WALTHAM — Mike Krzyzewski’s announcement that his run with USA Basketball would come to an end after the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro immediately led to speculation about which coach would be his successor.
An obvious candidate was San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Another was Kentucky coach John Calipari.
But when Celtics coach Brad Stevens heard that his name also was being mentioned, he responded with equal amounts of appreciation and self-deprecation.
“First of all, it’s flattering to even be mentioned,” Stevens said. “Secondly, if they approach you, you say yes before they get the question out of their mouth. And thirdly, I would hire somebody else, because I think there’s a lot better coaches than I am.”
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said there is a plan in place to name Krzyzewski’s successor in the coming year. He told SiriusXM’s NBA Radio on Tuesday, “Odds are that it will be a professional coach.”
Krzyzewski, the longtime Duke coach, has led the US to two Olympic gold medals and two world titles.
“Mike’s done it great,” Stevens said. “Mike Krzyzewski’s one of the great coaches and leaders of all time at any level in any sport. So it’s not a surprise that he’s done what he’s done.”
Stevens’s sterling reputation from his time at Butler, the mid-major he led to two Final Four appearances in six seasons, plus the respect he’s earned in two seasons with the Celtics, make him a logical consideration.
He has experience with the national program going back to 2010, when he was a court coach for USA Basketball’s men’s under-18 national team training camp. The next summer, he was an assistant coach for USA Basketball’s World University Games team.
“I had a blast with it,” Stevens said. “I was an assistant coach with one of my good friends, Matt Painter at Purdue, and Cuonzo Martin, who’s now the head coach at Cal.
“We were assistants together. We stayed in the dorm in China for 15 days. The dorm was so small that when we Skyped each other’s family, we were in the family. We were talking to each other’s families. We had a great time.”
Stevens came back from the World University Games with a 22-minute DVD of international teams’ plays that he fell in love with.
“It was really fun,” Stevens said. “I had a good time. I’ve been fortunate to be on a USA Basketball staff. I know those guys. I don’t know Jerry Colangelo, but I know he’ll do what’s best for USA Basketball.
“There are better coaches than I am and there are a lot of people that can do a good job with that, and the key is getting the right guys on the team.
“They’ve done a great job with that, and Mike’s done a great job, along with his staffs . . . of making it about the team.”
No second wind
When he stepped on the practice floor Wednesday for the first time since coming down with strep throat over the weekend, David Lee knew he eventually would be winded after being sick. He joked about how quickly it hit him, though. “During the stretching,” he said. Lee actually had to catch his breath after getting up and down the court early in practice, but felt healthy after sitting out against the Nets on Monday. He expects to play Thursday against the Knicks. “I definitely got winded after being on the floor for a few minutes,” he said. “To be expected. I’m just glad I got being sick out of the way in the preseason, when it doesn’t count as much as the regular season.”
Easing up on Thomas
Still recovering from the bruised left shin he suffered last week, Isaiah Thomas was held out of Wednesday’s practice. Along with the bruise, Stevens said, Thomas is also dealing with tendinitis. The coach will be cautious with Thomas the rest of the preseason, likely playing him in just one of the last two games. “The way that it was told to me is that we want to be smart and conservative this week with him,” Stevens said. “He might play one of the next two nights, but I have no reason to think, based on the injury right now, that he wouldn’t be back at the latest on Monday.” . . . Jae Crowder is still recovering from the mild thumb sprain that kept him out of Monday’s game against the Nets, so he sat out Wednesday’s practice.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.