In a historic announcement, USA Basketball and the Big East Conference have announced that the conference will represent the country in men’s basketball at the 2019 Pan American Games.
Why is it historic? This is the first time a single conference from Division I will represent the country in the sport at the Pan Am Games.
In a press conference at Providence’s on-campus practice facility, Big East commissioner Val Ackerman was ecstatic to have her conference chosen by the NCAA and USA Basketball for this tournament.
“We are very honored to have been chosen by the NCAA and USA Basketball to represent the United States in this prestigious competition,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said. “This will be a unique educational, cultural and competitive experience for our participating players and coaches, and we look forward to working with Coach [Ed] Cooley to assemble the best possible group to carry the basketball flag in Peru.”
Cooley, who is the head coach at Providence, will also be coaching the Pan Am team. Cooley comes with plenty of experience with USA Basketball, as he has served as a court coach with the USA U19 World Cup team (2013) and as part of the staff for the FIBA Americas U18 Championship (2014) and U19 World Championship (2015).
For Cooley, being head coach is a matter of duty and respect.
“I am very honored to be asked to coach this unique squad of Big East players,” Cooley said. “Any time you have the opportunity to represent your country, it is special. I have the highest level of respect for USA Basketball and the Big East as they are two organizations that have been so instrumental in my career development.”
The Big East Conference has been one of the elite conference in Division I during the last decade, winning two national championships (Villanova – 2016, 2018) and finishing second twice as well (Butler – 2010, 2011). To Ackerman, the decision from the NCAA and USA Basketball serves as a tribute to the conference’s hard work.
“I applaud the NCAA for thinking outside the box and believing this would be an interesting way to bring schools from one conference together,” Ackerman said. “It was a great day for us when we got that phone call from the NCAA. From our standpoint, we’re really proud to be chosen. We see this as a great responsibility as well as a great honor.”
As of press time, the roster for Team USA had not been announced.
Team USA has not had the best of luck in the Pan Am Games in recent years, as they have won the bronze medal the last two games (2011, 2015) and didn’t medal in 2007. The last time Team USA won the gold medal in the Pan Am Games was in 1983…with then-North Carolina standout guard Michael Jordan.