Pop's likely USAB successor: Steve Kerr

New USA Basketball executive director Grant Hill says he hopes to name the next national team coach by the start of the NBA season ... with prior international experience said to be a key requirement

Golden State's Steve Kerr has emerged as a favorite to succeed San Antonio's Gregg Popovich as head coach for the USA Basketball senior men's national team, league sources say.

Miami's Erik Spoelstra is another natural candidate for the position, sources say, but prior experience on the national team coaching staff, given the vagaries of the international game, is believed to be a key prerequisite in the search led by new USA Basketball executive director Grant Hill.

Kerr was an assistant under Popovich on the Olympic team that overcame a loss to France in its opener in Tokyo to win the United States' fourth successive gold medal in men's basketball. Kerr also coached alongside Popovich at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, where a team weakened by the absence of numerous star players posted the worst showing (seventh) for a USAB team since NBA players were allowed to start playing Olympic basketball at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Spoelstra coached the USAB's select team in last summer’s mini-camp but was not on the bench with the full senior squad.

The hiring of Popovich's successor is the first big decision for Hill, who recently told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears upon succeeding Jerry Colangelo that he hopes to name his choice before the NBA season opens Oct. 19. USAB has a board meeting scheduled closer to the end of October, but there are measures that can be taken to ratify the decision before that meeting if the search is completed earlier.

Other current NBA coaches who, like Kerr, have senior national team experience: Phoenix's Monty Williams, Atlanta's Nate McMillan and New York's Tom Thibodeau all worked as assistants under Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. It's believed that ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy, who helped secure an Olympic berth for USAB by coaching a team comprised mostly of G Leaguers in numerous qualifying games, will continue to have a coaching or scouting role with the program.

This is an excerpt from my latest NBA news report posted Thursday. For full access to this and all of my Substack pieces, please join our community as a full subscriber.