(AP) – Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce has been added as an assistant coach for USA Basketball this summer, when the Americans will compete in the FIBA World Cup in China and try to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Pierce is replacing Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan, who withdrew because of scheduling conflicts. Pierce, the Golden State Warriors’ Steve Kerr and Villanova’s Jay Wright will be the assistants under head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.
The World Cup stretches through Sept. 15. The demands of the schedule and the travel would have likely been too daunting for McMillan — whose Pacers are scheduled to open training camp not long after the World Cup gold-medal game, and will then travel to India for a pair of preseason games on Oct. 4-5.
“It’s an honor to receive this opportunity to represent our country and to work with such great coaches and staff,” Pierce said. “My family and I are excited about and committed to enjoying this journey.”
Pierce has history with U.S. men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo. When Colangelo was working for Philadelphia, Pierce was an assistant coach there.
“He has demonstrated the ability in particular to be an outstanding defensive coach,” Colangelo said. “Also, it was evident during our time together in Philadelphia that he was a strong leader, players respected him a great deal. I think we’re fortunate to have someone of his abilities. I think he’s really a good addition.”
The U.S. is ranked No. 1 in the world and will face the Czech Republic, Japan and Turkey during Group E games in Shanghai. The Americans will hold training camps in Las Vegas and Los Angeles in August, then have exhibition games in California and Australia before arriving in China.
The U.S. is seeking its third consecutive World Cup gold medal.