If his association with USA Basketball gives Duke any recruiting advantage, Mike Krzyzewski says that’s because his national teams have won.
“The point I’m making is anybody who wins, or someone writes a great book or great article, or somebody wins a championship, they have an advantage,” Krzyzewski said. “But it’s advantage through accomplishment. The notoriety that you get from it, there is a risk to that. In other words, you can lose. There is time that you give up. The fact that you win, if you gain an advantage by that, then so be it.”
That’s the thesis statement from his 30-minute session with the media on Thursday. Most of the time was spent responding to points made in an article by Yahoo! Sports’s Adrian Wojnarowski, which was titled, “NBA needs to pull stars from USA Basketball, which is showcasing only Duke's coach.”
It didn’t take long for Krzyzewski to be asked about the column. He said he would be happy to discuss any points reporters specifically brought to his attention. But he brought up two points he disagreed with on his own.
The first dealt with the benefit he received by flying to visit and speak with the 2013 under-19 USA Basketball national team at its Colorado Springs training camp, which included now-Duke freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow. Billy Donovan, the coach at Florida, was the coach of the U-19 team. His assistants were Virginia coach Tony Bennett and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart.
Krzyzewski said that in the nine years he has been the head coach of the men’s national team, he has flown out to see a younger team twice.
“To pick out and say that I’ve done that, I’ve done that once or twice is ridiculous, that that gives you an advantage,” Krzyzewski said. “Utterly ridiculous.”
“Just take the number of days. Two days, and, then, who else has been out there,” Krzyzewski continued. “Like, the guy who has coached the last couple of summers, Billy Donovan – he has done a terrific job. He should be complimented for that. No one is saying about him that he has an advantage, and he is with those kids for three-and-a-half weeks each summer. And his staff. Tony Bennett is on his staff. But no one wants to say that because Coach K has this huge advantage because he is ”
Krzyzewski didn’t finish his thought. He paused before saying, “It’s ridiculous. That’s ridiculous.”
The second point Krzyzewski brought up unprompted was the idea that he used a picture of himself embracing Paul George in the hospital as a means of self-promotion. George, the Indiana Pacers star, suffered a gruesome compound fracture during a USA Basketball scrimmage in Las Vegas. Krzyzewski said he thought a family member of George’s took the picture and tweeted it. It was retweeted by numerous accounts, including the Duke men’s basketball account.
“To say that I orchestrated that and used Paul George to show that I was a good guy is really wrong,” Krzyzewski said. “And for anybody to think that, if you want to think that, then you are a bad person.”
In between the talk of USA basketball and recruiting advantages that might or might not exist, there was a bit of focus on the upcoming season. Amile Jefferson is 95 percent recovered from a hip injury that sidelined him this summer, Krzyzewski said. And he is excited about this year’s freshman class – Tyus Jones, Okafor, Grayson Allen and Winslow.
Hope springs eternal at this time of year – maybe this is the year a fifth championship banner goes up in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Maybe it will be the first time since Krzyzewski took the USA Basketball job that a Blue Devil wins a national player of the year award, adding to that bunch of banners, too.
Krzyzewski is the one that brought that up.
“Actually, it probably has hurt us in recruiting,” he said, referencing his USA Basketball tenure. A few people chuckled.
“We’ve got to look into that.”