After leading the USA Basketball team to a perfect 7-0 record and a gold medal at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand, Jeff Walz (Louisville) was announced as a recipient of the 2019 USA Basketball National Coach of the Year award.
He shares the award with Bruce Weber (Kansas State), who also led his team to a 7-0 record and a gold medal.
“It definitely an honor,” Walz said. “And also, it shows what type of staff we had. I was very fortunate to be able to work with Cori (Close) and Natasha (Adair) the past two years. And then the players, obviously you don’t get such an award without having an outstanding staff and a good team.”
Weber led the USA Men’s U19 World Cup Team to gold medal from June 29-July 7 in Heraklion, Greece, as well as to two exhibition wins.
“Just coaching a team for USA Basketball is a special honor in of itself — to just represent your country — and to win a gold medal like we did, made it even more special,” Weber said. “To throw another honor on to it, there aren’t even words to describe my emotions. It’s a special recognition that I’m very proud of. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to coach the U19 team and can’t thank the players and the assistant coaches enough for their hard work and commitment to winning the gold medal.”
Since 1996, USA Basketball has awarded its National Coach of the Year honor to a USA Basketball head coach, who during the year of the award, made a significant impact on the success of individual athlete and team performance at the highest levels of competition in a manner consistent with the highest ethical, professional and moral standards.
“Jeff Walz and Bruce Weber guided our 2019 USA men’s and women’s U19 national teams back atop the gold medal podium,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball chief executive officer. “USA Basketball is grateful for their leadership and commitment, and we are proud to recognize them for their tremendous efforts.”
With Walz at the helm, the USA U19 women topped its competition by an average of 25.2 points per game, including beating Australia 74-70 in overtime in the gold medal contest. USA guard Paige Bueckers was named MVP, and Rhyne Howard joined her on the all-tournament team.
“I just think he is really smart, and he cared about our team a whole lot, and not just on the court, but off the court, too,” Bueckers said. “He made me a better player and opened my eyes to what college is going to be like, and potentially, if I get there, the professional level, because his IQ for the game is so high. He taught me new things about the game.”
Among the 16-team tournament, the USA ranked No. 1 in points per game (80.6), field goal percentage (.425) and blocks per game (5.7).
As head coach at the University of Louisville, Walz led his team in 2018-19 to a 32-4 record and the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
Under Weber’s guidance, the USA topped its U19 competition by an average of 28.7 points per game and beat Mali 93-79 in the gold medal contest.
The USA featured tournament MVP Reggie Perry, and Tyrese Haliburton joined Perry on the all-tournament team.
“The care that Coach Weber has for the game is what makes him a great coach,” Perry said. “He loves teaching, and he expresses how much he loves the game to his players. He knows how to get the best out of every player and have them play at their top level. Coach Weber always told me to be dominant and to be a force at all times on the court when I was with the USA U19 team.”
Among the 16-team tournament, the USA ranked No. 1 in points per game (100.9), field goal percentage (.475), assists per game (28.6) and steals per game (15.9).
The USA also recorded two exhibition wins in Greece before opening U19 world cup play – over Greece 72-58 on June 26 and Serbia 92-88 on June 27.
As head coach of Kansas State University, Weber led his team in 2018-19 to a 25-9 overall record, to the program’s 21st conference championship and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.