Catching Up With: Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball chairman

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo
NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
USA Basketball arrives in London with record sponsorship revenue and activation under Chairman Jerry Colangelo  With 14 total sponsors, including new partners in Jeep, Burger King, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, MetroPCS and Right Guard, Colangelo has played a crucial role in transforming USA Basketball into a powerhouse both on and off the court.

But changes for USA Basketball are looming as the NBA considers player age limitations and a new structure following the 2012 Olympics. Colangelo spoke with staff writer John Lombardo about the current state of USA Basketball and the potential for changes ahead.

How do you compare the amount of sponsorship dollars and activation among companies invested in USA Basketball this year compared to the 2008 Beijing Games?

COLANGELO: Financially Beijing was good, but we didn’t have the level of activation that we have in 2012. I am not sure where we’ll finish, but [sponsorship dollars] will be close to $40 million, and we were a little over $30 million in 2008. What is happening is that there is more recognition that our brand has real value.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has made no secret of considering an age limitation of 23 and under for players participating in the Olympics. Do you favor an age limitation?

COLANGELO: There is going to be a lot of discussion because there are a lot of interested parties. It’s obvious by some of the comments by (Dallas Mavericks) owner Mark Cuban and other owners who have an opinion on this. I think that before there is any real change everyone has to be totally equipped with all the facts and the pros and cons. The NBA felt very much involved in USA Basketball because they were very interested in the international marketplace, and the USA Basketball platform offered a real opportunity to promote the game and its players. People have voiced some things on age elimination, but I much prefer to wait until after the Olympics. Our focus now should be here in London.

There are real differences of opinion and the real question is what is the reason for the change. I want to be sure that everyone involved knows what USA Basketball has done for the NBA. I have been outspoken that we have added value to the NBA and its respective franchises who have had players with us.

When are you and Stern going to sit down and address the issue?

COLANGELO: We have been talking about it and plan to talk about it here and will have more discussion when the Olympics are over.

Where does talk of the creation of a World Cup-type of international basketball structure currently stand?

COLANGELO: Those are major changes and people have to understand what the ramifications may or may not be. It is a very political process. You have got to get a lot of people on the same page, and that usually takes a lot longer than one might expect. There needs to be baby steps, and I would hazard to guess it will take longer to make that type of sea change than most people realize.
 
So is this the last of the Olympic Dream Team?

Kobe Bryant has compared this year's team to the 1992 Dream Team. Colangelo, on the other hand, says there's only one true Dream Team.
GETTY IMAGES
COLANGELO:
That has been overplayed so much. There has only been one real Dream Team per se. No matter what happens — if there is no change or some sort of change — what we have developed with USA Basketball is a pipeline that is loaded. We have built a strong infrastructure in both the men’s and women’s programs, and we will be more than ready for any changes.

There has been a lot of talk this year about the 1992 Dream Team and how this year’s team compares to that team. How do you feel about players like Kobe Bryant comparing themselves to that great ’92 team?

COLANGELO: It is only natural. There is only one Dream Team, and I was in Barcelona and saw the whole thing. You have to put it all in perspective. If you take that (1992) team with all that talent and if we had fielded this team with some potential changes with Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, that would be an interesting discussion.

You have been involved with USA Basketball since 2005 and have been instrumental in its growth and its success. How much longer do you plan to serve as chairman?

COLANGELO: I’ve said that if I am healthy and people still have a desire for me to continue in this role, then why not continue. I still have the passion and it keeps me involved. Unless there is a change, I plan to stay with it through 2016.

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