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Popovich’s run-in with Stern over resting players could affect his chances to coach Team USA

Dec 1, 2012, 8:30 PM EDT

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, DeJuan Blair, Gregg Popovich AP

The NBA is no different than the company you work for, in that political alliances go a long way in terms of who gets promoted into certain positions.

When Gregg Popovich effectively slapped the league in the face on Thursday by sending home four of his healthy starters to rest them instead of having them play in a nationally televised contest against the defending champion Heat, he may have affected his chances of inheriting the USA Basketball head coaching job expected to be vacated by Mike Krzyzewski.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Or as conspiracy theorists would surely put it: Will the most public wedge ever driven between the commissioner and the famously stubborn coach in his league emerge as a factor that hurts Pop’s chances of succeeding Mike Krzyzewski?

I so want to believe the GM who insisted to me Friday: “Absolutely, positively not. The league doesn’t get in USA Basketball’s way like it used to.”

The final call on who coaches the national team, of course, belongs to USAB chairman Jerry Colangelo. As it has since 2005.

The league, though, does get to register its input, which means Stern will have a voice until his Feb. 1, 2014 retirement. It’s thus not much of a stretch to imagine the league (re: Stern) lobbying USA Basketball to view this whole chaotic episode, no matter how far Stern overreached, as a prime example of Pop’s long-perceived reluctance to be more of a partner with the league office than they’ve historically been.

Popovich is definitely one of the best candidates for the job, a seasoned coach with a championship pedigree that can command the respect of any players, young and old, who find themselves on the USA Basketball roster.

But he isn’t the only one. Doc Rivers would be just as solid of a choice for those same reasons, so if any politics are in fact in play when the time to make the decision comes, it isn’t like the league doesn’t have additional viable options.

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