As if dominating the collegiate level wasn’t enough, Coach Jay Wright will take his talents to the world stage with USA Basketball. San Antonio Spurs coach and recently named head coach of USA Basketball Gregg Popovich announced today that Wright would be joining Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors) and Nate McMillan (Indiana Pacers) as the assistant coaches for the 2019-2020 USA Basketball Men’s National Team. The USA National Team is currently on a 76-game win streak featuring three-straight Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012, 2016) and back-to-back FIBA World Cup gold medals (2010 and 2014).
“It’s a great honor to work with these guys - to work with Nate, Steve, and under Pop is any coach’s dream. I’m thrilled - the opportunity to work with these great players will be the experience of a lifetime.”
Wright is not a complete stranger to USA Basketball, having worked with the developmental teams under Mike Krzyzewski.
“Mike and Jim Boeheim always had me involved with the previous teams and they’ve supported me as a coach, so I really appreciate those two.”
Wright was co-head coach of the 2010 USA Select Team that trained with the 2010 USA World Cup Team and was Popovich’s assistant coach for the 2016 USA Select Team that trained with the 2016 Olympic Team. This past summer Wright served as an assistant coach during the 2018 Men’s National Team minicamp.
Wright had high praise for the Spurs coach: “In the short time I worked with Pop this summer I can see they picked the perfect guy to follow Coach K. He’s demanding, serious, detailed, and much like Coach K in his coaching.”
In addition, Wright was the head coach of the USA team when they won gold at the 2005 World University Games and coached a USA team of college players in the 2007 Pan American games.
Coach Wright also expressed excitement for the upcoming Olympics and other tournaments the national team will be competing in while he is a part of the staff.
“I’ve worked with the Olympic teams early in their development with Coach K, but I’ve never taken the trip overseas, I always stayed home and worked with the developmental teams,” he laughed. “This will be my first experience ever at an Olympics, either seeing one or being a part of one so separate from the basketball I’m thrilled about that. I can’t even imagine what that is going to be like.”
With that excitement though comes a lot of travel that will take Wright away from Villanova.
“In ‘19 we have the World Championships in China and obviously the next year we have the Olympics," Wright said. "Jerry Colangelo [managing director of USA Basketball Men’s National Team] actually called our athletic director Mark Jackson to ask him if it was alright. [Jackson] talked to me and was very supportive. We’re going to do a lot with our staff to make sure we can get our guys on the road so we can still be aggressive and complete in our recruiting while I’m away.”
In terms of recruiting, Wright doesn’t think his role will have a huge impact on recruiting. “The way we recruit, I don’t think it’ll have much of an impact. We’ve still got to get the same kind of guys and we’ve been finding them anyway. It certainly won’t hurt, I’ll tell you that.”
Nonetheless, he takes valuable experience from coaching the pros. “Working with the NBA guys, I come out of there with a lot of notes and a lot of things to bring back to our team that is always beneficial. They’re great basketball minds and definitely look at the game a little differently than we do in college. As a coach, it’s always enlightening.”
The team will be looking to qualify and compete in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China (August 31 - September 15) and the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan (July 24 - August 9).
“There’s so much pressure being a head coach of any USA team, everyone expects gold and nothing less," Wright said. "You feel like you’re always representing the U.S. and I want to be very helpful to Pop in that way because I’ve been in that position. There’s nothing bigger than being the Olympic coach of the United States and I want to support him as much as I can.”