Duke’s Krzyzewski meets with NCAA president Mark Emmert, sees opportunity for change

lkeeley@newsobserver.comOctober 2, 2013 

— As he enters his 34th year as the head coach at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski is well established as one of the foremost authorities on college basketball. That’s one of the reasons NCAA President Mark Emmert came to Durham last week, as he met with Krzyzewski, Duke athletic director Kevin White and university president Richard Brodhead. Krzyzewski said he’s hopeful that dramatic changes can come for schools and student-athletes in the next 5-6 months.

“All the stuff with the NCAA, what’s wrong and what’s right, not too much is said about what’s right,” Krzyzewski said to the Durham Sports Club at Croasdaile Country Club Wednesday. “There are things that we haven’t kept up with over the last couple of decades as far as adapting to the current. Like coming up with a new definition for amateurism.

“It’s kind of like General Motors and the car industry. You gave a lot at one time when it looked good, no one changed anything, and all of the sudden it’s not so good.”

Krzyzewski, though, doesn’t see just doom and gloom for the NCAA, which collects more than 90 percent of its revenue from college basketball (and none from football). Instead, he sees an opportunity.

“We need to have a clear head and say, this is going to be right,” he said. “And we have a good chance to get everybody on board. Many times when you lose, it’s the greatest opportunity to improve.

“You have this unique opportunity to make dramatic change that you probably couldn’t make when things seem to be going right. And so I look at this as a very exciting time.”

There has been significant change for college basketball in the last 18 months, Krzyzewski said. Changes in recruiting rules let coaches start visiting class of 2014 recruits during April of their junior year, the first time junior in-home visits were permitted. Starting Sept. 9, coaches were allowed to visit seniors at home and juniors before or after school, basically doubling the number of kids Krzyzewski is recruiting at one time.

Throw in an earlier start to practice this year — the Blue Devils started Sept. 27 instead of in mid-October — and it’s been “nuts,” Krzyzewski said.

“Each year I coach, I try to adapt to the people I’m coaching,” he said. “I’m 66 years old right now. Look, I’m coaching kids that are 18 to 22. I’m 48 years older. I can’t even imagine that. So, how do you talk to them? How do you motivate them? How do you get into their world? It takes a little bit of effort. Every once in a while I text them, I try to find out what current songs are.

“You have to stay up with them because you get your street cred. In my world, I have to work on street cred because I’m an older guy, and when they come they might think I’m a statue in front of Cameron. ‘Yeah, he’s the guy that they publicize, but does he really coach?’ Somehow you have to be human with them.”

Coaching the Olympic team has helped with that, Krzyzewski said, as he can mention meeting Beyonce and attending LeBron James’s wedding and feel confident it will command attention. But when he’s assembled his most athletic team in over a decade and hosting the NCAA president, clearly, grabbing attention is not an issue for Mike Krzyzewski.

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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