During last summer’s USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams was a self-proclaimed sponge.
The youngest member of the USA staff, he soaked up knowledge from legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski. The best part of what he learned had little to do with Xs and Os, however.
“A lot of the things we say are the same, but he has an unbelievable way of saying things differently and getting guys to buy into his plan, and that’s what I’ve noticed with Coach K,” Williams said. “He’s the best motivator I’ve ever been around. I put him right up there with Pop (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) and Pat Riley.
“So, I’m learning some different strategies on how to motivate, how to get guys to buy in, different ways of coaching.”
Williams will be able to reciprocate as part of a staff that also includes Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. They will begin preparations Monday through Aug. 1 for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, which will take place Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain.
Pelicans All-Star power forward Anthony Davis is one of 19 players who are vying for 12 spots on the national team. It will be pared to its final roster after the training camp, which will end with a showcase on the final day.
Olympic stars such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul are sitting this one out. So much of how the team will play likely will be developed during a 12-day break before it reassembles in Chicago on Aug. 14.
“I’m sure once (the final roster) is written in stone, we can begin to lay the rest of the groundwork,” Williams said. “But the foundation is in place. I think their ability to play a certain way, the scoring was there, the 3-point shooting was there. I think those are some things Coach K wants to continue.”
That foundation was set, Williams said, when USA Basketball, under chairman Jerrry Colangelo, adopted a team system in 2004 requiring multi-year commitments from players. That replaced an outdated one in which teams of all-stars, with little cohesion, were assembled for each event. Since 2005, the USA is 62-1 in international competition.
With this team undetermined thus far, Williams said the coaches’ roles have not yet been relayed to them. However, Williams, whose strength is defense, said he’ll help Thibodeau in that regard.
“Obviously, we feel like we can play better defense,” Williams said. “And that’s something that Coach (Krzyzewski) has talked about. We want to be a better defensive team, and that’s saying a lot because they won the (Olympic) gold medal with a pretty good defensive roster out there, guys who can switch and play multiple strategies out there on the floor.”
Williams, however, will work on the other end, also.
“He has given me some freedom to help him with the offense, but it was an offense that was (in place) before I got there,” Williams said. “So, I’m looking forward to adding some wrinkles to what they do. But my job is just to try to help Coach as best I can.”
The experience undoubtedly will help Williams and Davis. Davis, who began preparing soon after the 2012-13 season ended, came back from Team USA’s training camp last summer a better player. He was selected an All-Star and led the NBA in blocked shots.
Basketball on the whole in this country is benefitting from Team USA’s program, Williams said.
“You can see the results of putting a lot of time into the young guys and seeing how they’ve progressed with their college teams and pro teams,” Williams said. “Mr. Colangelo has been a big part of that, and I think that’s how they’re going to build it going forward.”
After Chicago, the team will train in New York on Aug. 18-22, playing exhibitions against the Dominican Republic on the Aug. 20 and Puerto Rico Aug. 22. Then, it’s off to Spain for an exhibition against Slovenia on the Aug. 26 before the World Cup begins.
Williams, who said being a part of it all is “an believable environment” for any coach, is ready for the exposure international basketball brings.
“I look at the way (USA Basketball) does things, and it kinds of helps you with scouting,” Williams said. “I get a chance to go overseas and look at some of these European players that I probably wouldn’t even know if I wasn’t on the national team.
“So, I think it’s helping everybody develop their game and develop the game of basketball.”