The 1992 USA Men’s Basketball team is likely the greatest team, in any sport, ever assembled. The team was put together after the United States was unable to bring home the men’s hoops gold medal in 1988, instead taking the bronze medal, prompting the U.S. to change course for the 1992 Olympics.
Prior to 1992, the U.S sent its brightest amateur players, usually college players, to participate in the Olympics, but in 1992, America decided to send in the big guns. The team was comprised of 11 future Hall of Famers, the lone member not inducted into the hall being Christian Laettner, who was also the only college player on the team. During their undefeated run through the ’92 Olympics, Team USA averaged 117 points, including two games in which they scored 127 points.
As great as this team was, there was some controversy over player selection. The biggest omission on the team was obviously point guard Isiah Thomas. Thomas was a two-time NBA Champion, as well as a superstar in the league. He had as much fame and skill as any player on the team, yet he was not invited to play for his country. It is widely believed that Michael Jordan was behind the decision to leave Thomas off the roster. Some reports even say Jordan gave Team USA the ultimatum of “him or me.” It is no secret that Jordan and Thomas had bad blood, stemming from Thomas’ Pistons knocking Jordan out of the playoffs throughout the 1980s. The other omission, which became much more glaring in the years following 1992, was the fact that college superstar Shaquille O’Neil was not on the team. We will get more into that when we reveal number 12.
With 11 Hall of Famers on the team, it is tough to rank them, but hey that is our job. So lets get into it! Here are all 12 players from the 1992 Dream Team in order from worst to first!
16. P.J. Carlesimo
P.J. Carlesimo was an assistant coach on the 1992 Dream Team and it eventually led to him getting a head coaching job in the NBA. Two years after he won the gold medal, he was hired to be the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. Carlesimo’s run in Portland consisted of three straight playoff appearances, but also three first-round exits. He was fired following the third straight playoff exit, Carlesimo was fired by Portland, but landed a job in Golden State.
Carlesimo’s run with the Warriors was not as successful, missing the playoffs twice, then getting fired midway through his third season. His run in Golden State is best known for his altercation with star player Latrell Sprewell. All in all, Carlesimo’s head coaching career was a failure, finishing with a total record of 239-315.
15. Chuck Daly
Chuck Daly was chosen as the head coach of the 1992 Dream Team after leading the Detroit “Bad Boys” Pistons to much success in the NBA, winning back to back championships in 1989 and 1990. By the time 1992 came around, the Pistons’ time at the top of the NBA was over and the Bulls’ was just beginning. Daly coached Isiah Thomas, the same player Michael Jordan had omitted from the final roster, so you wonder if there was tension between Daly and MJ.
Nevertheless, Daly led the dream roster to the gold medal in Barcelona, then resumed his NBA career coaching the Nets for two seasons before retiring. He would come out of retirement late in the 90s to coach the Magic for a couple of seasons. Daly’s coaching career ended with a record of 638-437 with two championships to show for it.
14. Lenny Wilkens
Lenny Wilkens had by far the most experience on Team USA’s coaching staff at the time of the 1992 Olympics. He had been a head coach in the NBA since the 1969-70 season, coaching Seattle, Portland and Cleveland prior to the 1992 games. Wilkens’ lone NBA Championship came in the 1978-79 season, leading the Seattle SuperSonics to their lone NBA title.
Following the 1992 games, Wilkens would continue coaching until the mid 2000s, adding the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks to his coaching resume before retiring. Wilkens’ career record finished at 1,332-1,155. Unfortunately, his teams would often make the playoffs, but never progressed past the second round following the 1991-92 season. Still, his longevity in the NBA was something outstanding, as coaching for 32 seasons in the NBA is an incredible accomplishment.
13. Mike Kryzewski
Even though Coach K never coached in the NBA, choosing to remain loyal to Duke University when NBA coaching opportunities came along, he deserves the spot as the best coach on this list. He’s become the most decorated head coach in NCAA history, winning five national titles and amassing a career record of 1,043–321, for an incredible winning percentage of .765.
On top of his success at the collegiate level, Mike Kryzewski also returned to coach Team USA in 2008, following a disastrous finish in the 2004 games in Athens. He’s coached the last three USA teams at the Olympics and has won three more gold medals.
Even with all his success and so many years in the game, Coach K has given no hint at retirement, as he continues to build his legacy at Duke.
12. Christian Laettner
As the only college player on the team, it was hard for Laettner to find his groove with the team. Even harder was trying to find minutes for the 22-year-old Duke star. Christian did get his time on the court though. In fact, coach Chuck Daly was able to get Laettner into every game the team played. The fact that Laettner was able to average 7 points per game in incredibly impressive, especially since him even being on the team was a point of contention for some people.
In 1992, Laettner was the golden boy of college basketball, winning titles with Duke and hitting game-winning shots. However, there was another college player named Shaquille O’Neal who also was considered for the sole collegiate player spot on the team. Ultimately, the spot went to Laettner, but Shaq would go on to be one of the greatest players in NBA history. I guess it didn’t really matter at the end of the day, but I am sure Christian Laettner is happy to have been part of such an amazing experience.