Coach K explains why he relates Gregg Popovich taking over the USA Basketball program to their military experience

Following a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics to bring his gold-medal count to five, Mike Krzyzewski is passing the USA Basketball torch to Gregg Popovich.

And to hear Krzyzewski tell it, he’s confident that the men’s national basketball program, after 11 years with him as head coach, will be in good hands.

Speaking to Business Insider to promote the launch of his new leadership program, PowerForward, Krzyzewski said USA Basketball is “very, very lucky” to have Popovich’s commitment.

“Pop is as good a coach in any sport as there is on this planet,” Krzyzewski said.

He continued, saying that he can relate his military experience to handing the reins to Popovich, an Air Force Academy graduate.

“He and I have both talked about this. We’re both military backgrounds, the Air Force Academy, mainly West Point. And basically, in the military — like, I was in command of this unit [Team USA] for this period of time, 11 years. And when you’re in command, you want to leave the unit in better shape than you got it. We believe we’ve done that. We also, though, want to help the next guy to leave, when he’s done, the unit in better shape than he found it. So, basically, it’s a change of command.

“And that’s how we look at it, and we’ve both been given the honour to command the United States national team — how lucky are both of us?”

Krzyzewski added, “Going forward, we should work together in setting the example of how that should be done when someone takes over for Pop eventually.”

According to Krzyzewski, Popovich assimilated with Team USA this summer. Popovich went to Las Vegas for the team’s training camp, attended practices, staff meetings, and got dinner with Krzyzewski every night. He’s taken in the culture and methods of Team USA and is set up to manage the transition smoothly.

Krzyzewski is aware that Popovich will put his own fingerprints on the team, potentially changing everything from schemes to how the team is selected. However, after a week of experience this past summer, he knows the routine, too. Krzyzewski also added that he’ll be a “special advisor” to help out.

“I’m proud of the fact that we got together and we’re doing it this way.”

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