the Iranians will have been practicing for more than five months by the time the opening game against the Americans, who will not even have been together two weeks.
Calipari and his staff at least have some experience in FIBA basketball. Calipari led Dominican Republic’s men’s team in 2011 and 2012, guiding them to a third-placed finish at the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 and the title at the Centrobasket 2012.
Boyle was a USA assistant coach for the third placed team at the 2015 Pan American Games and a court coach at the 2013 USA men’s World University Games training camp. And Manning helped the United States to third place as a player at the 1988 Olympics and finished runner-up at the 1987 Pan American Games before serving as a court coach for the 2014 USA Men's U18 National Team training camp.
So, putting everything together, USA Basketball made a solid choice in naming John Calipari as new U19 head coach. We'll see in four months if he can lead the Americans to an unprecedented third straight crown.
By David Hein for FIBA.com