Coach K returns to Olympics, sticks with Duke

lkeeley@newsobserver.comMay 23, 2013 

— Mike Krzyzewski isn’t sure exactly when he went from definitely not coming back to coach USA Basketball to sitting behind a table talking about his return.

But in doing so at a news conference at Duke Thursday, he renewed his commitment to the school, saying he can’t envision coaching Team USA without leading the Blue Devils. That would keep him at Duke until, at a minimum, the 2015-16 season.

With USA Basketball, the lines of communication never closed, despite Krzyzewski’s declaration after the 2012 Olympics that he was done coaching the U.S. team. He had maintained that he wanted to be involved in USA Basketball in some capacity, even if he wasn’t coaching. So when chairman Jerry Colangelo started calling after Duke’s season ended, Krzyzewski was inclined to hear his pitch.

His wife, Mickie, wasn’t so sure initially.

“We’re not doing that,” Krzyzewski said his wife told him about coaching again.

“Well, we probably aren’t doing it,” Krzyzewski told her, “but we should probably listen.”

The Krzyzewskis met Colangelo in Las Vegas on May 8. After that, his return for a third Olympic run and 2014 FIBA World Cup was all but official.

And Thursday, it became a sure bet, as did remaining at Duke at least through the 2016 Olympics.

Krzyzewski, 66, said he will be coaching at Duke as long as he is coaching for USA Basketball. He is the winningest coach in men’s Division I history with 957 wins, and he says his experience with the national team has renewed his energy to coach at Duke, not the opposite. He likened it to a teacher learning new material.

“I’m 66, I don’t how you’re supposed to feel at 66, but I never think of my age,” he said. “I feel energetic and passionate, wanting to achieve.”

Since taking over in 2005, Krzyzewski has gone 62-1, leading Team USA to gold in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and 2010 World Championships. His lone loss came in 2006 to Greece in the World Championships, where the United States won bronze.

“It’s the ultimate honor, really, to coach our country’s team,” Krzyzewski said. “And it’s the ultimate honor for the player to play for his country’s team. Everyone that has been involved with USA Basketball over the past seven years has come to realize what an honor it has been.”

Krzyzewski traces his involvement with the national team back to 1979, when he was an assistant coach for the Pan American Games. Since then, he has been involved with 13 national teams, most recently as the head coach.

“International basketball has become really competitive,” Colangelo said. “And continuity is a critical factor in our success. This gives us that continuity.

“It’s a perfect fit for him,” Colangelo said of Krzyzewski. “I think his legacy is very much tied to USA Basketball, as it certainly is to Duke University.”

Now Krzyzewski and Colangelo need to assemble a staff, which they hope to announce in a few weeks. Krzyzewski said he would consider bringing back Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim as one of his assistants. Boeheim’s top assistant with the Orange, Mike Hopkins, has helped in the past as well.

Krzyzewski has typically brought his two top assistants, though former assistant Chris Collins is now the coach at Northwestern. Krzyzewski said he hoped current assistants Steve Wojciechowski and Jeff Capel would be involved, as well as Kevin Cullen, Duke’s video coordinator who has been on the staff every year of Krzyzewski’s tenure.

The player pool selection will begin soon too. There will be a mini-camp in Las Vegas in July to prepare for the 2014 World Cup in Madrid.

Krzyzewski held a Chris Paul No. 13 jersey for a photo Thursday, saying, “I hope this guy is playing.” He said he also hoped LeBron James would consider the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Any other player speculation would be premature, he said.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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