USA to consider Las Vegas again

Given its success in returning to world dominance, USA Basketball doesn’t figure to change much for the 2012 Olympics in London.

But four years is a long ways off, and the hierarchy of USA Basketball is in no rush to make any decisions in the aftermath of winning the gold medal last month in Beijing. That includes whether to return to Las Vegas to train.

But if Jerry Colangelo has anything to say about it, Team USA probably will be back in Las Vegas.

“Very definitely,” Colangelo said. “Las Vegas figures in our plans. I would say that all things being equal, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t continue our relationship with Las Vegas.”

A lot might depend on whether Colangelo will have a say. He is expected to return as managing director.

“It’s premature to speculate,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball’s executive director, when asked about Colangelo’s and Las Vegas’ status. “But I can tell you we had a great experience in Las Vegas. We had a terrific partnership with Las Vegas Events.”

Tooley said that decision might not be made until November when the new board of directors meets.

Pat Christenson, the president of Las Vegas Events, who helped broker the deal with USA Basketball to bring the team to town to train the last three years, was hopeful the relationship will continue.

“The indications are very strong they want to return,” Christenson said. “Having Vegas as a place for them to relax and enjoy when they weren’t training, I can’t think of a better situation.”

Las Vegas Events recouped most of its $750,000 investment with three exhibition games that played to capacity crowds at the Thomas & Mack Center. Before leaving for China, the team practiced at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion and Valley High School. Both facilities were featured in a Nike TV ad that ran throughout the Olympics. And a documentary on the team had loads of footage from practices at both sites.

Valley principal Ron Montoya said his school got a lot of goodwill from having Team USA train there the past two years.

“It improved the morale of everyone at the school,” he said. “My students would come in and say, ‘We’re on national television’ when they’d see the Nike ads. The exposure for us was so valuable.”

Despite the gold medal, the USA still has to qualify for the London Games. The winning team at the world championships gets an automatic bid into the Olympics.

In 2006, the USA finished third at the worlds and had to qualify for Beijing. Team USA did so by winning the FIBA Americas Tournament at the Thomas & Mack.

Tooley said the proximity of the major competitions might be a factor as to where Team USA trains.

“It’s certainly a consideration,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean Las Vegas won’t be in the mix. It’s simply too early to know. Those decisions will be made down the road.”

Colangelo said he’s thinking about the logistics and that training in the West would not be a major issue.

“I don’t believe it would be a problem,” he said. “Once we’ve made a final determination regarding myself, we’ll sit down and formulate a plan.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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