Krzyzewski says U.S. players competing ‘for right reasons’
By Joedy McCreary
DURHAM ó Mike Krzyzewski has piled up the national championships, coaching awards and conference titles during nearly three decades at Duke. The Hall of Fame coach insists there’s plenty of room in his trophy case for an honor of even higher significance.
“Someone asked (Kobe Bryant), on your mantle, what (awards) would have the highest place? The gold medal,” Krzyzewski said Wednesday. “And all the guys would say, and have said, ‘What’s more important? The gold medal. Playing for our country.’
“And that’s really the way other countries have felt playing against us. That’s been an advantage (for them) ó like, why are you playing? Why are you competing? And our guys are competing for the right reasons.”
While the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team has a few weeks off before training camp starts later this month, there’s precious little time for Krzyzewski to catch his breath.
Back on Duke’s campus for his annual summer youth basketball camp, Coach K held court during a wide-ranging news conference in which he confirmed Tyson Chandler would be an alternate on the American team, emphasized that his work with the Olympians actually has improved his coaching at Duke and defended the 12-man U.S. roster from cynics who might scoff, he suggested, that his players are “going to sell shoes.”
“You know what, they’re going to sell shoes anyway,” Krzyzewski said. “Those guys aren’t hurting if they sell less shoes. They’re doing it because they want to be a part of this. I felt that from every guy the entire time I’ve been coaching this group.”
That includes Krzyzewski himself. The former Army player and coach says he’s approaching his assignment at the Olympics with a keen focus on delivering the favored American men their first gold medal in basketball in eight years.
The magnitude of the task ahead was hammered home earlier this week during the team’s formal introduction in New York, where they were greeted at a museum by a display of more than 350 shoes arranged to form a U.S. flag, as well as Rockefeller Center setting up a basketball court in honor of Team USA.