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US Olympic Basketball Hopes Rest with College Coach

National Basketball Association (NBA) players represented the United States for the first time at the Olympics in 1992. At that time, the only question for the so-called "Dream Team" was how large the victory margin would be. In recent years, U.S. teams have struggled against greatly improved international teams. USA Basketball is turning to new leadership ahead of the 2008 Beijing Games.

Teams of NBA players have won a total of three Olympic gold medals for the United States, the last in 2000. But the U.S. team finished sixth at the 2002 World Championship and took the bronze medal at the Athens Olympics last year.

Now for the first time, the team will be assembled and led by a college basketball coach. USA Basketball formally announced this Wednesday that three-time U.S. college basketball national championship winner Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University will be the national team coach.

His primary task is to bring the Olympic title back to the United States and the team is still expected to be dominated by NBA professionals. Krzyzewski says the U.S. team has not reacted well enough to changes in the international game.

"To assume that the world was going to stand pat and not adjust would be very foolish on our part," he said. "We expected that. And they did not [stay the same]. They learned the game that could be played on a higher level. Look at the number of international players in the NBA right now. And so we have lost that intimidation factor."

Krzyzewski says his new responsibilities will not interfere with his job at Duke. While his college team seems to constantly dominate opponents, Krzyzewski says he is not concerned about overpowering international opponents as U.S. teams did in the past. Team managing director Jerry Colangelo, who also owns the NBA's Phoenix Suns, says the next team will be smart and well prepared.

"We attend and scout all of the international competitions," said Mr. Colangelo. "And so this team will be totally ready. There will not be any concern about not knowing what to expect."

Colangelo says he wants to have eight to 12 core players in place by the end of this calendar year. He hopes to have a full roster of 20 to 25 players by April while maintaining flexibility for changes over the next couple of years ahead of the Beijing Olympics.