The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Jerry Colangelo: Redeeming the Dream Team

By Tom Buehring
The 700 Club -Jerry Colangelo: “I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing than be in London, participating in the Olympics as the defending gold medalist.”

Jerry Colangelo -- owner and architect of sports franchises -- directs the U.S. Olympic Basketball Team as they prepare for the Summer Games. He stepped in to lead the program after a poor showing in Athens in 2004 when the U.S. was favored, but settled for bronze. The team was criticized for disrespect as international ambassadors.

“It was how the players looked, acted, responded, people literally booed against Americans and that hurt. Here we were the country that invented the game, we taught the world the game, but we had lost the respect of the world basketball community. My vision was, we had to go back and earn their respect. How do you that? By showing them respect!”

Jerry was given complete control to rebuild the Olympic program. He successfully launched two NBA start-up team­­s - the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns. He also brought baseball to Arizona leading the Diamondbacks to a World Series Championship in just 4 seasons! He began the Olympic rebuilding process by gathering 35 former Olympians – a ‘Who’s Who’ of basketball asking them for input.

“I had each one of them share their experiences as an Olympian. How did they read where we were? And then what needed to be done? So each individual in that room had something to say. If you were a fly on the wall and you were a basketball fly – it didn’t get any better than that.”

Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski was named Head Coach. Then came the task of convincing players who were accustomed to star billing to join the Olympic team. Jerry recruited Kobe Bryant in his office, just 4 days after the All-Star’s 81-point game performance.

“I said Kobe, and I was testing him, ‘If you want to be on this team you’re not going to be a scorer, I want you to be a distributor.’ And he said, ‘I’ll do whatever I have to do to be part of it.’ That meant a lot to me to get that kind of response.”

The US dominated the 2008 Games in Beijing, defeating opponents by an average of 27 points. They beat Spain to win the gold, ending an 8-year drought in Olympic and World Championship competition.    

“At the moment when the medals were being awarded, and The Star-Spangled Banner being played, and the flag being lifted – that was a moment of total satisfaction for me. You have a passion. You have a vision. You have a game-plan. Then you see it executed and it all happened. And by the way to a man, every player said it was the greatest moment of their lives. So, mission accomplished.”

Tom Buehring, 700 Club Reporter: “For USA Basketball, in this upcoming Olympic go around, same mission but a much different approach. Four years ago it was all about redemption and climbing up the hill. Now Jerry Colangelo will tell you it’s all about defending it.”

“It relates to preparation. The one thing I would say without question is we will be prepared physically, emotionally and mentally. We take nothing for granted. We have a lot to defend and that’s our mindset.”

Winning aside - integrity and character are at the core of Jerry’s leadership.

“In basketball, people knew where I stood. They knew that I was an outspoken Christian and what I believed in. In life you have to continually focus on what really is important and what your priorities are. The first priority in life is to have that relationship with Jesus Christ. So your faith is number one.”

“God had a plan for my life. You know, the way I’ve tried to live my life is I have this platform, it was given to me by the Lord. And He’s blessed me with a lot of things. And someday I’m going to be held accountable with what I did with those things.”

For Jerry and the team, there is a game plan this summer in London on an Olympic basketball court in front of a global audience.

“We take nothing for granted. ‘08 is yesterday’s news. This is a whole new ballgame, and we will win. But, it’s more important to me about how we win and how we conduct ourselves and what people say about us when it’s over.”
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